Windows 8, a second look.

Windows 8, a Second Look
After quickly installing, trying and uninstalling Windows 8 many months back, I decided it was time to see if Microsoft had made any improvements.  I was given an opportunity to take the plunge for Windows 8 Pro on my laptop for $15.  I knew no matter what, I had to be stuck with it for at least a week to learn all of it inside and out in order to be able to properly service my client’s computers that run it.  So with much reluctance I performed an OS upgrade.

I decided to look past the Start Menu Interface that seemed to be designed for a toddler.  I decided to look for the good instead of just notice the bad.  I have to say, I was fairly shocked with what I found.  After breaking past initial habits of looking for the start button, having an “X” in the upper right hand of every window so that I could close it, and finally figuring out where everything was located,  I found the operating system to not only be user friendly, but efficient in use.   I shall compartmentalize the features of Windows 8 in the following paragraph.  This will allow you to pick and choose which points you care to learn about.  At the end of this article will be a summary and my final opinion.  Enjoy the read.

Usability (Different but good)Start Menu Windows 8
As long as you can accept change, you will find it better.  First off to find any app from the start menu, all you must do is start typing in the name of the program or application.  This was not my default action because I did not see the “Search Box” or somewhere to squarely plant my curser before typing.  I found it by accident when I hit a couple keys with my hand while on the menu and it was one of those awe inspiring moments (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2iiPpcwfCA for what I felt like.)  The movement of all buttons on it is pretty straight forward.  You just drag and drop the buttons where you want them to go.  You can right click on a button to get a menu down below to unpin it from your start menu, uninstall the program or app, and make it either larger or smaller.  Also, you can right click on empty space in the Start Menu and another menu will come up from the bottom for “all apps”.  Click on it to gain access to all installed programs.   You can return to the start menu at any time by simply hitting the “Windows Key”. Over all it’s a pretty efficient system.

To work your way across it, simply scroll with the mouse wheel.  Most scrolling in Windows 8 produces a side to side motion.  It took a short while to get used to, but is now habit.  Closing down programs or apps is done by moving the mouse to the top of the screen and dragging the whole screen down.  (This is what you do when you lack the “X” to close the program.)  To shut down the computer you move you mouse to the upper right hand corner of the screen and a menu slides out.  Click on settings and select “Power” the “Shutdown”.  I am not sure why they did not make a quick power off button, although I am positive I will figure out how to add one soon.  To go between open applications, move your mouse to the upper left corner.  Any open programs at that point will become visible and you can click on them.

Apps and Programs (New stuff but the old works too)
Windows 8 App StoreOne of the nice features of Windows 8 is it’s App Store.  Now, before all of you bargain shoppers run away thinking it’s going to cost money for everything, some things are free.  Think Google play for your Android phone.  Some of them are free, some of them are cheap and some of them are expensive.  In the end there are many apps to pick from.  You click on what you want installed on your computer.  That brings you to screen with a description and some screen shots.  If you want to install it at that point, click install.  They could not have made it any easier.  That app then gets added to your Start menu.  Regular programs IE Quickbooks, MS Office, AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Suite, ect…. Can still be installed the old fashion way.  So I have to say the app store and simplicity of use really does add to the computer.  I have even found a couple handy free apps already.  It appears that much like the Android market.  Apps are open for anyone to write.

Performance (Same old Same old… well maybe a little bit better.)
There are many drive updates being released.(Which will increase hardware performance)  The current difference +/- on my laptop is negligible.  It does seem to be a little more stable in multi-tasking.  I would suggest at least 4GB of ram, but then again Windows 7 really needs that much to perform multitasking well too.  I noticed no difference gaming, or rendering large graphics.  I think Microsoft has probably done most of the performance tweaks they can for efficiency of a system in Windows 7.  However, I did run across this article that says Windows 8 is considerably faster. (http://www.examiner.com/article/windows-8-versus-windows-7-performance-shootout )  This was one of the very few seemingly unbiased side by side comparisons I could find.  I do have to agree with the boot time.  I also agree that it is nice to get a new release of an OS that is not slower than it’s predecessor.  However, I don’t think your average user will say “Wow, it’s so fast!” lol.

Security (not Linux but impressive)
Ok, this for me is a big one.  I am currently not running any anti-virus except for the included Windows Defender.  It feels so weird not to have anti-virus running in the background.  To me, it’s abnormal not having your system pause while virus scans are being done.  I have read a great deal of opinions about this on the Internet.  Basically it will come down to this if you do the same reading.  Anti-virus companies say that Windows 8 is not good at stopping viruses and you need to buy theirs.  Random people on the Internet will say that they ran into issue installing anti-virus software on Windows 8.  Microsoft says their multi-layer security is better than any anti-virus.  Here is my two cents thrown in with the mix.  I have yet to see an anti-virus that protects my clients from everything.  Without fail 50% of my clients will install more than one anti-viral software program and cause them more grief rather than extra protection.  So in my opinion, and I am going to go out on a limb here…  It’s better to just let the included Windows Defender do the guarding of your computer.  I have intentionally exposed my laptop to many viruses  just to see how Windows 8 and Defender size up.  So far so good.

Another point that should be made is Windows 8 takes over the bios chips job.  So, no more virus hiding in bios cache. (Note: this only works on some computers not all, but most of the newer ones.)  Last but not least is a nice layered OS.  Windows 8 runs all of its essential processes in a very protected layer.  Everything else is just a compartmentalized app running above it.  Windows 7 was headed in this direction but Windows 8 has really driven in the nail.  It’s nice to see Microsoft is finally developing features that help us instead of features that sell the average consumer.

Other (too lazy to come up with witty one liner)
There are many other smaller features like better retention of data integrity, more efficient use of virtualization technologies, ect….  But most users in my opinion won’t even notice them nor care about them.

Summary (Long overdue in this article)
It’s more user friendly (IF you don’t mind some change) and it’s an improvement on Windows 7 in most areas.  I would suggest not rushing out to buy a copy @ $199.99.  However if it comes with your next computer, smile, it’s a good thing.  Hope this helps, and have a great day.

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