Windows 8: No, I AM YOUR OS UPGRADE!

Windows 8: No, I AM YOUR OS UPGRADE!

Summary: Say what you wish about this release being only for tech geeks: The Microsoft Empire will prevail with Windows 8.

TOPICS: Windows, Microsoft, PCs

TechRepublic's Editor In Chief Jason Hiner does not feel you should put Windows 8 on an older PC unless you are a technophile. 

He underestimates the power that this fully operational upgrade represents. 


While I personally recommend that the upgrade not be done on anything older than say, a 2008-era system with 4GB of memory in order to see the best results, it's possible that some systems that are substantially older may benefit. 

I myself installed it on a 2006-era Opteron system (which had a BIOS update in 2009) and it works fine. I've never seen Windows run faster, as a matter of fact. 

Other end-users with older systems might see similar results, but their mileage may vary. 

If your system is so old (Read as: Pentium 4 and AMD64 released earlier than 2004) that it has a CPU which does not support the NX processor bit, Physical Address Extension (PAE) and Streaming SIMD Extensions 2 (SSE2) then you can consider that a hard stop for Windows 8. You need a new computer, really.

But perhaps you fear what installing the software could do to your old computer even if your hardware is compatible. Perhaps you remember what the Vista upgrade did to your PC.

Do not worry my Sith Learners, I want you to feel comfortable with the embrace of the Dark Side.

Vista was a perfect storm for a disaster in many respects because a lot of hardware changes occurred in the industry when it came out, Microsoft had a lot of problems getting it out the door due to disruptive re-orgs that went on during the development process, and most end-users and even the OEMs were completely unprepared for it. 

I think most PC experts would definitively agree that Windows 7 was a significant improvement over Vista.

That being said, the preponderance of PC hardware that has been in general circulation since 2007 or so is very well equipped to handle Windows 8. There's no way in hell this upgrade is going to be another Vista strictly from a hardware compatibility perspective.

This is because there's been a lot of consolidation in terms of components used since Vista and Windows 7's release, and Microsoft has had that much time to integrate all the necessary 3rd-party drivers into the core stack.

I feel that enough improvements have been incorporated into the new OS that there is a very real performance increase on hardware that has been released in the last four years, and that also includes very recently purchased PCs. Bootup time is substantially better and the kernel has been better optimized for use with SSDs, for example.

To me those improvements are definitely quantitative.

With Windows 8, we're talking anywhere close to four to six years of cumulative patches, fixes and core OS improvements depending on the target hardware it's being installed on. Much of those improvements are in the kernel and associated core subsystems where memory management, networking and I/O is being touched. 

While Obi-Vaughn will argue otherwise, this is no different from the types of improvements one might observe when installing a Linux 3.x-based distribution that is current on 4-year-old and and 6-year old hardware versus a much older version of that same Linux distribution.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, PCs


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • I was able to install Windows 8 on a PC with ...

    Intel Pentium 4 with HT @ 3.00 GHz, 2 GB SDRAM, Nvidia 440MX AGP 8x. The machine is archaic by today's standards. I happen to have it lying around in the office. The only problem that I faced was that the graphics card does not have any drivers which are even WDDM 1.0 certified. It is no longer supported by Nvidia. But the built in display driver works just fine.

    The memory consumption for an idling system without any applications running is about 512 MB. Boot times are faster than XP.
    • performance

      Outside of faster boot times how is performance in the operating system compared to windows xp?
      • faster

        on a Core 2 Duo, browsing, file copying and multimedia tasks are all faster
        • Reset

          Nothing wrong with Core 2 inputs Mary, but those are to be expected. The poster dsm7809 was asking how the performance was head to head in regards to the older Netburst platform, to wit, a P4 with decent cycles and adequate RAM + VID specs.
      • Compared to XP

        Compared to XP (On the same computer) Core i3 on a Gigabyte Mini ITX

        Full Format Times on a 16GB Patriot Exporter Thumbdrive @ FAT 32 - Default allocation size
        Windows 8 Full formats the drive in 33 minutes and 24 seconds
        Windows XP Full formats the drive in 22 seconds (91 times faster)

        Windows 8 will not run many thinstalled portable apps that run just fine under XP

        Windows 8 did not run Portable Photoshop CS5
        Portable Illustrator CS3
        Portable Audition 3.0
        Portable Handbrake
        Portable Massive
        Portable Quicktime

        and many others including several games that were installed and run fine on XP

        However, Windows 8 can run many older versions of the above software but its hit or miss

        If you need to maintain ABSOLUTE compatability for XP software, you need to keep XP - PERIOD!

        Just run XP on an OFFLINE drive for best security and run all your Internet crap and spyware on the Windows 8 Drive (The one you don't give a crap about)

        Windows 8 will provide you better security online from any of the spies not directly associated with Israel or the United States Gov't

        Xp will let ALL the spies in regardless of who they are working for

        That is the main difference between the two
        • Portable Photoshop CS5 can run on my Lapie..

          Just to inform to Mr. OutOfBoxExperience and all friend, I have 4 laptop with years made in 2008 (2), 2010 and 2011. I use Windows 8 OS on two laptop, but I can only run Photoshop CS5 perfectly in my first laptop.
          Sultan Rasyid
    • Unsuopported NVidia

      You are probably better off with your graphics being unsupported.

      The NVidia Ion driver in the Windows 8 RTM suck ass - blinking screens and corrupted output.

      HP have no Win 8 drivers yet, and NVidia don;t want to know, as it is an OEM part in a laptop supported by HP. not them.

      Back to Win 7....
      • Ion graphics

        Did you go to the Nvidia site, I found ION graphic drivers there for windows 8 on there.
      • AMD finally got their decent

        It hasn't released to the public yet, give them time.
  • 8 adoption will mainly be new PCs.

    Just like every operating system before 8 the major adoption rates will be with new PC buyers. Face it, people buy a computer and whatever is on it is what stays on it until it breaks. Mom and Pop don't know a device driver from an exhaust port and have no interest in delving into arcane arts to be enlightened about their IRQ settings.

    Window XP had a long run - and people will no doubt continue to use it regardless when it reaches end of life, Vista took a hit because it brought in major architectural changes, 7 refined those changes and because everything was ready driver wise - unlike Vista's launch - everyone loved it.

    There will be a percentage of users who opt to upgrade their installations to 8 but I suspect it will hover in the low double digits. Everyone else will run their existing machine into the ground and eventually get around to buying a new computer. Which will have 8 or maybe even 9 by then.
    • i agree

      With windows 8 i doubt you will people running out to upgrade and most will just get in when they get a new computer. Windows 7 was they only windows os where i noticed average people upgrading.

      tablets and hybrid computers with touch screens will fuel strong sales for windows 8 aswell. Though i think it may struggle on desktops due to the interface challenges to your average user however it seems many pc makers are going to include some sort of start menu replacement like Samsung showed so im just not sure how reaction will be
    • I agree also. But..

      For the most part, you're right. People won't really need to upgrade right away. Windows 7 is a totally awesome OS. However, what makes this upgrade different is the "Modern/Metro" side of things and the fact that tablets, phones, and X-Box's will be sporting it (or something very close to it). Want to use Microsoft's SmartGlass app to interface with your with X-Box and other devices? You'll need to get Windows 8. How bout all the other things that are on the way with Windows 8's "other side"?

      Also, even if your current PC runs better on Window 8 than it did with XP or 7, you will be tempted to upgrade soon because of touch. Starting this Oct, it's going to start to become harder to get a PC or laptop without a multi-touch screen. When you see how cool it is, you'll want it trust me. I can not wait to have touch on my 3 monitor system. I've always wanted the option to drag/manipulate stuff around with my hands instead of reaching for the mouse and scooting it along a table top. It will feel so much more natural with touch.
      • It's not a case of "need", it's a case of "want".

        Microsoft Needs users to Want the new version. It's the Want that sells Apple's OSes as quickly as they do. Microsoft is trying to get Windows users to Want Win8--but we can see where too many users are so afraid of this new change that they're going to resist it as hard as they can.
      • For some, touch screens are an absolute turn-off

        I agree with BP314. Touch-screens on notebooks or desktops, however, are a definite NO for me. I'm certainly not going to pay extra for the "privilege" of using them. The difference would be better spent for non-frivolous hardware improvements. I don't want greasy fingerprints all over my monitors.

        MCTronix there are alternatives to mice. Track balls are stationary and are less likely to cause carpal-tunnel when used correctly. I'm not sure why anyone would want touch on 3 monitors. Whack-a-mole?
      • .

        i doubt you will see many people upgrade their windows 7 machines to 8 and that most windows 8 sales will be generated through sales of touch enabled devices. Overall if Microsoft gave you the choice of turning the start menu on or off it would of kept everyone happy
      • It's people who think Win7 is great...

        ...that will be panting after Win8 upgrades. They've already proved they're Barnum-ready.
    • While I essentially agree, this is NOT what Microsoft wants.

      Every time a new version of OS X comes out from Apple, adoption is quick and massive. Usually within one year of release, something like 80% of the Mac user base has adopted it--unless their hardware is simply too old to handle it.

      Microsoft has something in Windows 8 that surpasses Apple's OS by accommodating hardware more than 5 years old while still offering streamlined and accelerated performance across the board. Yet, the best they've ever been able to do for new version adoption is roughly 3 years before they even reach 50% and usually running about 20% at the end of two years. Is it any wonder that Microsoft takes so long to come up with new releases? With quicker adoption you would see more frequent and more significant upgrades.

      Microsoft has made itself irrelevant simply due to the mistakes they made in the 9 years before Win7. They lost the enthusiasm they'd gained with the earlier versions (through XP) but when they took nearly a full decade to truly produce a replacement to XP, well--nobody gets excited about Windows any more.
      • OS X upgrade percentages

        The thing is that people are actually happy and productive with older versions of Windows. It does everything they need it to do. The case for upgrading is a difficult one to make when you are 100% satisfied with your current version.

        The story is not quite so rosy for OS X. There is wide dissatisfaction with every version of OS X. It never does what people want it to do. So yeah, when a new version comes out, they upgrade, hoping against all hope that THIS is the version of OS X that works. One day, they might even be right.
        • That's exactly right...

          Windows 7 does EVERYTHING that I (and the users in my small business network) want from my/their PC. If I (personally) want to customize it with a different start menu, there are free downloads that give me a somewhat metro-like feel (mainly larger icons that spread out, see here:

          Now, I can get behind the speed improvements, that actually would be worth a $40 upgrade to me!

          HOWEVER, the article's comment in regards to Metro explains why we won't be upgrading: "Only for the weak-minded, I say". This is exactly the kind of arrogance (DARK SIDE THINKING) that is making me move away from Windows. My users (yes, I'm an admin and I veiw them as MY users, people under my CARE) are not the most technically savey in the world. They have difficult accounting tasks and procedures that require them to be able to sit down and do their work. I put off the move to Windows 7 until last fall, mainly to give them time to see and use it for themselves on their personal computers. Same for Office 2010.

          And guess what, after almost 10 months of use they have gotten used to most of the interface changes... and have not become more productive in the least. As far as speed improvements, Windows 7 started out MUCH faster than before, but many are now experiencing slow-downs, just like they did with Windows XP. The Windows 7 way of handling notification windows is sometimes difficult for them (Not getting calendar reminders popping up in front, printer authentication windows not coming up in front, but instead a stupid blinking icon down on the bar). Most are still confused by the stupid Office ribon.

          So here's the deal, if Metro and the interface changes to the start menu was an OPTION, I'd be seriously evaluating this for my users. But the incremental speed improvements provided will likely fade after a year, and what will I be left with? My poor users trying to cope with more impediments to doing their work.

          Windows 7 is here to stay.
          Technical John
          • Windows XP is here to stay also

            Windows XP was the best, lets admit it