Windows 8: Do you need it?

Windows 8: Do you need it?

Summary: After months of build up, Windows 8 is almost upon us, and readers want to know if they need Microsoft's latest offering. I consider a number of usage scenarios, ranging from home users to enterprise.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft, PCs

With the release of Windows 8 only days away, Hardware 2.0 readers are asking the obvious question:

Do I need Windows 8?

I'm certain that the people asking this question expect a simple answer. They're looking for a straightforward yes or a no.

I wish it were that easy.

The problem is that I cannot possibly see into your home or office and know what your particular circumstances are. The best I can do is to offer a big picture based on certain scenarios, and then hand the decision over to you. 

Let's take a look at a few scenarios.

Home users

Home users are the easiest to advise -- if you have to ask someone whether you need Windows 8, then chances are you don't need it. On a standard desktop or notebook system, the new operating system isn't going to offer much in the way of new features beyond access to Microsoft's app store.

Windows 8 is not cheap, and it is far more economical to get it as part of a PC than as a stand alone software upgrade.

Then there's the scope for things going wrong. Upgrading a system without taking precautions such as backing up data and grabbing drivers in advance can lead you into a world of hurt in double-quick time. While most upgrades go smoothly, home users who do, for one reason or another, steer themselves into the tar pits can find it hard to get themselves out of trouble.

Remember to factor in the upgrade costs. Windows 8 is not cheap, and it is far more economical to get it as part of a PC than as a stand alone software upgrade.

The best way for home users to get their hands on Windows 8 is by buying new hardware. That way, Windows 8 comes pre-installed and pre-configured for the specific hardware, and should just work.

Windows XP users

I've been hearing a lot from Windows XP users wondering if they should finally upgrade to a modern operating system designed for this decade we are in. Yes, these users should probably be upgrading, but chances are that much of the hardware running this aging OS isn't worth upgrading. Even given Windows 8's modest system requirements, systems designed for Windows XP might not have the muscle needed to run the new operating system.

Also, these users need to have a good hard think about why they stuck with Windows XP for so long. What makes them think that Windows 8 is better than Windows Vista or Windows 7 was? How do you see Windows 8 as being different?

Small businesses

At present, the disadvantages -- training, potential for downtime, and workflow disruption -- outweigh the benefits. However, those wanting to make use of Windows 8 or Windows RT tablets may find the new operating system making its way into the business in a limited way.

My advice here is to tread carefully for now. There's no compelling reason for small businesses -- outside of tech businesses leveraging Windows 8 or Windows RT -- to be thinking about making the leap to Windows 8 at present.

Remember, foul-ups cost money.

Another aspect of moving to Windows 8 that adds to the cost is training. Employees are likely to need quite a bit of hand holding, and Microsoft doesn't offer much help when it comes to this.


These guys are only starting to adopt Windows 7. Yes, they should be looking at Windows 8, but their focus is on Windows 7 for now.

But, as always, there's a 'but'.

That 'but' takes on the form of Windows 8- and Windows RT-powered tablets and other touch devices. Microsoft, along with its hardware partners, are going to be pushing these devices at enterprise users hard, and so organizations could well find themselves in a situation where they are starting to deploy, or at least having to support, Windows 8 and Window RT before deploying Windows 7.

Companies that allow BYOD need to be especially ready for this influx of Windows 8 and Windows RT devices coming in under the arms of employees.


Yes, Windows 8 does seem to have a slight edge over Windows 7, but this small gain is hardly worth the expense. In fact, I'd wait for a few months at least for drivers -- especially video card drivers -- to mature more. This maturity will bring with it better performance, and, more importantly, greater stability.


Yes, specifically for testing. It's also useful to be familiar with the platform if you develop for it because it gives you a good feel for what works in terms of UI and usability, and what doesn't.

Support technicians

Anyone who is going to be supporting users running Windows 8 needs to be familiar with the OS. Training should handle much of that, but the best, most fluid familiarity comes from running the OS.

Power users

These users are likely to have been playing with leaked betas, previews, and the RTM version for weeks and months.

These are the folks who know best whether they want Windows 8 on their PCs or not. They're likely already running Windows 8, or putting it off until the time is right.

The bottom line

While Microsoft -- and its hardware partners -- wants everyone to rush out and make the leap to Windows 8, most users can afford to play things a little more cautiously. This is especially true for small businesses, who can ill-afford to make a misstep that could cost money or result in downtime. 

When it comes to enterprise, I think that Windows 8 may get traction there quicker than previous versions of Windows because of the new form factors such as tablets. 

As for home users, given the cost of a Windows upgrade compared to the price of a new PC, the money spent on upgrading the operating system would be better put towards a new PC.

See also:


Topics: Windows, Microsoft, PCs

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  • Windows 8: Do you need it?

    Nope, Windows 7 does everything I need just fine..
    • Quick question for you

      How do you deal with the cognitive dissonance of believing that MS forces you to upgrade while at the same time stating that you will not be upgrading?
      • What is your point to this game you seem

        to be playing?

        a flesh eating virus. Oh wait, Windows is a virus.

        Microsoft is pathetic. Apple just unveiled an awesome new Mac Pro 13" with retina. They also redesigned their iMac lineup. OSX is the best and most reliable OS out there today.

        The iPad Mini, forget about it, the entire tablet market now belongs to Apple. Microsoft's RT will die in the womb.
        • No credability, no common sense, no reasoned approach, no facts; only bias

          ...and a whole pile of nonsense.

          The world needs opinions like yours just like the world needs one more a-hole.
          • No reason, to respond

            Yet you did, how funny.
          • Seems familiar....

            "No credibility, no common sense, no reasoned approach, no facts; only bias and a whole pile of nonsense."

            Exactly like the Microsoft fanboys on here; spewing opinion as fact.
          • Ya, well thats just fu*%ing great excuse isnt it?

            Its always the same around this clown house lately, Loverock davison is a jerk so we all get to act like idiots? Is that how it works now?

            Complete moronic comments get a pass because so manylike to do it??

            Now including the writers around here?

            Dont you think you deserve at least a little more then crack heads telling you how Microsoft is going broke next month??

            Is that how you want your info?

            Well if you notice, Im not trashing any product, Im trashing complete idiots who seem to think their dog crap is acceptable.
          • I have to agree

            Microsoft, once hour late and a dollar short.

            This whole sordid affair is Zune II. Microsoft puts out a "me too" product, prices it as if they are the market leader in that product market and then sits bewildered wondering why everyone yawned.

            Only this time it's worse. In the process, they pissed off a big segment of their installed pc base.
            Angelo Brattoli
        • LOL, what?

          Apple unveiled a MacBook Pro whose sole claim to fame is a high resolution screen. Down side? It still costs triple what an equivalent Windows PC costs. The iMacs are very nice, but no, OSX is neither the best nor even the most reliable; Windows 7 is--and that will change in 3 days.

          iPad Mini, however, is a joke. It's a repackaged iPad 2 with a smaller screen at an extremely high price. It's outclassed by the Google Nexus 7 AND the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, both of which are a lot cheaper.

          Windows 8 and RT will have outsold the entire range of iPads inside of one year. Watch and see.
        • Barf....

          I just threw up in my mouth reading this BS. I've never bought an Apple product....and I never will. How's that for them owning the entire market? They will never own me and there are millions of others who think JUST THE SAME ABOUT APPLE PRODUCTS.

        • LOL

          Looks like you're drunk on "Apple" juice, you mean the iPhone medium? or the iPhone large? Apple has a knack for selling people the same thing over and over again and there are enough idiots out there to keep buying the exact same thing only in different sizes... hilarius
        • touche

          orandy:have you even tried to even think out side the box,where the virus can be stoped by FREE anti-virus?yea,sure,if you dont find/get an anti virus,yea youll probably get a virus,but that is besides the point,apple is too confusing,its doesnt make a single hair of sence.for instance;when you go on facebook,you can still get a virus,and it affects that computer 5x worse,than 5 viruses on a windows.
          Sebastian Witzany
    • And for the majority, I think that is the truth.

      Good well balanced article AKH. Points were all scored well and well explained. We need more of that around here.

      Windows 8 I think is the OS for ppeople who want to really get onto the newest way of doing things, and its not like any other Windows OS has made made this more significant an issue than Windows 8. I think the only great reason for anyone to adopt Windows 8 is simply because they see it as the new direction and they just want to get on with it. For some that will be a very good reason, for many, not so much.

      Windows 7 works exceptionally well and I dont think anyone should worry that over the next 3 or 4 years Windows 7 will become to worn out and tired to do everything most users will need.

      But I also think it would be a huge mistake, in particular for multi platform users to simply think Windows 8 is just a new face, with alearning curve included, without any potential substantive advantages. Im betting strongly that Windows 8 will indeed be a new way of doing things.
      • With the ludicrous music group mention, no point to reading the rest

        Your point is what?

        I love listening to ludicrous....
        • Look hater, take your jerk faced commentary and..

          take a vacation or something. If you are just going to join in with brain dead haters there is no place for you.

      • Windows 8 is proven faster...

        On slightly older PCs. It also opens up the RT set of apps to the common household user.

        "Do you need it?" No, but you don't "need" an iPad, or a smartphone, or a PS3, or a BlueRay player, or... We don't "need" our tech, we just enjoy it for what it is.

        Kingsly lost me when he stated the upgrade wasn't cheap. Thinking about the $40 made my eyes roll back into my skull and I briefly skimmed the rest.
    • Windows 8 : windows 7 (Productivity) + fun

      Only if you need something fun, besides your productivity.. You can do productivity with desktop mode, and having fun with Metro
  • Anyone needing to upgrade should go with Windows 7 while they still can

    The exception being Windows 8- and Windows-RT based tablets as well as Windows 8-based smartphones.

    P.S. Windows 7 will be supported into 2020 and that is still a good bit of time.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • The whole point is the joining of ecosystems...

      If you are going to purchase MS tablets, then you should probably consider upgrading. I don't want to be paying for RT apps that I can't use on my desktop. Do you?

      Also, if W8 is proven faster than 7 on even dated equipment, why would you take the 7 route? Let's also not forget that W7 is a more expensive upgrade than W8. It seems like a fools game to take the previous iteration.