From Windows 8 to Windows 7: why I downgraded

From Windows 8 to Windows 7: why I downgraded

Summary: Windows 8 is certainly an ambitious effort on the behalf of Microsoft, but it seems I'm missing something that's keeping me from enjoying it and I'm curious to see who feels the same.

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I wanted to love Windows 8. I really did. But despite my previous bent as a Microsoft "fanboy" (a brand-loyal individual who blindingly proclaims the glories of said brand that, in their eyes, can do no wrong), it didn't take long for me to validate much of the bias I went into Windows 8 RTM with: a bias formed not from the reviews and experiences of others, but from my own experiences that began with my first hands-on Windows 8 experience back in November 2011 at Microsoft's first BUILD conference.

I failed to receive the revelation back then, and I fail even more to receive it now.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my past endeavors, I was an OS nerd -- specifically, a diehard Windows fan. I installed alpha and beta builds of Windows almost daily (during the Whistler and Longhorn days); religiously hacked my way through DLLs, registry keys, etc. to find even the slightest hints of hidden secrets that would give way to what Microsoft had up its sleeve; desperately wanted to work on the Windows team in some capacity; and I even ran (and still run, albeit much less frequently) a Microsoft-centric blog. All that to say that I used to be unapologetically passionate and excited about Windows. Though that isn't the case anymore, it stands to reason that I might always have some sort of a vested interest in Windows.

[Related: Why Sinofsky's departure makes me a happy Windows enthusiast]

As I stated earlier, I first managed some hands-on time with Windows 8 on a tablet at BUILD last year. This came after the keynote that had me excited to try out their newfangled endeavor. Unlike the seemingly facile user experience portrayed on stage, the hands-on experience was wonky, confusing, and unenjoyable, to say the least. And that was on a device (a tablet) this OS has so obviously been developed for UI-wise. Then, I tried it on a laptop and... I was baffled. Despite my experiences, I remained optimistic about the final product.

Fast forward to Windows 8 RTM and, astonishingly, my experiences last year aren't very far removed from those I've experienced over the past couple of weeks. And believe you me, I legitimately tried to give this OS a chance -- powering through the woes and pitfalls I dreaded experiencing again. After all, if I took the time to bear learning OS X, then I could at least do the same with the current version of an OS I so used to adore, right?

And that's it! That's why I downgraded from Windows 8. The end!

Just kidding.

So, what, specifically, was it that I disliked so much about Windows 8? Primarily, I can't stand the new UI. I didn't like it from day 1, I don't like it now, and I don't have the interest or patience to force myself to like it (which, despite the number of optimistic ways I've seen other people spin it, is what you have to do if you hope to enjoy it -- especially with a mouse and keyboard).

Now, let me go ahead and distinguish the difference between not liking it and not being able to use it. I was able to use it just fine, after about an hour or so of repetition. I adjusted, but never once did I like it. Yes, I wanted the Start menu back; and if you're tired of hearing people say it, then maybe there's really something to it. Also, I realize there are programs that will re-implement a Start menu in Windows 8, but that COMPLETELY defeats the entire purpose of Windows 8's new UI.

[Related: 10 sweet and scary things about Windows 8]

"Well, Windows 8 has some significant performance enhancements, Stephen!" Maybe true, but there's a point at which you only realize these enhancements when running benchmarks or being told they exist. Though Windows 8 felt no snappier to me or more enhanced than Windows 7, it's well worth noting that my system is comprised of some rather formidable hardware (Core-i7 3920XM CPU, 32GB RAM, 2 680M GPUs, SSDs, etc.), so that could have everything to do with this perception of mine. Either way, the only benefit that I, personally, see in upgrading to Windows 8 is the fact that Windows 7 will one day be outdated. And by that time, I'm counting on Windows 9 or Windows 10 to offer me something more than just that.

But you know what? Saying such a thing only begs the following question: "Just what is it that you want in Windows 9 or Windows 10 that Windows 8 doesn't have, Stephen, you overly-critical guy, you?" Good question, to which my answer is, "NOTHING!" There isn't a single thing I want that Windows 7 doesn't give me -- yet another reason that upgrading to Windows 8 is but an empty prospect to me. Windows 7, dare I say, is the perfect OS for me -- or, to put it another way, sometimes, last year's model really is better than the latest. I say this as a matter of opinion, of course.

Lastly, the reason I disliked Windows 8 as much as I did was the lack of familiarity. Sure, it's Windows, but it's also not Windows at all. Instead of it being an enjoyable experience to learn this new version of Windows (yes, I found previous versions of Windows enjoyable to learn), it was initially arduous, unfamiliar, and demanding of the most virtuous of patience. Everything that makes it at all akin to previous versions of Windows feels like it was placed there halfheartedly just to appease people like me -- people who will inevitably be painted as not willing to let go of what's comfortable, familiar, and productivity-inducing. Plus, good luck troubleshooting when issues arise, which brings me to one more issue I had. You see, it's not just about Windows 8; it's about troubleshooting issues with 3rd-party apps, games, etc. And that's after learning the differences between Modern apps and traditional apps.

[Related: Windows Longhorn: still the most exciting Windows UI to date]

To close, I have plenty of friends and colleagues who severely disagree with my opinion, and that's okay. I get Windows 8. It's not difficult to use; it's just unenjoyable to use, for me. There isn't a doubt in my mind that there are many people who enjoy Windows 8, and, contrary to how this article may make me seem, I am open to change. Perhaps Windows 8 will be something I have the patience to venture once more down the road, and who knows; maybe I'll even find myself enjoying it and laughing at the thought of this article.

That's the optimist in me, though. The realist in me says Windows 8 will be the first time I legitimately skip a version of Windows; not because I dislike Windows 8 just that much, but because I like Windows 7 as much as I do. Moving to Windows 8 doesn't just mean moving to a new OS; it means moving away from an OS that, quite frankly, I love.

Either way, Microsoft still has me as a user, so it's still somewhat of a win for them, I suppose. Here's to hoping Microsoft manages to do something truly worth upgrading to in the future for users like me. And for those of you who might be forced to use it in the workplace, I'm sorry.

What do you think about Windows 8? Is it a viable alternative to Windows 7, especially in the workplace? Where that's concerned, are you working for a company that has rolled out Windows 8? Share your thoughts and experiences below!

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Windows 8, Windows 8 in Business

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  • I tried it also

    And I hated it. It has nothing to do with adapting. Forcing metro on a desktop was unintuitive, and I simply don't need a touchscreen. A company will bend to consumers, not visa versa.
    D.J. 43
    • hate is a very strong word. . .

      I don't understand what there is to HATE about it. If you don't like change, you can always just use the desktop or legacy mode and its almost identical to win7. The fact you have access to an all new marketplace with the fastest growing number of apps AND run the desktop mode to do everything you're used to with win7, makes it an upgrade. At least in my mind. Can you shed a little light on your distaste for win8?
      jmoney79
      • My distaste for Windows 8

        I hate Windows 8 because it screams "compromise". The combination of Metro UI and Aero UI make no sense together. They are jarringly different in look and functionality. Using Windows 8 is like using two different operating systems. It is an awful experience. You can't "just use the desktop". You can't not use Metro. As the author points out, if you are using third party software to suppress Metro and add the old Windows Start Menu, you are not using Windows 8.
        RationalGuy
        • your opinion.

          Obviously your not wrong cause that's your opinion. I just don't share that opinion. I don't see being able to use metro and legacy as a compromise. I can see the frustration with being taken back and forth between the two UIs in certain apps and settings but I don't see why that's such a problem. I never considered myself a fan boy of anything really but I guess I'm turning into one. I just love the metro UI! Also if installing a 3rd party app for a start menu means your not using win8 then installing a weather widget for win7 means your not using win7. I'm not trying to poke at anyone here. Like I said its all opinion based. I just don't see where the hate comes from.
          jmoney79
          • "I don't see why that's such a problem."

            Because it's not a pleasant experience. It's jarring. In the middle of a single computing session, I'm forced to mentally shift between different paradigms.

            Did you ever use a program that doesn't conform to standard shortcut keys? It's an abysmal thing, because as you go back and forth between programs, that difference just constantly gets in your way. There is a really good Windows text editor called TextPad that has "Find" bound to F5 instead of CTRL-F. It's infuriating and makes an otherwise good application frustratingly bad to use.

            Same with the two Windows 8 UIs. Together, they don't make a stronger product. They clash with one another. They force me to do all the compensating instead of just being polished and a good experience.

            Metro is OK, but Microsoft didn't go all in. It's a half-assed implementation. Visually, the legacy desktop environment should feel like Metro, not like Aero. When you add legacy icons to the Metro UI, they should look like they belong there. Now they look absolutely awful. It feels like a kludge or a workaround. It's just so bad.
            RationalGuy
        • Difficulties to adaptation...I hate green eggs and ham

          I hate windows 8 I am, I hate it in a can, I hate it eating ham, I hate it with a tan I (Rational Guy) hate it Sam I am...

          Look, no one is pointing a gun to your head saying you need the new Windows 8 but eventually you must learn to adapt to how interacting with all various types of interfaces help with your productivity. Give your self time to obosorbe all interfaces and progress from that stand point. Life is better when you see and do your level of productivity with multiple options. You don't have to make a decision now so give yourself time to see what option is best for you. You will learn and grow as you see fit.
          hocarlos
          • Do you know when life is better?

            When you fill you life with things you like, not with things you think you're supposed to like.

            I tried Windows 8 with an open mind. I gave it time to grow on me. So, no. I don't have to adapt to Windows 8. I would have gladly moved to it if it was a great experience. But, it's awful, so I won't use it.
            RationalGuy
          • RationalGuy...I tried Windows 8 with an open mind and kept it, BUT

            I still prefer many form of Linux Mint 14 Cinn rc plus others over it............Fact is.........every OS has something good about it and in W-8..... I really like Metro and its use of tiles in place of a start menue......but the current free apps offered some are very good but most leave atlot to desired as I feel they're functionally incomplete compared to a standard appt already out there.
            Over and Out
          • If you don't like the interface then don't use Win 8.

            If enough people hate Win 8 it means that there is something wrong with it. I don't even think i'll be getting a new Windows system for awhile especially when i don't like the interface. Windows always had a decent or good UI, Windows 8's UI is one of those that i'll just skip. I can use it but it doesn't mean i am supposed to like it, nor will others will do the same. And windows 7 works just fine on a single core system. Sometimes it is slow mostly because well, it's a single core & can't handle multitasking very well but it works.

            Your not even forced to stick with a current Windows system. If you are using precautions especially not visiting unknown websites then you'll be fine with using your obsolete OS. If you get new devices though that might be a problem.

            The other reason why i won't use Windows 8 is because i don't need it. I don't have a touch screen, Windows 7 on my older machine is manageable (most of the time) & Windows 7 is still a current system & i don't have the money to upgrade my OS. People have their own reasons and the UI alone is enough to deter people away from wanting to upgrade. I tell people to check out what OS works for them, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Some people won't upgrade from Vista either. It wasn't a total failure but an OS UI should be optional.

            Bottom line is i don't think Windows 8 is a huge success and thinking that people should embrace Windows 8 now because all future OS's will be that way when i don't like it. Yeah by some special way Windows 8's UI is the future of all MS's UI's then i'd have no choice, but doesn't mean i gotta jump on the bandwagon now and accept Win 8 for what it is, and who knows maybe MS will fix most of the problems Win 8's UI has. I don't need an OS to hold my hand showing me apps for music, other media or the stock market or even tell me the weather. If i want all that i'll install it. The start menu was a legit feature that i liked to use without having to take the entire screen up. I don't see the functionality with a full screen menu. I'm more productive with the legacy start menu. Windows 7's start menu is perfect imo.
            spineshank155
        • Every OS is a compromise...

          just about every piece of hardware and software you own is a compromise; as was Windows 7. Over the past decade we've gotten used to the compromises that windows presents. Now, with Microsoft presenting a brand new UX, we have to get used to an entirely new set of compromises. But, as with the previous Windows installments, we've come to understand that those compromises come certain advantages.

          I am still discovering both the compromises and advantages of my Surface RT tablet, which I am using to type this (touch cover), and my thinkpad with windows 8. But so far, I really like where Microsoft is heading.
          NOEEM
          • Compromises can be good ...

            ... when I get something for the trade-off. Win8 makes a terrible experience on every platform. The Metro UI sucks on the desktop. The Aero UI sucks on a tablet. It's not great for anything.

            I will compromise, for example, performance for portability and battery life in a portable device. That is to say, in order to make a great mobile experience, I have to compromise on certain features. Windows 8 is all compromise, with no up side.
            RationalGuy
        • Compromise isn't the right word....

          Convergence is the correct word you are looking for. Like it or not, everything is converging. Linux, Mac, tablets, phones, TV, Xbox, Windows....everything is converging, because it has to....otherwise we will be stuck in the past. If these same "haters" had prevailed when GUI based OS's arrived, we would still be stuck at the command line. Now that is crazy.
          gomigomijunk
          • Don't feel free to correct me.

            Comprise is the word I was looking for, not convergence. Windows 8 is a bad compromise. It's a half-baked touch interface bolted on a completely different desktop OS. It's not good as either. It's terrible.
            RationalGuy
          • win 8 is a frankensteinian monstrosity

            I had a laptop running on win 7... And I needed a new laptop anyway, it was dying of old age. So I tried win 8 on a new Toshiba Satellite. The laptop is slick and cool, this new operating system (I waited for a commercial release) feels awful and looks even worse! I agree with other posters, and being a software writer, I just need a few minutes to figure out if a system is cool or not. Win 8 does suffer from a split personality, and was designed for touch screens, with yes, a half assed implementation for desktop die-hards... so forcing it on laptops or desktops is the wrong move altogether.

            They should have thought of separate OS for each use, instead of coming up with this concoction a la one-size-fits-all. A failure, therefore, as it is more ambitious than effective. This should have been a test edition for developers, not a commercial release, but as usual, MS was in a hurry to impose their new creature on the world, I suppose. No way upgrade SP's can fix structural defects. I predict win 7 will be in use for a long time indeed... especially in businesses.

            What on earth were they thinking? Market total domination over time? I bet! Not for a long time, though. It may make a modest dent in the tablets market, but this is no big scare for Apple or Android, and it will alienate laptop and desktop users, especially long time users.

            Yes wrong move... Think of ergonomics, if nothing else. Try a work environment where the use of mouse and keyboard are not intuitive, where users are forced to deal with an over-sized tablet for everything... No wonder corporations are not rushing to upgrade to win 8 :) ... or maybe win 8 is intended for home consumer market only... and those will say: Hey, give me a tablet AND a desktop, that are effective, not a forced bed-in between those two!

            And as for me, my new laptop, I got me one which still runs on win 7 (from factory, you just have to look for one, many still available, with the added advantage of a heavily discounted price!), thank you very much...
            outerspaceworm
          • stuck in the past?

            gomigomijunk said:
            "....otherwise we will be stuck in the past."
            and what's wrong with being stuck in the past if that's where you're comfortable?
            I heard of a guy who lived in a house with an outside toilet down the garden. When he was forcibly moved to a modern flat, he didn't like the indoor toilet because other people could hear him using it!
            Personally, I prefer an indoor toilet, but people should not be forced by large organizations to put up with environments with which they aren't comfortable.
            It doesn't matter how good a new OS is, if the user isn't comfortable with it, the designer has failed as far as the user is concerned. Now considering that it's the user that ultimately provides the cash for Microsoft's coffers, I do think MS should pay more attention to what its customers want and less attention to what its in-house "experts" think. Definition of expert: ex: has-been. spurt: a drip under pressure!
            I am extremely glad that I went through the education system here in the UK before the educational "experts" started messing with it with the result that we've plummeted down the best educated country list.
            The last is a clear example that what may be fine in theory in the "expert's" mind does not necessarily work well in the real world with real people - and that's where your customers exist, Microsoft. Take heed.
            JohnOfStony
          • Not at All!

            Yes win 8 is for everybody, no experience needed to use it; it actually thinks for you. But when my motorcycle needed replacement i did NOT buy a bus. However, MS did that, and it cost US
            pellegrinopool
      • I kind of hating it too

        Metro UI is ugly.
        Bring back start menu & widget, I may use it.
        FADS_z
        • Nobody is hater if...

          he/she is claiming that Metro UI is ugly. He/she is only telling the truth.
          Matsi66
      • what is not to hate

        a better question is what is
        good about 8
        i have a great example, i tried a v8 motorcycle, it was a famous chevy motor. was not so great on bike, except for the largest, and strongest of humanity the thing was just uncomfortable; it wAs fast. however i did not enjoy riding it
        pellegrinopool
    • right...

      So you tried it at best buy for 2 minutes? Or maybe you downloaded it to an old Gateway PC and tried it without touch? Try it on a tablet or touch enabled laptop...you'll probably change your tune.
      Rob.sharp