From Windows 8 to Windows 7: why I downgraded

Windows 8 is certainly an ambitious effort on the behalf of Microsoft, but it seems I'm missing something that's keeping me from enjoying it and I'm curious to see who feels the same.
Written by Stephen Chapman, Contributor

I wanted to love Windows 8. I really did. But despite my previous bent as a Microsoft "fanboy" (a brand-loyal individual who blindingly proclaims the glories of said brand that, in their eyes, can do no wrong), it didn't take long for me to validate much of the bias I went into Windows 8 RTM with: a bias formed not from the reviews and experiences of others, but from my own experiences that began with my first hands-on Windows 8 experience back in November 2011 at Microsoft's first BUILD conference.

I failed to receive the revelation back then, and I fail even more to receive it now.

For those of you who aren't familiar with my past endeavors, I was an OS nerd -- specifically, a diehard Windows fan. I installed alpha and beta builds of Windows almost daily (during the Whistler and Longhorn days); religiously hacked my way through DLLs, registry keys, etc. to find even the slightest hints of hidden secrets that would give way to what Microsoft had up its sleeve; desperately wanted to work on the Windows team in some capacity; and I even ran (and still run, albeit much less frequently) a Microsoft-centric blog. All that to say that I used to be unapologetically passionate and excited about Windows. Though that isn't the case anymore, it stands to reason that I might always have some sort of a vested interest in Windows.

[Related: Why Sinofsky's departure makes me a happy Windows enthusiast]

As I stated earlier, I first managed some hands-on time with Windows 8 on a tablet at BUILD last year. This came after the keynote that had me excited to try out their newfangled endeavor. Unlike the seemingly facile user experience portrayed on stage, the hands-on experience was wonky, confusing, and unenjoyable, to say the least. And that was on a device (a tablet) this OS has so obviously been developed for UI-wise. Then, I tried it on a laptop and... I was baffled. Despite my experiences, I remained optimistic about the final product.

Fast forward to Windows 8 RTM and, astonishingly, my experiences last year aren't very far removed from those I've experienced over the past couple of weeks. And believe you me, I legitimately tried to give this OS a chance -- powering through the woes and pitfalls I dreaded experiencing again. After all, if I took the time to bear learning OS X, then I could at least do the same with the current version of an OS I so used to adore, right?

And that's it! That's why I downgraded from Windows 8. The end!

Just kidding.

So, what, specifically, was it that I disliked so much about Windows 8? Primarily, I can't stand the new UI. I didn't like it from day 1, I don't like it now, and I don't have the interest or patience to force myself to like it (which, despite the number of optimistic ways I've seen other people spin it, is what you have to do if you hope to enjoy it -- especially with a mouse and keyboard).

Now, let me go ahead and distinguish the difference between not liking it and not being able to use it. I was able to use it just fine, after about an hour or so of repetition. I adjusted, but never once did I like it. Yes, I wanted the Start menu back; and if you're tired of hearing people say it, then maybe there's really something to it. Also, I realize there are programs that will re-implement a Start menu in Windows 8, but that COMPLETELY defeats the entire purpose of Windows 8's new UI.

[Related: 10 sweet and scary things about Windows 8]

"Well, Windows 8 has some significant performance enhancements, Stephen!" Maybe true, but there's a point at which you only realize these enhancements when running benchmarks or being told they exist. Though Windows 8 felt no snappier to me or more enhanced than Windows 7, it's well worth noting that my system is comprised of some rather formidable hardware (Core-i7 3920XM CPU, 32GB RAM, 2 680M GPUs, SSDs, etc.), so that could have everything to do with this perception of mine. Either way, the only benefit that I, personally, see in upgrading to Windows 8 is the fact that Windows 7 will one day be outdated. And by that time, I'm counting on Windows 9 or Windows 10 to offer me something more than just that.

But you know what? Saying such a thing only begs the following question: "Just what is it that you want in Windows 9 or Windows 10 that Windows 8 doesn't have, Stephen, you overly-critical guy, you?" Good question, to which my answer is, "NOTHING!" There isn't a single thing I want that Windows 7 doesn't give me -- yet another reason that upgrading to Windows 8 is but an empty prospect to me. Windows 7, dare I say, is the perfect OS for me -- or, to put it another way, sometimes, last year's model really is better than the latest. I say this as a matter of opinion, of course.

Lastly, the reason I disliked Windows 8 as much as I did was the lack of familiarity. Sure, it's Windows, but it's also not Windows at all. Instead of it being an enjoyable experience to learn this new version of Windows (yes, I found previous versions of Windows enjoyable to learn), it was initially arduous, unfamiliar, and demanding of the most virtuous of patience. Everything that makes it at all akin to previous versions of Windows feels like it was placed there halfheartedly just to appease people like me -- people who will inevitably be painted as not willing to let go of what's comfortable, familiar, and productivity-inducing. Plus, good luck troubleshooting when issues arise, which brings me to one more issue I had. You see, it's not just about Windows 8; it's about troubleshooting issues with 3rd-party apps, games, etc. And that's after learning the differences between Modern apps and traditional apps.

[Related: Windows Longhorn: still the most exciting Windows UI to date]

To close, I have plenty of friends and colleagues who severely disagree with my opinion, and that's okay. I get Windows 8. It's not difficult to use; it's just unenjoyable to use, for me. There isn't a doubt in my mind that there are many people who enjoy Windows 8, and, contrary to how this article may make me seem, I am open to change. Perhaps Windows 8 will be something I have the patience to venture once more down the road, and who knows; maybe I'll even find myself enjoying it and laughing at the thought of this article.

That's the optimist in me, though. The realist in me says Windows 8 will be the first time I legitimately skip a version of Windows; not because I dislike Windows 8 just that much, but because I like Windows 7 as much as I do. Moving to Windows 8 doesn't just mean moving to a new OS; it means moving away from an OS that, quite frankly, I love.

Either way, Microsoft still has me as a user, so it's still somewhat of a win for them, I suppose. Here's to hoping Microsoft manages to do something truly worth upgrading to in the future for users like me. And for those of you who might be forced to use it in the workplace, I'm sorry.

What do you think about Windows 8? Is it a viable alternative to Windows 7, especially in the workplace? Where that's concerned, are you working for a company that has rolled out Windows 8? Share your thoughts and experiences below!

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