Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Windows 8 System Builder OEM DVD 64-Bit [Old Packaging]
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2012
The "System Builder" discs of Windows 8 are named this way because they are a full install and not an upgrade. The assumption is that you are building your own machine and looking to put Windows 8 on a from-scratch install, but this is still a multi-boot friendly OS and if your intention instead is to install a full copy of Windows 8 without upgrading your current system, well, that works too: you can put this on old hardware so long as your machine meets the system requirements. There has been some confusion at the lack of an 'OEM' SKU for Windows, so I suspect that until we hear otherwise, this is our 'OEM' substitute for those of us who like to tinker with hardware.

If you're considering Windows 8, there are benefits many small and large. The patchwork way in which the OS seems to meld old into new can be confusing, and it's clear the UI pays lip service to mice while eagerly awaiting your first touch-screen or touch-pad purchase. But to give credit where credit is due, there are benefits under the surface to go with the drawbacks you see before your eyes. Putting Windows 8 Pro on a new system is a good hedge against longevity, but will require experienced Windows 7 (and below) users to be patient with the newer parts of the UI.

This version of Windows 8 is different from Windows 8 Pro in that it does not allow you to use Remote Desktop or BitLocker hard drive encryption, nor can you join the machine to an Active Directory Domain. There are several native Windows 8 apps included with all versions of Windows 8: News, Stocks, Weather, Pictures, E-mail, Music, Xbox integration (to your XBox account, to view your stats or stream content to/from your PC), and Facebook. There is also support for Windows SkyDrive and a Windows Live account, to the point that your PC's user account can be fully integrated with your Windows Live account if that is what you wish. While Windows Media Center is listed as requiring a separate license, right now Microsoft is offering that license for free on the Windows 8 website (Amazon won't let me put external links here or I would).

The biggest change in Windows 8 is that the Start Menu that we have had since Windows 95 is no longer a menu. It is a full-screen splash of square tiles instead of icons, which vary in width from one to two tiles wide. Some of this makes sense in that some of today's programs are more like the Windows Desktop Gadgets we've seen in Vista and 7: they sit idle, stream information and need to be big enough to be readable. Although this is the biggest visual change, if you've used Windows Media Center, Office 2010, or an XBox 360, you've already been interacting with similar interfaces. This sort of UI has been slowly making its way into Microsoft's products for a while now.

That said, the transition from the familiar Start Menu to the full-screen splash takes some getting used to. It may take some arranging to get the tiles laid out conveniently, but Microsoft makes this easy to do. The rest of the Windows 8 OS spends its time hopping between the old and the new look. The desktop looks exactly like it did in Windows 7 and Vista, except there's no Start Button: you're expected to press the Windows key or move your mouse to the bottom corner of the screen to launch the tile dashboard. The desktop looks exactly as it did in 7, only without the Start Button. All programs can be launched directly off the tile screen, and while Windows 8 apps run one at a time in a full-screen view, older programs run from within the Desktop and can be resized. We have a version of Internet Explorer 10 accessible from the desktop that looks just like IE 9 did in Windows 7, then we have a version of Internet Explorer 10 in the tile screen that looks entirely different. Windows 8 applications don't really "close" any more: when you leave an application, it just disappears from view, like a smartphone OS would do. Some parts of the Control Panel have the tile look and feel and the options cascade left-to-right like the Home screen in Office 2010. Other parts of the Control Panel look exactly like they did in Windows 7 and before.

Windows 8 may appear to be a patchwork of old and new, but there's more going on under the covers. In earlier versions of Windows, the number of programs running in the background could get unwieldy and slow things down. There was a shift to rely more on Services, which are listeners that sit idle waiting to launch programs only when needed. Windows 7 started to get bogged down with a lot of running Services though, and so Microsoft have stripped several services out of Windows 8, which means Windows 8 runs more efficiently than Windows 7. Any machine that can run 7 can run 8 (and I remember installing 7 on some pretty old hardware!).

Where older versions of Windows would have to re-launch a program every time it is opened, in Windows 8 anything not being used by you is set aside and the resources it used handed back to the OS for other work. Programs respond much faster on relaunch due to having been left in this standby mode. The Windows Vista and 7 "Aero effects" that gave your windows a glassy sheen and rounded corners used graphics and CPU to run, so they've been stripped out in favor of simple color schemes, a bit of glassiness at the Desktop, and blocky corners. Interaction with Windows in the Tile UI is easier if you have a touchscreen or you're using a tablet, and if you're a Windows Phone user the territory is already pretty familiar. The downside for me has been that I don't have a touchscreen, and so I spend a lot of time hunting along the edges of the screen for scrollbars and dragging around to be able to interact with everything. My chief complaint with the UI hasn't been with the Tile dashboard so much as it's been that the scroll bars are too skinny and at times I have to hunt for them.

Ultimately, time will tell whether people adjust to Windows 8 or long for the familiar. I've found the IE 10 browser on the Tile side to be less compatible and more cranky with websites, but I expect that to change given time. I like the fact that antivirus and security are rolled into the OS without me having to take care of them or be interrupted with update notifications. The OS runs updates on a schedule that's far less aggressive than previous versions and thus far hasn't forced me into a reboot, and Microsoft has partnered with Adobe to roll their updates into Windows--no more random and frequent Adobe update nags. I've been told that the performance for gaming is supposed to be greater simply by virtue of a cleaner codebase, but I haven't seen anything substantially different apart from faster boot-up and shut-down times. Gamers remember that you're also at the mercy of the game-maker--just as we've been with any OS release. The basic applications like Weather, Photos, Stocks, Mail, and more are very user-friendly, but solely within the context of the new look & feel: expect little familar ground and a lot of new territory.

UPDATE: Amazon customer Robert Haines points out (in the comments) that a program called Classic Shell will remove the Tiles interface and restore the 'classic' Start Menu. There is also a program called Pokki that will let you customize your own UI. A. Humphries also gives us a link in the comments below showing Stardock's product "Start8" and some good feedback on how it works.

UPDATE: Amazon customer AJ points out that although Windows 8 Pro may in the future require you to purchase a license for Windows Media Center separately, right now you can get a serial key for free via the Windows 8 site: just go to the Windows 8 "Add Ons" section. You may request up to 5 serial keys using different e-mail addresses and Microsoft will e-mail them to you within 24-48 hours.

UPDATE, 11/2013: Microsoft has now released Windows 8.1, a minor update to the OS that mostly attempts to make the user experience better. If you purhcase this copy of Windows 8, you will be offered the ability to update it to 8.1 at no additional cost. The upgrade is pushed through the Windows Store that is part of Windows 8. Personally, I've done clean installs of 8.1 from the MSDN media and done an in-place upgrade via the store, on both my desktop and laptop, and have not had good experiences. I don't personally recommend the update at this time for that reason. Peraps with time it will get better.

This review was posted under the System Builder DVD product listing of Windows 8. The three versions of Windows 8 are this "just Windows 8" version (which is a bit like Windows Home in earlier versions), "Windows 8 Pro", and "Windows 8 Enterprise". The generic Windows 8 that replaces "Home" in earlier versions has the basic feature set. The "Pro" flavor adds the BitLocker drive encryption we previously had to buy Windows Ultimate to obtain. It adds the ability to use Remote Desktop (that in my opinion should be in all versions of Windows), and it makes it easier to connect your computer to an Active Directory Domain. Windows 8 Pro is best for the power user or the small business and most people hardware-savvy enough to build their own machines will most likely prefer the added control they gain from using Pro. If I were building a system for a non-savvy family member I might go with this standard version of Windows 8 though: the likelihood of needing drive encryption or remote desktop on a system that would mostly be used for documents and web surfing isn't much, and I certainly don't have family or friends running their own AD Domains. "Enterprise" takes things one step further by being designed for use in medium to large businesses with corporate networks. There is also a "Windows 8 RT", but this version is solely intended for the ARM processors and other hardware built-in to tablet computers and is not intended for a desktop or laptop computer.
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on December 27, 2012
I rated Windows 8 three stars out of five, because it was yet another pointless user interface change to have to figure out and deal with, and after doing so, I did not find it useful on my computer without a "touch" display. I also don't have to look through a finger smudged display every day, so that isn't a problem for me; I wouldn't want to have to raise my fingers to point at the display when I have a mouse in my hand already. It might be in Microsoft's plans to take over the phone/pad market (good luck with that) but it isn't in my future, so integrating phone and pad and laptop interfaces, at the expense of doing what I want to do on my laptop conveniently is NOT a winner for me, and trying to figure out where they have re-hidden all the usual functions required to do basic stuff one-more-time is a waste of MY time. Other than this interface inconvenience, it seems to still work as a base to run my usual apps without crashing.
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on November 11, 2013
I purchased Windows 8 to run via Parallels on my Mac Mini alongside OSX, and I couldn't be less impressed by Microsofts latest offering.

Before I go into my review of the OS, I want to warn everyone - DO NOT give Win 8 your primary email address. I made the mistake of giving Microsoft my email during initial setup and my inbox has been spammed ever since. One message in particular drives me crazy. At least once a week I get a "reconnect to Facebook" message from Microsoft. At one point I linked my Facebook account to Windows 8, but I didn't like the barrage of notifications anytime anyone liked or commented on a post, so I disabled it. Ever since that day I constantly get emails from Microsoft encouraging me to re-link the accounts and providing absolutely no links or other information to unsubscribe. Somehow these emails also seems to circumvent my Gmail spam filters which I specifically set up to filter it. If you search Google you will see thousands of other complaints regarding the same issue. This is a BIG deal to me. When I buy an operating system I am not signing up to be spammed by the manufacturer. This is a deal breaker to me and lead to me changing my initial review from two to one star.

In regards to the OS itself, this OS is definitely made with a tablet user in mind and desktop users given little consideration. Many of the help sections first address how to do things on a touch screen, and then refer to the desktop version. Luckily in a free update to 8.1 they brought back the start button, but Microsoft still heavily encourages the use of their live tiles which I can't stand. I strongly prefer the list-style start menus of Win XP, etc. and do not like all the flashy moving content on my start screen. Not to mention many of the apps are bloat-ware; when is anyone going to use the travel app as opposed to doing their research and bookings via a search engine?

I could do a very in-depth review, but many of there other reviews have covered this topic in more depth than I ever could. Suffice to say I strongly dislike Windows 8 as far as a desktop operating system goes and strongly prefer OSX which I find to be MUCH more user friendly, not to mention completely free.
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on July 15, 2013
I love Windows 8 it runs smoothly and plays games well. I haven't had any problems running programs or games. I gave this review 4 stars because Microsoft took my dang smart menu away. I was able to get a start menu but I had to pay $10 to a 3rd party, I think Microsoft should implement an option to use a start menu or the tablet start menu setting, I'm sure if I had a touch screen monitor I would have enjoyed the tablet start menu but for now I'm happy to have my start menu back.
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on March 31, 2013
I'm not entirely sure whether I'm rating the System Builder DVD or the operating system here, so I'll do a little of both. If you want to install Windows8 on a computer without an existing operating system, this will probably work. If you want to install it in a virtual machine, particularly VMware, then it will absolutely work. This is how I installed Windows8, in VMware.

As for the operating system, I'm happy that I have many other options and don't actually have to use Windows8, which has many limitations that I find annoying. The Mail tile is a waste of space if you don't want to use a Microsoft account like you get from Outlook.com. You can't configure it for GMail, for instance. I like that the Start screen functions as a notification screen, with weather updates and some news and other dynamic content, but I also don't like that you seem to be able to only have two windows open at a time, and I don't like the "tablet-optimized" OS as it runs on a standard computer. I also get quite tired of having to scroll back and forth to view the Travel content or whatever content I've opened. That said, opening the Travel or Weather tile brings up a screen that is actually quite pretty. So Windows8 isn't all bad, but you probably don't want it if you're looking for a production system.
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on August 26, 2013
All the press for Win8 had been heaping (deserved) scorn on its "start screen," a pathetic me-too attempt to mimic tablets that simply screams Steve Ballmer. What the media doesn't understand is that people still need PCs, precisely because they are NOT tablets, and include things like mice and keyboards and a big-ass monitor that you just don't get with your iPad... no matter how much CNET screams that "mobile is the future."

Phones and tabs are the microwave ovens of computing. Nice, yes, but no matter how convenient they are, you still gotta have your conventional oven of a PC.

And in that role, Win8 is actually a great upgrade to Win7 in terms of speed and memory management. Not one reviewer that I've read, not even the superficial trend-chasers at CNET, have cast aspersions on its technical sides -- only on its admittedly ridiculous "start screen." Once you get past that (which can be done with a single mouse-click), you have a great OS under the hood, and there are plenty of third-party apps to help neutralize the "start screen" and even add the traditional start button back to the desktop. And, if early reports are to be believed, Microsoft might have actually listened to its customers (!!!) and might have themselves put the old start button back in version 8.1.

Anyway, it doesn't matter how much the tech press carries on about how tabs are the only way forward, and how much CNET (seriously, is there any site more annoying than CNET?) ignores the PC and ridicules Microsoft in between breathless reports about how the next iPhone might come in a third color. I've tried living off of tabs and phones alone with no PC in the home, and let me tell you, it really sucks. You start to miss even little things like being able to drag-and-drop files onto your email. And in terms of gaming, while Candy Crush for your mobile device is a very nice timewaster, it doesn't exactly compare to a real gaming PC loaded with Win8 and Steam blazing through the latest Call of Duty game.

But then again, since you are looking at the system-builder version of this OS, you probably already know all this.

Un-bookmark certain unserious websites, learn how to get past Ballmer's silly start screen, and make this faster, more stable Windows the choice for your next PC.
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on March 2, 2013
My worst software purchase from Microsoft in 15year.I using it on a desktop and its's just wrong. My install was an upgrade from 7 I will probably go back to 7. I also can not write a email using MSN Premium (It works in the heading but not the text area).
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on August 12, 2013
I purchased this for my main computer several months ago when it was first released. I needed to learn it so I could help walk some others through using it - more as a favor than an occupation.

This OS formats its GUI in a way that makes it more compatible with touch-screen systems. Instead of clicking through menus and selecting the program title you want to initialize, you select an icon. Why this would be useful in a touch-screen environment is obvious.

The downside is the apparent lack of access to advanced features - I'm referring to stuff a typical user would never care about but which someone who is used to being able to easily tweak system functionality and performance would surely miss. The function is still there but, unfortunately, is hidden behind a bunch of pretty images. One can see how this might pose an issue for the more technically-minded, like myself I confess.

The biggest problem is this OS is so drastically changed from previous versions, it requires a whole new education. Luckily, Microsoft is quite adept at reprogramming the masses. And, since the use of Microsoft operating systems is virtually virulent, it took no time for the forums had all the information needed to quell our geeky desires to void warranties. Not that you should do that, but, of course you're going to anyway, amiright?
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on January 23, 2013
I bought this OS because it's supposed to make things run better than Windows, 7 I have it already on my laptop and now am going to install it on my desktop. I did not like it at first simply becase of the way it looks its like a child of five made the ugly icons and wallpapers and Microsoft, doesn't give you a choice to change the icons look and size is limited which I think is very wrong and the wall papers they offer are very ugly as well so I purchased two programs from a third party for a very cheap price and Thank GOD, for this third party ( just google change Windows, 8 programs) I now have a system that looks and works like good old Windows 7. Now if Microsoft, gives me any updates to disable this solution well I also have copies of Windows, 7 which I will revert back to if this happens. Windows, 8 is very good for tablets even though I find it repulsive looking and such but it's not for me I am an adult not a mindless child. Other than that I will always use Windows, over any other OS. I like the way it works over the Mac, OS or Ubuntu, and Linix, or any others even though you could get some of them for free or cheaper.

I would like to post an update here as I have been using this OS for a while now with a program that gave me back the Windows 7 look and start menu on the desktop screen (and if Amazon, is gracious enough to let me state the programs name it's called Start8, and costs just about 5.00 you can do a Google, search for it and it is well worth it) I have to admit it now that this OS has more to offer than Windows 7, ever gave me like support for 3.0 which I could not get Windows 7, to do no matter how much I tried and I even had tech support form HP try to help me get it and they couldn't. In Windows 8, though it's in there and this operating system is many times faster than my Windows 7, ever was. So now my review needed to be updated and I added one more star to make four I can't give it five because of the lock screen on start up as I don't think that is needed and also you have to type in a password to get to your desktop which I never used before because I am the only one using this computer and really don't need it. As for their new block icon look on their new start screen well the same people who sell Start8, offer a program to alter the way that looks to your liking also for the same price if you want I use it and was able to change the background to a picture of my liking and the way the icons look and are setup with yet a third program from the same people. SO even though I like Windows 7 very much I now like this OS even more and wish the people who don't will try these programs I bought heck they are only a few bucks and give this OS a second chance look.
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on April 28, 2013
My old laptop gave up its ghost, so I bought a brand new one. "Oh look, they have laptops with Windows 8 out already. Why don't I get one of those?"

It turns out the answer to "why not" is "because Windows 8 sucks." I am no stranger to new interfaces; my first computer ran Windows 3.1, and as you can imagine Windows 95 took some getting used to. But it was also immediately apparent that Windows 95 made things easier than Windows 3.1, even if I wasn't used to it right away. Windows 8, on the other hand, makes everything HARDER and more frustrating. There are sections of the screen I no longer dare move my mouse towards, or Windows 8 will sweep me back its ungainly block menu. Windows 8 tries to open common files (like PDFs for example) in its own program, even if you have the more commonly used program (Adobe) on your PC. There is no apparent way to close these programs, even if you close the document in them. I also had to fight the machine to get my Windows Office icons on its Start-Menu-equivalent list.

I have been dealing with Windows 8 for several months now, and I am done. It is a piece of garbage. I am replacing it with Windows 7, so I can actually USE my laptop.
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