Your top 10 Windows 8 questions of 2012, answered [Year in Review]

Your top 10 Windows 8 questions of 2012, answered [Year in Review]

Summary: My most popular posts this year were about Windows 8. In fact, I continue to get emails every day asking questions I've covered in posts throughout the year. This post tackles my top 10 questions, including "Is Windows 8 worth the upgrade?" and "Where can I find Windows 7 PCs?"

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TOPICS: Windows 8
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Judging by my monthly analytics reports, 2012 was the year of Windows 8.

My most popular posts this year were, invariably, about Windows 8.

In fact, I continue to get emails every day asking questions about Windows 8 that I've covered in posts throughout the year.

So I decided to take the 10 questions I'm asked most often about Windows 8 and assemble the answers right here, along with links to articles that go into much greater depth on the topic.

Here's the list:

Page 1:

  • Is Windows 8 worth the upgrade?
  • What should I know before I begin installing Windows 8?
  • Where is the Start menu?
  • What's the difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro?
  • Are there any deals on upgrades?

Page 2:

  • Can I use Windows 8 in a virtual machine?
  • What happened to Media Center?
  • What's the point of Windows RT?
  • Where can I find PCs with Windows 7?
  • How do I downgrade to Windows 7?

This post doesn't cover every question, but it covers the big ones. Including the biggest one of all:

Is Windows 8 worth the upgrade?

That depends. Despite the highly vocal, often absolute opinions you'll read from critics, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer.

Windows 8 makes some very important changes in the underlying architecture of Windows. It is dramatically faster at starting and shutting down than Windows 7 was. It has antivirus protection built-in. Internet Explorer 10 is a very polished, fast, standards-compliant browser.

The Windows 7 desktop also gets its share of significant improvements, including positive changes in File Explorer (the new name for Windows Explorer) and Task Manager.

If you own multiple Windows devices, the benefits associated with signing on using a Microsoft account and synchronizing settings and files across those machines cannot be overstated. Combined with the free SkyDrive cloud storage service (which includes 7GB of free storage and a Windows 8 app that keeps everything in sync), it is very easy to move between PCs without skipping a beat.

That said, there are two roadblocks that stop some people from falling in love with the new Windows and even send some into fits of rage.

The first is the new interface, which works spectacularly well on touchscreen devices (especially notebook PCs) but requires a significant amount of unlearning and retraining on conventional desktop devices. I found the adjustment mostly painless, but I understand how some people would prefer not to change their habits. That's especially true if you are perfectly happy using desktop apps and don't feel the need to change.

And speaking of apps... The new Windows 8 app model, with apps available only through the Windows Store, is still in its infancy. Last I checked there were around 20,000 apps listed in the Store. That includes some very good ones, including a Kindle reader, solid apps for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, Skype and Shazam, Wikipedia and Khan Academy, and (naturally) Angry Birds. Some of the built-in apps that are installed with Windows 8 are superb. But many apps you can find today on competing platforms or on the web are missing in action in Windows 8.

There's no penalty in sticking with Windows 7 and waiting as the Windows 8 ecosystem matures. In fact, there's no penalty waiting until the first big update to Windows 8 appears, perhaps as soon as mid-2013.

Or, as I wrote back in July: "Honey, if you don’t want to upgrade, just don’t upgrade."

See also:

What should I know before I begin installing Windows 8?

I've covered this topic from multiple angles this year. Here are a few articles I recommend you read:

Where is the Start menu?

It's gone, and it's not coming back. If you just can't live without it and you're otherwise happy with Windows 8, you can take your choice of third-party replacements. I know of at least a half-dozen, and I recommend either of these two:

What's the difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro?

I answered this question back in April. The short version: You need Pro if you want to join a Windows domain, connect to your PC using the Remote Desktop server, or use Hyper-V virtualization. The long answer is here:

Are there any deals on upgrades?

Yes. If you have a PC running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7, you qualify for a discounted upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $40. If you purchased a new PC with Windows 7 after June 2, 2012, you qualify for a $15 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. Both offers expire on January 31, 2013. If you bought a new PC with Windows 8, your upgrade to Windows 8 Pro will cost a little more.

Details here:

Next page: Media Center, virtual machines, and where to find new PCs with Windows 7

Topic: Windows 8

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113 comments
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  • excellent articles

    Right on the money on every aspect of Win 8.
    gbouchard99@...
    • Save Windows

      Hey Microsoft. Here’s how to save Windows.

      First of all, let me say that the Windows metro apps is good idea but it is not used the right way. Second thought, Windows 7 was the best overall Windows OS. So how to make a square thing fit in a round hole? Here’s a few thing to save Windows from getting totally disliked… because that is what’s happening right now.

      1.Windows desktop is not dead. It is still very useful, used and the first place to run an X86 windows application. So…. Bring back a Start button. Make it different, better in fact.

      2.Bring more features to the desktop. Some changes made to file Explorer are nice and welcomed. Is there more coming?

      3.A PC is not a tablet. Offer two ways to use Windows. 1 would be in tablet mode and the other in standard PC mode. In PC mode, the desktop would be the home screen.

      4.Get totally rid of the metro UI on the Server versions… that is totally ridiculous.

      5.Let us launch windows metro app from the desktop and make the metro runtime
      environment a download for Windows 7.

      6.In metro mode, make the number of tile rows/size adapt to the screen resolution. For now, on a big screen the Metro UI Tile menu doesn’t make sense at all.

      Again, I like metro. But now it seems like it is pushed down my troth and I hate that. I bought a Surface Rt and I like Windows 8 on that kind of device. On my PC…. No way!

      Even if you push real hard, Windows 8 has it is right now will fail. And so will MS if you don’t react real quickly. Things aren’t looking good right now. I know none of my friends who will upgrade to Win 8 or buy a new PC because of Win 8. In fact, I hear more about downgrading new PC to Win 7.
      gbouchard99@...
      • Windows 7 failed - all bets on Windows 8

        Windows 7 is often described as the best ever version of Windows. The fact is that Windows 7 is the only version of Windows that have lost market share.

        It's Windows 7 that has gotten Microsoft to bleed and in its panic launch Windows 8. When Windows 7 was released in 2009, Windows had a market share of 96%, whereas the market share now stands at 81%. All bets on Windows 8.
        reidar76
        • Win7 is perfect

          There is NO doubt in my mind, the most perfect Windows OS to date is Windows 7. If you are banking on Win 8, I think you will go broke. Win7, OS X, and Ubuntu LTS are just fine. Have never used ChromeOS, but I imagine for those wanting simple, the Internet to browse, and to do email, that version of a Linux OS would work out for them. For business, Window 7 is great - stable.
          mytake4this
        • Windows 7 failed?

          You have some strange math.
          William Farrel
        • Could not disagree more

          Just because Windows 7 "is the only version of Windows that have lost market share" does NOT mean that it is a "Microsoft bleeder". What about the overall downturn in the economy during the time Windows 7 made its debut, inclusive to current? And it didn't help that Windows 7 come on the heels of truly the WORST Microsoft OS ever, that being Vista. After that boondoggle, everyone was spooked from having anything at all to do with a Microsoft based computer.
          AkBadBoy
      • Yes, that is The Answer

        Someone has finally stated what should be perfectly obvious. Windows 8 is not user friendly for many people, and changes need to be made to make it much more so. Yes I agree, it will fail and fail fairly badly until replaced by something much more useable. The average PC user is not a tech genius who happily deciphers weird new operating systems, they just want to log on, go online and start using their computer in a way that's easy to understand.
        Frank Waldron
        • Amen Brother

          We just added a new computer with Windows 8 to our small business, things have sloooowed down with that OS. I sat down with it and after 30 or more minutes I began to sort of get the hang of it but I agree most people are not tech inclined. As an example I was told this morning to return the computer because it does not work well, when in fact it is familiarity with the OS. I am frustrated with Microsoft, what a techie wonder but in real world practice what a waste of time.
          fjkremer@...
      • Microsoft: Stick with one OS and concentrate on making it better

        Microsoft's problem is that it never concentrates on making a good thing better when it comes to their OS. XP was a good OS and instead of trying to make it better, they come out with Vista instead. That was a major disappointment and failure. There were so many disappointed hard core Microsoft users over that half baked idea that when Windows 7 came out, consumers were gun shy to give it a try. Windows 7 is a good, solid operating system but.... you guessed it. Instead of concentrating on making a good thing better, they came out with Windows 8 which, at least at this time, is looking like another disappointment.
        AkBadBoy
  • Is windows 8 upgrade worth the upgrade?

    Yes, if you can afford and want to empower your employees with the right tools.

    You do not need someone to explain to you if it is worth it, try it and see the difference and then make the decision.
    Wonder.man
    • Marry Me First, Then I Will Tell You If I Am A Cheater

      In other words: If you have any doubts at all about Windows 8, you can try it, but make sure you are using someone else's computer, not your own. Think about the hassle of having to revert to Windows 7 if you decide that you do not like it. If you are in doubt, wait. The truth about Windows 8 will come in the 1st quarter of 2013. By then, you should know what to do.
      Le Chaud Lapin
      • So... you've never heard of a new HDD?

        I don't know about you, but I tend to have a fair few hard disks laying around. I neer, EVER, test something on my main rig that I may want to revert. You use a thing called a "virtual machine" (yes, you can legitimately download a 90-day evaluation version directly from microsoft to try) or simply take your old HDD out, pop in a backup hard disk and instal on that. Heck, I just did that with one of my Windows 7 computers. I purchased a new SSD for my computer, whacked it in and THEN installed Windows 8. If I hadn't like W8, I could have just put the old disk back in and voila - back to normal, and still fully activated.

        It's not hard people. Geez.
        NKX
      • Or a VM?

        Or a VM?
        kstap
    • Tools?

      Win 8 apps? Trust me, this is nothing for business. Windows 7 is very good however.
      I don't think business needs gadgets, widgets, apps, whatever so called these days, to play with. Yes, they can be entertaining, and yes Win 8 has a few improvements, but then again it is still quirky and not faster for use as a business desktop, or anyones desktop. I have used it on a preview, and for two weeks on a new computer before that computer threw errors and was returned. It can work -- can not see how it works better however. I got a Mac Mini, and the OS X is just great, and logical. It just works.
      mytake4this
  • Windows Media Center and WinRT

    I'm ok with them unbundling it and making available as an add-on...

    But why tie it to the PRO version when the most likely user is going to be a Home version user?

    And I've tried the new version and as far as I can tell, there's zip improvements since the Win 7 version. For example, Canada went ATSC in August and we're still only seeing NTSC channel lineups - which makes it useless for OTA TV up here. Fortunately, I'm on cable so it's not a huge issue - but Media Center handles DVB-T in Europe and has for years.

    As for Windows RT, I can't believe how much confusion this has caused. WinRT is the new Windows API. It exists in Win8 for both desktop and tablets. In fact, the start menu and the apps that run in it on Win8 use WinRT.

    So the distinction isn't 'ARM/x86' or 'tablet/desktop' - it's 'Classic/Metro'.

    Microsoft definitely does NOT help by naming it the "Surface with Windows RT" since the Surface Pro will also come with Windows RT as will every desktop or laptop running Windows 8.
    TheWerewolf
    • One clarification

      WinRT is an API. Windows RT is an OS. They are not the same thing! Confusing...
      Ed Bott
      • WinRT vs Windows RT

        Most non-technical users won't care the difference between winRT and "windows RT". They will simply use WinRT instead of "Windows RT" to save some typing.
        WillyThePooh
        • Re: Most non-technical users won't care the difference between winRT and "w

          Which just reinforces how bad Microsoft's fragmentation problem is, that they're running out of distinctive names for all the different fragments!
          ldo17
          • wrong

            That's not fragmentation. That's poor branding. Do you even know what fragmentation is? No? Go check out Android, then you'll get the hint.
            spaulagain2
          • Re: Go check out Android...

            Funny, it's Microsoft suffering from fragmentation, not Android.
            ldo17