171 of 181 people found the following review helpful
The "System Builder" version of Windows 8.1 is for installation on a new computer (with no operating system installed) or on a computer that is NOT currently running Windows 8, Windows 7, Vista, or XP. This product ("System Builder") is NOT for upgrading; if you are upgrading from a previous version of Windows, then get the upgrade package.
This is the "OEM" version of Windows 8.1. Perform a web search for: Windows 8.1 OEM license. According to Microsoft, if you are building a computer for personal use, then the "Full packaged retail product is needed." With the OEM version, you cannot get technical support from Microsoft; also, you can activate it on one and only one computer (the license is linked to the hardware). If you want technical support and/or the potential to transfer the license to a new computer, then look at the "full" version (Microsoft Windows 8.1 - Full Version).
This is NOT the "Professional" version of Windows 8.1. Make sure you are selecting the version you need/want. To learn more, just perform a web search for: Differences between Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Professional. Windows 8.1 Professional also comes in an "OEM" version and a "full" version: Windows 8.1 Pro System Builder OEM DVD 64-Bit and Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro - Full Version.
I just installed Windows 8.1 System Builder on a newly-constructed computer. It loaded very quickly (approximately 20 minutes). Loading Window Updates took roughly another 30 minutes. I gave Windows 8.1 a five-star rating because it is much faster and much more stable than the Windows 7 that I use every day on another computer. My Windows 7 machine crashes at least five times per week; in contrast, my Window 8.1 Professional machine and my Windows 8.1 machine have never crashed, frozen, or reset.
I did have one mishap as I loaded software on my new Windows 8.1 machine. As I went to load an old version of Roxio, Windows 8.1 warned me that it was not compatible; but I loaded it anyway. Upon rebooting after that, Windows 8.1 was somehow compromised, and its Auto Repair function initiated a complete wipe and reload of Windows 8.1. Lesson learned: I will not attempt to load old software and hardware on my new Windows 8.1 machine.
Windows 8.1 has many powerful features that were completely new to me. The easiest way to learn about these new features is to read a book (just search Amazon books for "Windows 8.1"). I liked Windows 8.1 Inside Out, but it is more in-depth than most people probably want.
THE "DESKTOP" IS STILL THERE:
A lot of folks I know HATE the new "Start" screen ("metro style") user interface. I spent several weeks learning how to use it; but in the end, I abandoned the Start" screen in favor of the (old familiar) "Desktop" app. So, to all you folks who hate the Start screen: Just use the Desktop instead. You can switch to the Desktop simply by pressing the key combination [WINDOWS key]+D. Or, as I did, you can setup Windows 8.1 to boot to the Desktop instead of the Start screen. Simply (1) go to Desktop; (2) move the cursor to a blank area of the Toolbar at the bottom of the screen; (3) right click and select "Properties"; (4) select the "Navigation" tab; (5) place a tick mark in the box next to "When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of start."
You can setup up your Windows 8.1 Desktop to be just like your old Windows 7 Desktop, except there won't be a Start button. (Quite frankly, those Microsoft folks made a huge mistake taking away the Start button.) On the Desktop, you can also setup the Tool Bar (Quick Start icons) and System Tray just like you did in previous versions of Windows. In short, you can make your Windows 8.1 look just like Windows 7, but the underlying operating system will be much quicker and a lot more stable.
Speaking of the Start button; Windows 8.1 adds a modified Start button of sorts (a Windows-Flag) at the lower left-hand edge of the Desktop toolbar. If you left-click on it, it opens the "Start" screen (the same effect as pressing the Windows key on your keyboard); if you right-click on it, it opens the "Power User" menu (the same effect as pressing Windows Key plus X simultaneously). Once on the "Start" screen, if you click on the little arrow at the bottom left, you will get a listing of your programs/apps (essentially providing the functions of the old Start Button, and more).
I found it helpful to add the following icons to my Windows 8.1 Desktop: Computer (formerly "My Computer"), Control Panel, and Network. To do this, right click on any clear area of the desktop and select the Personalize option. In the left pane of the Personalize window, click Change desktop icons. Tick the boxes for the icons you want displayed on the desktop (Computer, Control Panel, Recycle Bin, User's Files, Network). Click the Apply button.
I have read that "Windows 8.1 Update 1" will boot computers without touchscreens to the desktop by default and will use desktop apps by default. Of course, Microsoft (OBVIOUSLY) should have had this feature in the original Windows 8.
That's enough about how to set up the Desktop. Once you get Windows 8.1 working on the Desktop app, take some time to learn how to use the new "metro-style" user interface. On my dual monitor system, I have the Desktop on my center monitor and the "Start" screen (TileWorld) on the side monitor. You should probably get a book to help you customize the Start screen by learning how to add (pin), delete (unpin), resize, move, and group tiles. I think most non-business users will prefer the new Start screen interface.
WINDOWS 8.1 IS EASY - BUT ONLY AFTER AN HOUR OR SO OF TRAINING:
Let me just say: Microsoft made a huge mistake by not including a very simple and obvious tick-box to provide users with the option to "Use Classic Windows." Now, it only takes about 10 minutes to get Windows 8.1 to look and function just like Windows 7; but that's 9.5 minutes longer than it should take! Also, Microsoft should have provided a simple and obvious tick-box to allow users (especially business users) to completely disable the new Metro (Modern) interface.
It takes some effort for the new user to learn how to setup Windows 8.1; but after you get it setup, your Window 8.1 machine will be very easy to use (you won't even think about it). You should probably get a friend, grandchild, or book to help you on your first day. Just about everybody should get some Windows 8.1 training, even if that training is nothing more than watching some youtube videos. Obviously, Microsoft should have produced some videos (maybe eight 5-minute videos) to orient the new user! The user interface is so different most folks will get angry with it if no one has explained it to them first. You see, very little is obvious or intuitive; all of the menus are initially hidden, and there is no clue as to how to display them. But don't get angry! Just spend a short time (less than an hour) learning some basic Windows 8.1 tricks and secrets. When I built my new gaming computer fifteen months ago, I read the book Windows 8 Secrets in its entirety before loading the operating system. It's a good thing I did, otherwise I would have been lost (and, yes, probably angry). Luckily for new users, lots of nice people have posted some great youtube videos that can potentially teach you most of what you need to know. You could also go down to your local computer store and play with Windows 8.1.
You can save yourself a lot of (first-day) anger and frustration by immediately configuring Windows 8.1 to use the Desktop user-interface instead of the new Metro-style user-interface (per the instructions above). Do this immediately after your computer boots to Windows 8.1 for the first time. If you do, you'll find yourself in a (relatively stress-free) familiar environment . . . something that looks and behaves just like Windows 7, but without the "Start" button. Other than that, printout and use the Windows-Key shortcuts discussed below (especially Winkey+C and Winkey+I).
WINDOWS-KEY SHORTCUTS MAKE LIFE EASY:
Memorize and use the "Windows Key" (Winkey) keyboard shortcuts! (The Winkey is the key on the bottom row with a depiction the Microsoft flag; my Winkey is just to the right of the CTRL key.) For example, if you hold down the Winkey and press C, the "Charms" bar will be displayed. The "Charms" bar is perhaps the most important interface in Windows 8.1. If you learn the Winkey keyboard shortcuts first thing, you will be able to get most things done in Windows 8.1 right away!
Helpful Winkey keyboard shortcuts:
Winkey: toggles between Start Menu and last app
Winkey + D: opens Desktop
Winkey + C: opens "Charms" bar
Winkey + E: opens file explorer
Winkey + F or Winkey + W: searches for files
Winkey + I: opens the Settings charm (to shut down your computer, for example)
Winkey + Z: opens "app bar" (the menu user interface that is normally hidden when interacting with a Windows 8 app)
Winkey + X: opens the "power user" menu (which includes programs and features, power options, event viewer, system, device manager, network connections, disk management, computer management, command prompt, task manager, control panel, file explorer, search, run, shutdown or signoff, and desktop)
Winkey + R: opens run-program window (like when you used to go to Start, Run)
LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT WINDOWS ACTIVATION:
Windows 8.1 activated over the internet just fine. I had read that Windows 8.1 activation was tied to the specific motherboard; but, apparently, Windows 8.1 loses its activation if you change the memory or hard drive. When I changed out the memory modules (for larger capacity), Windows gave me a message that I would need to re-activate within three days. When I decided that I wanted a larger hard drive in this new machine, I cloned the smaller drive to the larger drive; in the process, Windows activation was lost on the larger drive. Lesson learned: Your life will be easier if you finalize your hardware installation BEFORE you activate Windows 8.1.
LOCAL ACCOUNT VERSUS MICROSOFT ACCOUNT
You can setup Windows 8.1 user accounts to be either a "local account" or a Microsoft account. Just perform a little web research for: Difference between local account and Microsoft account. There are pros and cons associated with each option.
Quite annoyingly, it is NOT obvious how to choose "local account" during the installation of Windows 8.1. Understandably, some folks are angry because they feel that Microsoft is FORCING their new Windows 8.1 machine to be linked a Microsoft account. Actually, it is simple (but not at all obvious) to setup Windows 8.1 with a "local account" (so the operating system is not linked to Microsoft).
During installation of Windows 8.1, when you get to the "Sign in to your Microsoft account" screen, don't enter the log-in information (account and password), instead: (1) at the bottom of the screen click "Create a new account"; (2) on the resulting "Create a Microsoft Account" screen, just skip over all of the empty fields and select "Sign in without a Microsoft Account"; (3) on the resulting "Your Account" screen, setup your "local account" user name and password.
To switch from a Microsoft account to a "local account": (1) Get to the "Start" screen (toggle Windows key); (2) type "Users"; (3) select "Add, delete, or manage other user accounts"; (4) on the resulting "Accounts" screen, select "Your Account"; (5) select the "Disconnect" option and then setup your "local account" user name and password. To switch from a "local account" to a Microsoft account, perform Steps 1 through 4, then at Step 5 select "Connect to a Microsoft account."
You can also setup Windows 8.1 to use a four-digit PIN.
36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2013
Product includes DVD and the key. You can only install this on one computer. Installing it even inside a Virtual Machine (such as Parallels on a iMAC) will require a reactivation call to Microsoft, deactivating the other, previous install. I placed this on a dual boot iMac 2012 bootcamp Mountain Lion allocating 64 gig of space out of its 1000 gig fusion drove. You can only use the 64 bit version of Windows 8.1 (as this is).
The install on my 2012 iMac went well enough if bootcamp instructions are followed, I did not have any problems losing the keyboard even though they were wireless. Programs are to be installed on an external drive to save internal hard drive space. The drivers for USB 3 are included in Windows 8.1 so there should be no issues installing this on a 2012 Mac, my main reason for getting this over Windows 7. Some instructions for Windows 7 under bootcamp had a fair amount of user comments relating to having to obtain the USB 3 drivers before Windows 7 would recognize the keyboard / mouse. Not all Win 7 bootcamp installs had this difficulty but enough to caution me to purchase this version of Windows instead.
The iMAC works like a PC when booted to Windows 8.1. If I use it often enough, I may get a full USB keyboard over the included chopped wireless keyboard and mouse provided with the iMac (must press FN+ delete to eliminate selected unwanted files, for example). The real test is to put Fallout 3 on there with MODs install a game controller and see what happens. As with Windows Vista and above DO NOT install Fallout 3 etc in the programs folder, put it in your personally created folder such as C:\MyAwesomeGames or if external drive, X:\MyAwesomeGames, (where "X" the actual letter of your particular external hard drive, consult your computer literate friend if more Q) is since the security may prevent MODs and other enhancements from working. This goes for the game controller too since custom reprogramming changes may not be recognized if it gets installed in the default Windows program file folder. Other games such as Borderlands 2 run just fine as well as Company of Heroes and a few others I have tried.
I really do not know how to rate this OS except starting with 5 stars and removing -1 star for the unintuitive interface, the big change from the previous "look and feel." Yes, after Microsoft trained us for years on where to find and how to do things, it is counterproductive, especially after such a long time, to radically change a perfectly functional user interface . When interviewed about Windows 8, a member of remote support for Geek Squad stated on their calls they typically install a program that transforms the UI into something more Windows XP - 7, making it more familiar to the confused customer. After more years and decades, if Microsoft does not change anything, when old computer users die off and others grow up only knowing the Windows 8 style tile UI, this should become less of an issue.
[EDIT]I have since installed CLASSIC SHELL and the Metro 8.1 style tiles are never seen. It is a free program that places a start button with its traditional Windows 7/XPish selections in the lower left hand corner. Thre is even a hack to put the minimize all windows button on the taskbar just like in XP (something I'm trying to figure out how to do quickly and easily when I boot into OSX). Persons, though, who confortable in previous Windows environment should not have to peruse the Internet downloading hacks and programs to make their computer familar again.
Also, from what I understand, things included with Windows 7 home , such as Media Center, were not included, and one cannot just insert a DVD and play it without downloading more software. If these things are important, instead the Windows 8.1 Pro must be purchased . Since I do not play DVD's on the computer or use the Media Center (the XP computer I have does not have a Media Center either) these things are not missed by myself.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2014
I'm upgrading my PC and I seem to have misplaced my Windows 7 CD and key! Rather than tear the entire house down looking for it I just broke down and ordered this since it was trickling into some workplace laptops without too much fuss and I remember reading an article here or there about how the 8.1 update made things "ok".
If desktop users are saying 8.1 is better I can't even imagine what sort of terrible hell 8.0 was. Out of the box this thing is such an absolute culture-shock-train-wreck for any desktop user it's sort of stunning that no one at Microsoft convinced senior management: "This is a bad, bad idea for a huge part of the market."
I'm not sure how I feel about having to shell out a few extra bucks to get the UI to not suck. Following the recent 2014 Build Conference it sounds like Microsoft is finally going to undo this stupidity by integrating live tiles (or whatever the hell that army of MBAs call them. Smart plates? Smarmy panels? At least we're not Apple bricks? Ballmer boards?) right into the start menu which is probably what needed to happen in the first place.
With the UI gripes out of the way: This is a pretty nice upgrade over Win7 in terms of boot time and overall snappiness. The small Quality-of-Life tweaks over 7 are great overall. Windows 7 is great and wonderful... Windows 8 is better in many ways but it's totally slathered in poop from a UI perspective if you aren't using a touch-enabled device. If you're a desktop user this OEM disk's out-of-the-box configuration is wholly inappropriate for you without a lot of smacking it around with a configuration scalpel... that is welded to a rusty sledgehammer.
41 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2014
I was building a new PC, and I wanted this OS because it is more modern than windows 7, which is from 2009, and is less demanding, meaning more of my hardware can be focused on gaming.
Here are the pros and cons
-as said previously, better optimization for new hardware. This OS will use up to 8 threads, so it puts less stress on AMD 8 core processors and hyperthreaded quad cores. It also just flat out runs better with newer hardware. I have a quad core non hyperthreaded processor (i5-4570), and it gets better benchmarks than on windows 7.
-UI. This is the most basic gripe that a lot of people complain about, but it really isn't very hard to fix. I just installed classicshell, and now I can use my computer like it's windows 7. That said, seeing how easy of a fix this was, it wouldn't have been hard at all for microsoft just to put an option in control panel to have a start button.
-No administrator account. Even if you set your account as administrator in the beginning, it doesnt have full privileges. there is a way to have one administrator account that truly works:
(they wont let me put the link in [stupid amazon] but just google search "how to activate windows 8 administrator account" and click the first result)
Still, this is annoying as hell. What if I wanted two administrator accounts? what if I didn't know how to use command prompt, so I couldn't install a program I wanted? I get that this may be ok for people who buy laptops, but for christ's sake this is the OEM VERSON FOR SYSTEM BUILDERS. It is meant for people who BUILD THEIR OWN COMPUTERS. If I wanted my hand held like this, I would've bought an iMac.
-No windows experience index! The reason why they would remove this feature is beyond me, as it is a good free benchmark that doesn't take up much space. It was in windows 8, but I guess they decided not to put it in windows 8.1.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2014
I read all the pros and cons of 8.1 but decided to go with the most advanced os available. Unfortunately, even after installing classic shell to make it more user friendly while I got used to it, I found I pretty much do not like it at all. I am probably going buy Windows 7 and do a dual install.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2014
My favorite game The Sims 2 does not run on this OS and no compatibility mode doesn't make it run. Besides that I think it's great, I don't understand why people don't like it and say it's for touch screen users, I don't have a touch screen computer and I still like it, in fact I think it would be annoying on a touch screen computer. I would like a REAL start button on the desktop though, silly Microsoft trolled me good with the little start button wannabe that they added after Windows 8, HAHAHA GOOD ONE MICROSOFT NOW MAKE WINDOWS 8.2 AND DONT PLAY AROUND THIS TIME.
24 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2014
The pluses are Windows 8.1 loads fast, and operates fast. The native search functions within the help page are pretty good.
But the really, really, really frustrating thing is the full-page apps. Since this is a desktop operating system, you should be able to toggle between operating in full-page to operating the app within a window in a traditional desktop. Not being able to toggle betwene full-page mode and traditional windows mode greatly diminishes functionality compared to everything being a normal window (which, of course, can be expanded to full-screen mode anyway).
I'm not sure what Microsoft was thinking with this. When I use a browser, I often want to open other programs - i.e. using the browser to look up something about the app I am using. If I use one of these full-page apps, I feel like I am crippled, and on Windows 8, there are MANY MANY apps that only operate in full-page mode.
That said, I have NO PROBLEM with a Start Page instead of a Start Menu. I have no problem with tiles vice icons, which is what most people complain about. Maybe because I use a Trackball instead of a traditional mouse (Trackballs are ergonomically much more efficient than traditional mice), I find it quite pleasurable to use tile mode, and that it's just as easy as using the traditional icon and menu-based interface of older Windows versions.
But having apps - especially system apps - that only operate in full-screen mode is NOT OK. I don't know what they were thinking.
But I give it three because it is FAST, it loads FAST, it makes efficient use of the CPU, to me it LOOKS VERY GOOD (at first I even preferred it to Windows 7, until I realized what a plague the full-page apps were).
It looks like it also updates easilly, and refreshes quickly and easilly. These are VERY BIG Pluses - but they are pluses easilly killed off by the problem of the full-page apps.
So Microsoft - by someone who want's you to do well - PLEASE MAKE ALL APPS (but ESPECIALLY System and web-based/search apps) TOGGLEABLE BETWEEN FULL_PAGE AND TRADITIONAL Windows mode.
I understand other decisions you've made, but this last one, for me, greatly hinders my ability to use this OS efficiently and enjoyably.
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2014
Microsoft really dropped the Ball on this one, two operating sytles smashed into one. It is horrible. The layout is a joke, Software that runs fine on windows 7 AND windows 8 eval will not run on this newly purchased OS. Do yourself a favor and wait for the next version, buy windows 7 or try unbuntu, Ubuntu can be downloaded for free and has a lot better interface that win8.
Worse OS ever created by a far margin and I'm a certified microsoft engineer.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2013
I downloaded the Dev Preview for the original Windows 8. I was excited, yet skeptical, at how this would change the Windows OS going forward. It seemed like a great idea for converging tablets and desktops and simplifying the whole experience. I used Windows 8, then 8.1 for almost 2 years. I really REALLY wanted to like it, and gave metro a good go. However, the idea to converge desktop and tablet, led to a huge disparity, rather than unity. Rather than the differences of tablet and desktop being in hardware, the contrast now exists IN the operating system. They did not solve the problem, but rather displaced it.
Windows 8.2 may improve on the ideas, but until then, I've decided to abandon ship.
First of all, the Metro interface(now called the Modern UI), is based on conflicting design philosophies. On one hand, it claims to reduce clutter, and clean up the entire design. Then, it tries to cram unneeded information in the icons, or "tiles". The idea seems to be a good one, have a bunch of icons that show you relevant information instead of a static graphic representing the App. But really, if I needed information about the weather, or news, or social news, I could easily seek it out. Rather than anticipating the information I need or want, it just throws everything out there on the home screen. Granted, this information can be disabled.
Metro apps, I've tried windows 8 and 8.1 on several computers, some old, some newly built, and I can't for the life of me get good startup times. Microsoft has stated that a guideline for Marketplace apps is that they must start up in 2 seconds or less. Every app that I've opened, including Netflix and Facebook, have taken longer than me just opening up the corresponding website in the browser. And often times, they just crash, returning me silently to the Start screen. No word of what happened, ala iOS.
After how long this OS has been out, it's very damning to see how little the App store had to offer. Including many poorly made apps, and apps that just tell you to use the website(Hulu Plus).
In the end, I ended up solely using the "Legacy" desktop, and using the start screen as a huge app search, uninstalling every metro app.
It's no all about "Modern UI" though! The Desktop has received some much needed new features, but does not compare to what Windows 7 has done. Boot times and file transferring are vastly improved from windows 7. Windows 8.1 has better compatibility with SSD's and UEFI motherboards than Windows 7. And Windows 8.1 comes with integrated antivirus protection. BUT, while the built in antivirus was once a viable alternative to premium antivirus software, it has since fallen behind, and no longer recommended. :< There's no denying that Windows 8.1 is an improvement, it's a great and powerful OS if you ignore the Modern UI. However, many features are ones that no one asked for. Leaving me to think that the Desktop mode is going to slowly fade, being forcibly replaced by the very limited Modern UI. Windows 8.1 is not bad, nor is it very good. Upgrade from Windows 7 if only for the performance and desktop enhancements.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2014
This is a big jump for windows and is a little more secure. I only run Windows for the convenience factor.