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

If you're running Windows Vista

I have one old PC sitting on a shelf that runs Windows Vista. It's sitting on a shelf since I haven't booted it for more than two years, but back in the day, it actually ran pretty well. Vista, once all the bugs got worked out, wasn't really a half-bad operating system, despite its reputation.

Vista is a bit of a way-station security-wise, between XP and Windows 7. While Vista does implement some of Windows 7's increased security, it's still far more vulnerable than a modern operating system. As with Windows XP, if you're actively using your Vista machine, you should upgrade to either Windows 7 or Windows 8 -- and Windows 8 is probably the better and more cost-effective choice.

If you're running Windows 7

Well, I'll tell you this: I'm not rushing out to upgrade my Windows 7 PCs. I am going to buy as many of those $39.99 licenses as Microsoft will allow, because I expect to upgrade my Windows 7 PCs eventually and that's the best Windows pro price I think we'll see for a long time.

I find that Windows generally runs fine for six to eighteen months, and then things start to get crufty. At that point, I generally do a fresh reinstall, and that cleans things up quite nicely.

I expect that, over time, I'll start bringing in a bunch of Windows 8 machines, upgrade some older boxes, and then, as each Windows 7 machine starts getting cranky, I'll throw a fresh coat of paint on it in the form of a Windows 8 upgrade. But that will be in the fullness of time, not this week.

As for you, here's what I recommend. I again recommend snarfing as many Windows 8 Pro licenses at $39.99 as you anticipate needing, because the price is very right. But I don't recommend upgrading your Windows 7 PCs unless you're enamored by the new Windows 8 experience (really?) or your PC is getting cranky enough that it's time to do an OS reinstall.

Basically, my bottom line for Windows 7 PCs is this: if you're installing the OS, install Windows 8. If you're not doing an install, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But make sure you get the sale-priced Windows 8 license now, to fix it later.

Recommendation summary

All of these pertain to decisions made before January 31, 2013. Prices become more expensive after that. Here's a short summary of what I recommend:

  • If you're buying a new PC: If you can, buy it with Windows 7 and take advantage of the $14.99 Windows 8 upgrade offer to use later.
  • If you're buying a new PC with a touch screen: You may have to buy Windows 8 to take advantage of the touch screen.
  • If you're building a new PC: If you have a Windows 7 license, go ahead and use it if you wish. If not, use a sacrificial license to an older OS to install the Windows 8 Pro upgrade.
  • If you're running XP: For security reasons, you should install a Windows 7 or Windows 8 upgrade just as soon as possible. Windows 8 Pro is cheaper, and will run better.
  • If you're running Windows 3.x, 95, 98, or Me: Seek professional help.
  • If you're running Windows Vista: You, too, should upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8, and once again, Windows 8 will be cheaper.
  • If you're running Windows 7: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. When it's time to do an operating system reinstall, then consider Windows 8 (but buy it now, while it's on sale).
  • If you're a Mac or Linux user: Stop yer laughing. It's not polite.

There you go. Don't forget to visit ZDNet's comprehensive Windows topic section for all the latest in Windows 8 news. And remember, Windows upgrades go best with pizza and the non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. Don't drink and install drivers.

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)!