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?"

TOPICS: Windows 8

Can I use Windows 8 in a virtual machine?

Yes, you can, using an OEM System Builder copy of Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. You can also install an OEM package of Windows 8 on a PC you build yourself, without paying for an overpriced full retail copy.

This is a significant change in licensing terms compared to previous Windows versions. With Windows 7, for example, the System Builder license agreement prohibits installing the software except on a PC you plan to resell to a third party. Windows 8 adds a Personal Use License to the OEM license, which specifically gives you the right to install the software on a PC you own. You can even transfer the software to a different PC if you completely remove it from the machine where you originally installed it.

See also:

What happened to Media Center?

Windows Media Center was a showcase feature of every "premium" version of Windows for the past decade. In Windows 8, Microsoft removed it, citing low usage (only 6% of Windows 7 users even launch it once, and of that 6%, only a quarter do more than just look around). And then there's the cost of licensing codecs for media playback, which is only a few dollars per PC but adds up to billions of dollars when you ship hundreds of millions of copies.

A side effect of removing Media Center is that Windows 8 loses the ability to natively play back DVDs in Windows Media Player. OEMs who include DVD or Blu-ray drives include third-party software that supplies the necessary codecs. Installing the Media Center Pack does the same.

Running Media Center requires Windows 8 Pro. Because many new PCs are sold with the basic (Core) edition of Windows 8, Microsoft is delivering the Media Center features as an add-on, in two different packages. 

Upgrading from the basic edition of Windows 8 requires the Windows 8 Pro Pack, which upgrades your PC to Windows 8 Pro and enables the Media Center features.

If you're already running Windows 8 Pro (as an upgrade or installed with a new PC), you can use the Media Center Pack.

Both add-ons are currently available at discounted prices: The Media Center pack is free and the Pro Pack is $69.99. These special offers are good until January 31, 2013. Details and a sign-up form are here.

A word of caution: If you are a Media Center enthusiast and you have a working Media Center setup, I do not recommend upgrading to Windows 8. The Media Center add-on is basically identical to the Windows 7 version, and I've found enough incompatibilities in my testing to convince me to keep my two Media Center machines running on Windows 7 for now

See also:

What's the point of Windows RT?

Windows RT runs on ARM processors, which means it can get much better battery life than Intel Core processors (the jury is still out on battery life for Intel's new Clover Trail family of processors that can run the full x86 Windows 8).

It can run most programs written for Windows 8 and delivered through the Windows Store. Microsoft has included a recompiled version of four programs from the Office 2013 suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) that run in an environment that is essentially identical to the Windows desktop.

With those exceptions, Windows RT can't run traditional Windows desktop programs. That is both a limitation and a tremendous feature. Devices running Windows RT are, for all intents and purposes, immune from Windows viruses, spyware, and other forms of malware.

The most popular Windows RT device is Microsoft's Surface. Here's my initial review:

Where can I find PCs with Windows 7?

Most PC manufacturers have introduced new PCs running Windows 8. Many of them include touchscreens or enhanced trackpads (or both) that showcase the signature feature of Windows 8. These devices are aimed primarily at consumers.

If you're considering a touchscreen PC, I strongly recommend buying one with Windows 8. If you've decided to skip Windows 8 and stick with Windows 7, there are still plenty of choices available for you. The trick to finding them is to avoid looking in places that appeal to consumers and instead shop in the online and brick-and-mortar stores that cater to conservative business buyers. That's true even if you're planning to use your new PC in your home. Dell, for example, allows you to filter its full list of products to show only those with Windows 7 available (here are laptops and desktops). At Lenovo's web site, you can search for Windows 7.

The good news is that Microsoft isn't forcing anyone to give up Windows 7. Under its well-documented, longstanding sales lifecycle, PC makers can build and sell PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled for two full years after the release of Windows 8. That's October, 2014. Microsoft will continue to sell Windows 7 boxed software until October 26, 2013, and of course smart resellers can stock up on software and PCs before either of those deadlines to take advantage of eager customers. That means you can safely skip Windows 8 and continue using Windows 7 for a long, long time.

See also:

How do I downgrade to Windows 7?

That question really demands two answers, one legal and one technical.

Legally, you are entitled to downgrade a Windows 8 Pro license to Windows 7 Professional if and only if you purchased your new PC with Windows 8 Pro preinstalled. The base edition of Windows 8 does not include downgrade rights. Neither does an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. If you buy a new PC with Windows 8 preinstalled and you want to install Windows 7 on it, you need to buy a full retail copy of Windows 7, at least if you want to comply with the terms of the license agreement.

From a technical point of view, downgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 7 means doing a clean install. There's no way to uninstall Windows 8 to revert to Windows 7, and you can't perform an installation that keeps your data files or programs.

And no, you can't legally downgrade a Windows 8 Pro PC to Windows XP.

See also:

Got more questions? Send me an email using the contact form at the end of this post. (Don't leave them in the Talkback section, please, because there's no guarantee I'll see them there.)


Topic: Windows 8

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  • excellent articles

    Right on the money on every aspect of Win 8.
    • 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.
      • 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.
        • 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.
        • 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.
      • 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.
      • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
      • Or a VM?

        Or a VM?
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
        • 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!
          • 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.
          • Re: Go check out Android...

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