How to decide: should you upgrade to Windows 8?

How to decide: should you upgrade to Windows 8?

Summary: With all the hype about Windows 8, one question remains for most current Windows users: should you upgrade to Windows 8? In this article, David Gewirtz walks you through all the possibilities, so you're armed with the best decision-making strategy for your needs.

TOPICS: Windows

Upgrading an operating system install is never a small decision. Upgrading to Windows 8 is a particularly challenging decision because the user-interface has so substantially changed from what we were all used to in Windows 7. In this article, I'll give you some guidelines that -- based on your personal circumstances -- will help you decide what's right for you.

See Also: Dogfooding Windows 8: six long-term Windows 8 users tell all

If you don't have time to read all the details, you can skip to the end of the article and read a short summary of my recommendations.

Also, almost all your upgrading questions (licenses, copies of downloaded software, etc.) are answered in Ed Bott's excellent Everything you need to know about Windows 8 upgrades (FAQ part 2). Be sure to read it and Ed's first installment, The ultimate Windows 8 upgrade FAQ.

Before January 31, 2013

Pricing is always an important component of any upgrade decision. Microsoft is offering a number of great upgrade deals for moving to Windows 8 Pro, but the deals expire on January 31, 2013.

What might be a good, cost effective decision before January 31, seems like a far less viable decision after. Right now, most existing Windows users can get Windows 8 Professional for $39.99 -- before January 31. Although Microsoft hasn't published their eventual Windows 8 Professional price, the best Windows 7 Pro upgrade price we've seen is in the $160 range. Essentially, you could buy four Windows 8 Pro upgrades now for the price of one copy after January 31.

So, if you're reading this in February or later, factor that into your decision.

Price options

So what are the pre-February 2013 price options? There are two that are worthy of consideration:

These upgrade prices are only available for downloaded versions of Windows 8. If you want it on disk, you're spending at least sixty bucks.

If you're buying a new PC

If you're buying a new, off-the-shelf PC or laptop, you may have the option of having it equipped with Windows 8 or Windows 7. Unless you're absolutely in love with the Windows 8 experience, I recommend getting the system with Windows 7 installed and then, immediately taking advantage of the $14.99 Windows 8 upgrade offer. You don't have to install it right now, but you're not going to see a better price.

The reason I recommend this approach is because we've seen a number of problems with users deciding to "downgrade" their new Windows 8 consumer PCs to Windows 7. Drivers for Windows 7 may not be published by the PC vendors for newer PCs, and it might be a real challenge to back-rev to Windows 7 later if you want to.

Also, a license of Windows 7 (even the Home version) is considerably more expensive than the $14.99 upgrade option. So, for a new PC, you're better off getting Windows 7, and then immediately securing a cheap upgrade path to Windows 8.

If you're buying a new PC with a touch screen

If you're buying a new laptop or tablet-ish thing with a touch screen, you're probably going to want to just bite the bullet and go with Windows 8 directly. Windows 8 is optimized for touch.

That said, if there is the option to get your touch screen-enabled laptop with Windows 7, then my $14.99 upgrade recommendation from above still applies. It's still a smart idea to get Windows 7 now, because you're almost undoubtedly not going to be able to go back later and get drivers if you should change your mind and want Windows 7.

Next up, if you're building a new PC or are running XP...

Topic: Windows


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Great article

    This is a good recomendation for everyone out there with a previous
    Windows version, buy it now and install when you wish. Hopefully a big number of sales in this period will prompt Microsoft to extend the offer or keep this or a lower price for their OS from now on!!
    • luis3007 I purchased W-8 because I originally liked it from testing it for

      Six months.............but after awhile I really got so - so tired of the flashing tiles every time I needed to go back into Metro, the very poor Metro apps and just too many unsolved glitches that I whiped the drive I was using for it and installed Linux Mint 14 Cinn. PS I re installed a fresh W-7 on another drive and I'm glad I went back. It is working out just fine for me. PS and I don't give a hoot that I threw away $40.00 on W-8.

      Those flashing TILES are going to be the unduing of W-8 before its over.
      Over and Out
      • Hi!

        Hello there!!!
        Loverock Davidson-
  • You've made it far to complicated and confusing for people!

    1. Businesses: Should already be installing or in the process of deploying Windows 7. Windows 8 is not for you.

    2. Consumers running Windows Vista or Windows 7: If you're getting a new PC, get Windows 8 and embrace the future. If your PC works, unless you want to, there's no immediate need to upgrade.

    3. Consumers running Windows XP: It's unlikely your PC is fully Vista/Win7/Win8 compatible, bite the bullet and get a new Windows 8 PC. Again embrace the future, Windows XP and your PC are well past their sell-by-date. You've got your monies worth.

    Consumers who're also buying new PCs should consider Apple Mac and Linux too.
    • my version

      1. Do you want windows 8? If you do then upgrade.
      • Wow

        my buddy's ex-wife makes $89 hourly on the laptop. She has been without a job for five months but last month her income was $15146 just working on the laptop for a few hours. (Click on menu Home more information)
        • How many laptops did she have to work on, Spammy?

          I bet she caused a lot of happy endings, too.
    • Too Simply

      You've made it too simple. You seem to think that one should embace new things regardless of their merits.
      • One has to look to the future.

        Doing a thorough evaluation before you upgrade is just smart - ignoring the future is DUMB!

        Those still running Windows XP and have refused to evaluate Windows Vista / 7 have done themselves a great disservice.

        Embracing Windows 8 is a GOOD idea. All of the great things about Windows 7 are still there, and Windows 8 is faster and more secure.

        The original advice is good. If you have Windows 7 take your time and evaluation Windows 8 but expect to migrate in that direction as your hardware ages.

        If you are still running Windows XP and have NOT evaluated Windows 7, then start now to evaluate Windows 8 - don't wait until 2014. Change is good!
        M Wagner
        • Actually not

          ... Aero Glass is missing, and so is the start menu. You may not consider them "great things", but some of us do. (before anyone suggests, I'm not interested in 3rd party start menu replacements).
          • Aero Glass?

            Not even approximately a possible factor.

            Disabled it immediately on both of my home-built machines running W7.

            Unnecessary, silly, resource-hogging eye-candy.
          • Common misperception of Aero

            Is that it's resource hogging. Perhaps you don't like the way it looks, and that's fine. But considering enabling it on a system that has a GPU capable of rendering even half decent 3D graphics, like an integrated Intel, improved performance as all of that rendering is offloaded to the GPU. With Aero turned off much more of those cycles move to the CPU.
          • Thank you, LiquidLearner

            ..for your GPU versus CPU comment. I didn't know that. You've just given me a reason to use Aero. I had plugged in the almost-classic menu theme I've been using on all my machines since Win95 (and love that facility), but when I need resource-intensive calcs, will just switch to an Aero theme for the time being. Thank you again.
          • Yes, Aero Glass

            It'll be a good idea for people to understand that while *they* may not care much about the L&F and finish of the operating system they're spending 8-10 hours of their every day lives with, many others do. I would venture to say that they constitute the majority of Windows users.

            Necessary, beautiful and resource-light (this is 2012) design.

            So yes, assuming one does not care about !Metro, Windows 8 is not only *a* step back, it's a *huge* step back.

            First, the 'classic' UI is downright ugly, while it's simply beautiful in Windows 7. It's not just that Aero is gone. It's a flashback to Windows 2000.

            Secondly, the disappearance of the Start menu, plus the fact you find yourself in Metro by launching apps in the classic UI all too often, are also big hindrances to productivity.

            Last, the darned thing is just not designed to be used with mice, and you feel that backwards step also in the classic UI. The whole notion of 'hot corners' is a very poor concept for working with mice.
          • win 8 start menu

            You can do a start menu in win 8 without any 3rd party software.
          • How?

            Not a readily available option, that's for sure.
          • Win 8 Start

            Just mouse down to the lower-left corner. Ta Da! there it is.

            For everything else, just pin them to the Taskbar once you figure out where it got moved to in Win 8.

            Think of the Win 8 Start as a button that got expanded to a full-screen scrolling page of icons (tiles). Just because Windows wants to create a walled garden for their apps, doesn't mean you have to use it.
          • Not interested, sorry.

            The invisible start button is a ridiculous contrivance. Sorry, but on any Windows 8 box I add, first download is going to be Classic Shell.

            I think the Metro start screen is fine for Metro apps. But when I'm in the desktop, I want to stay there, and not have to pin fifty thousand apps to the taskbar.
          • the sky is falling?

            The start menu is there... Your applications are mixed in with the tiles, it's radical I know. Can't believe how some folks let their resistance to change dramatically effect basic levels of comprehension, it takes about 5 minutes to get use to.

            Dave Ozio
          • wadda ya mean 'start menu' is missing?

            Win8 boots to the start menu - only instead of having a list to scroll through, you get visual clues to take you immediately to whichever environment you want to work in. (A great time saver)!