My opponent, Obi-Vaughn Kenobi, Master Jedi of the Linux greybeards order, has proposed that older PC hardware needs Windows 8 like a "fish needs a bicycle".
His comparison is as ludicrous as if he were to propose that his beloved Shi-Tsu is even anywhere near as intelligent as either of my miniature poodles. Which it isn't. Look, if your PC is ten years old, guess what: It's time to buy a new PC.
Even the most inexpensive, bargain basement $399-$499 COSTCO or Wal-Mart laptop or desktop Chinese special running Windows 8 is going to give you a better and certainly more secure experience than what you're (probably) currently using, no disrespect to Obi-Vaughn's beloved obscure Linux distribution running on his TRS-80 or Atari 800 intended. But for those of you who have systems that are in the range of four or five years old, installing the Windows 8 upgrade is probably a no-brainer, and your system will run faster and more reliably and more secure than it did before.
But you may ask, "What is the value of upgrading my PC to the newest version of Windows?"
From the perspective of the regular and corporate end-user I believe that Windows 8 represents a substantial refresh and performance fine-tuning of the traditional core Windows operating system components which include a the kernel, device drivers, networking services, the Win32 desktop and Internet Explorer. This is combined with a number of value added services which include built-in anti-malware in the form of the new Windows Defender (antivirus/antispyware) as well as cloud integration (single sign-on via Windows Live account, Skydrive, etc.) and built-in virtualization for Windows 8 Professional users (Hyper-V) just to name a few. It is on these improvements alone that I feel that Windows 8 is actually worth the $40 upgrade cost that existing genuinely licensed XP, Vista and Windows 7 users will incur if they decide to make the switch.
At the same time, while Windows 8 provides many of the same types of improvements that the Windows 7 upgrade had over Windows Vista and Windows XP, Microsoft is also introducing a new paradigm in the form of applications which use the new WinRT API -- what we've all been calling "Metro" until recently. The introduction of the new WinRT-based Start Menu and "Metro-style apps" is critical for Microsoft because Win32 is now 20 years old and is getting long in the tooth. So Windows 8 represents both a technology refresh/update for the end-user as well as providing a bridge to the OS's future, particularly as it applies to systems such as ARM-based tablets which will rely on it as the primary UI and programmatic interface.
I think that a substantial amount of end-users are going to find value in terms of improving system performance, improving system security, and having access to the latest software technology for a mere $40. For end-users who buy PCs in the current timeframe, it will cost even less. The bottom line is that Microsoft is going to provide an Upgrade Advisor utility that anyone can download and will inform the end-user if their system is a good candidate for the upgrade. That's the end of the argument from a "Should I upgrade and will it work with my hardware" perspective as far as I am concerned. Heed the words of Darth Perlow.
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.
So how should one install Windows 8? As an in-place upgrade or on a freshly formatted drive?
I personally did fresh installs on all the systems I have tested so far, and I re-installed my apps. But that's how I always do things and by no means should be considered an optimal practice for everyone. That being said, I think the safe thing to do if you want to attempt to preserve your legacy applications installed on your system is to invest in image-based backup software, and get a new hard drive to clone your existing Windows 7 or Vista/XP system to before attempting an in-place.
Before investing any time and energy on attempting an upgrade, when Windows 8 is released in October, run the Upgrade Advisor tool which will be provided by Microsoft on its web site. If your hardware and your application software is deemed compatible, you can do one of two things -- you can install Windows 8 on your system as-is (taking my previous statements about Fresh vs. Upgrade installs into account) or you might want to consider upgrading your RAM to 4GB or higher if you only have 2GB. A memory upgrade is a relatively inexpensive thing you can do to improve performance on ANY PC, regardless of the OS you install on it. If you don't know what kind of memory to use in your PC, you can go to any number of sites such as kingston.com, crucial.com or corsair.com which will allow you to choose your make and model of PC, and they will give a list of what sort of DDR memory you need to buy, and ship it to you direct. Swapping out your old memory for new chips is a very simple process, it's not rocket surgery. You might also want to consider purchasing an SSD drive as your primary boot device, but that's totally optional.
But what about the Enterprise? And no, foolish ones, I am not talking about that insipid Star Trek show.
For the most part I think Windows 8 is a consumer oriented release. An enterprise with substantial Windows 7 infrastructure is probably not going to see a ton of value with Windows 8 because they already have things like corporate antivirus-antimalware software installed on their systems and they have long, agonizingly drawn out SDLCs to deal with. Still, there may be small and medium-sized businesses that see significant value with the built-in stuff that is being offered with the product that they would have otherwise had to spend money on. However, if you want to take look at what Windows 8's enterprise sibling -- Windows Server 2012, we're talking a whole different ballgame here.
Any CIO that passes over this server release is doing his enterprise a huge disservice because the value add is substantial, particularly in the areas of virtualization, networking, storage and multi-tenancy systems management.
But what of the new "Metro" user interface? Doesn't that present problems? Only for the weak-minded, I say.
There is no question that a certain amount of end-user adaptation is required. The tough cases which have always had trouble adapting to Windows releases may see it as extremely disruptive.
Still, most PC-savvy end-users should adapt easily. And if you must have it, there are 3rd-party utilities to bring back the original Start Menu for those who find difficulty making the switch. So far, I've installed Windows 8 on four systems in my household, one of them being my wife's circa-2008 Dell Studio Intel Core Duo laptop. After I gave her a brief introduction on how to switch back and forth between the traditional desktop and showing her how to use full-screen WinRT apps, she's doing just fine. I do think Microsoft's post-installation "Let's get started" introductory video is a bit minimalist and better training tools may be required. I see a lot of relatives and friends calling their PC-savvy geek-in-laws the first week they use their newly upgraded or newly purchased Windows 8 systems. That much is for certain.
Indeed, the new Metro UI and Start Menu in Windows 8 very different from what everyone is used to, and will require adaptation as well as developers to create new WinRT-based programs to take advantage of it. But it is worth adapting to the change because Windows 8 will improve the performance of your old PC, it will still run your existing applications, and also provides you with many new features that will invigorate your system with the power of The Dark Side.
Will you embrace the power of Windows 8 on your Old PC? Talk Back and Let Me Know.