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Customer Review

46 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flexible and Versitile OS, November 17, 2013
This review is from: Windows 8.1 Pro System Builder OEM DVD 64-Bit (Software)
Windows 8.1 does a good job of polishing the new Windows functionality added in Windows 8. Windows 8 was a little rough around the edges in some ways.
Windows 8 and 8.1 are basically improved versions of Windows 7 that also have the ability to OPTIONALLY run Windows Store (tablet/touch optimized) apps as well. The benefit of this is that it gives you the ability to use one OS and set of applications on any device including a multi-monitor desktop, laptop, tablet, or some hybrid combination of those. There is a bit of a learning curve with Windows 8.x, but once you spend a little time with it and configure it for the device it's installed on, you can move seamlessly between traditional keyboard/mouse optimized desktop programs and full screen touch/tablet optimized apps on the same device depending on what you need to get done. You can even have a tablet that plugs into a docking station and becomes a multi-monitor desktop. This isn't something that can currently be done with other platforms because the OS only does desktop or touch, but not both.

Windows 8.x also has the OPTION to sync certain settings to the cloud so that they can be synced to other devices if the option is also enabled on those devices. This includes things like browser favorites, browser tabs, start screen layout, wallpaper, and plenty of other stuff. These can be enabled or disabled individually (or all at once) per device. Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage is also built in to the OS. This allows you to save files in your SkyDrive folder and have them automatically show up on other devices that are linked to your SkyDrive account. It's very fast and convenient. I rarely need to use a thumb drive any more. SkyDrive is free and currently has the best cross platform compatibility of all the cloud storage providers.

All of the additional cloud storage/syncing functionality in Windows 8.1 is tied to using a Microsoft account to log in. This is nothing more than an account that is tied to various MS services. The other reviews that claim that you MUST use a Microsoft account with 8.1 are simply not correct. During the install process (or when adding new accounts) it will prompt you for an existing Microsoft account login. If you don't already have one or if you don't want to use one there is an option to "create a new account". From that screen you can either create a new MS account or select the option to use a local login. In addition, all of the related cloud sync/storage functionality in Windows 8.x is completely optional even if you do use MS accounts instead of local accounts. You can simply save your super secret documents to the local "my documents" folder instead of the SkyDrive folder if you don't want that document stored on the cloud. SkyDrive is simply for documents you WANT to make available on other devices or remotely, not to store the entire contents of your hard drive. It's a shame to see people giving a product 1 star and bad reviews because of their own ignorance.

Having said that, the Microsoft account functionality is actually very useful. I didn't fully appreciate it until I got a new computer (tablet) recently. After starting it up for the first time and logging in with the MS account I use on my other computer (desktop), my new Windows tablet was already 90% of the way configured the way I like it. Various Windows settings were copied in, my wallpaper and start screen layout were synced. It prompted me to download and install a list of Windows Store apps that I currently had installed on my desktop. My browser favorites, email accounts, calendar, and lots of other little details were synced over already. The only thing I had to do manually was install the desktop programs I wanted to use on my tablet. I have never had a new computer configured and ready to go so quickly. In the past, for me, getting a new PC configured the way I like it is an all day process. If you are super paranoid and believe that MS is helping the government spy on you any more than any other company obligated to cooperate with search warrants or the Patriot Act then use a local account instead of a MS account. For more rational minded people, just don't save any highly sensitive data in your SkyDrive folder...or any cloud storage...or Facebook...or anywhere else on the Internet.

As far as backwards compatibility goes, Windows 8.x will run pretty much everything that runs on Windows 7. I use a lot of diverse software and I have yet to encounter anything that ran on Windows 7 that won't run on Windows 8. That goes for hardware such as printers as well.

Some of my favorite options that Windows 8.x adds...

- Improved multi-monitor support for when I'm working.
- Ability to run Windows Store touch/tablet optimized apps and games for when I'm not working.
- Miracast support for streaming my screen wirelessly to my TV.
- Ability to run tablet/touch apps "snapped" along side the desktop.
- Built in SkyDrive storage for files that I want to share with other devices.
- Cloud synching options for various settings with other devices.
- Improved task manager.
- Improved file copy dialog with pause/resume support.
- Start screen/live tiles. I didn't like it at first but it grew on me.

Some cons...

- Windows 8 and 8.1 have a bit of a learning curve if you are coming from previous versions of Windows. Mostly, you just have to learn how to navigate the new Windows Store touch/table optimized apps.
- The Windows Store is still fairly new and it doesn't have all the apps you will find on other tablets like an iPad or Android tablet. However, it will run any of the traditional desktop programs that Windows 7 runs so while it's currently short on tablet apps it wins on the desktop program side.

***** Updated *****

If you want to optimize Windows 8.1 primarily for "desktop use" here are some things you should do out of the box...

1) Set your default programs for pictures, music, and video files to the equivalent desktop programs instead of the touch optimized apps.

Move mouse to upper right corner of the screen to open the Charms Bar >> select "Settings" >> select "Change PC Settings" >> select "Search and Apps" >> select "Defaults"

Change the following items:

- Music Player = Windows Media Player
- Video Player = Windows Media Player
- Photo Viewer = Windows Photo Viewer

Setting these programs (or other installed third party desktop programs) as your defaults will prevent you from "getting kicked out of the desktop" when you open a music, video, or image file. A lot of people complain about this, but it's really just a matter of configuring Windows for the device you are using.

2) Install your favorite desktop programs so you can do something useful. Too many people just play with a stock Windows 8 PC in a store and assume that the desktop doesn't do much anymore. The desktop still does everything that the Windows 7 desktop did, but just like any other version of Windows you need to install the programs that you intend to use before you can start doing the things you want to do.

3) Configure the Start Screen. Take the time to learn the new Start Screen and organize it to your liking. Unpin the touch apps if you don't need them and pin the desktop apps you use frequently. For desktop users, the new Start Screen isn't really any better or worse than the old Start Menu. It's just different. If you set it up right you can find and launch your programs just as quickly (if not more quickly) than you could in any other version of Windows.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 10, 2013 9:33:15 AM PST
double e says:
This guy must work for microsoft and has no idea what personal privacy is.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 17, 2013 8:07:40 PM PST
GAMBIT says:
Got Hacked on a 2 yr old computer running Windows 7. Am Going to reformat the hardrive was looking for an OS. Am down to Windows 7 Pro or trying Windows 8.1. I do not have a touch screen. What would you recommend? Tx.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2013 12:00:14 PM PST
C. Leavitt says:
I would recommend 8.1 even for non-touchscreen devices. There is no reason to get stuck in the past. Windows 8.1 works very well on the desktop if you take the time to learn the new aspects of the system and then set it up appropriately. See the update at the bottom of my review for more info.

Posted on Feb 18, 2014 5:45:19 AM PST
David Wu says:
Last time I checked, Microsoft is paying massive amount of money to review companies for fake positive windows 8 reviews...

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 7, 2014 11:12:45 AM PDT
C. Leavitt says:
Do you have anything constructive or informative to add or just conspiracy theories? Do you have any specific disagreements with anything I said in my review or just vague suggestions that Windows 8 isn't good because you say so?

Posted on May 25, 2014 4:08:29 PM PDT
svpilot says:
Microsoft marketing would have been better served if they separated the versions.
"Windows 8.1 Pro Touch" and "Windows 8.1 Pro Desktop".

Posted on May 31, 2014 9:36:34 AM PDT
Dejure says:
I am one of the many disgruntled Windows 8 users.

As in the past, Microsoft presumes things it should not. For example:

1) Many of us do not have state of the art, powerful computers and do not keep up with every new system introduced. We actually have lives away from our monitors.
2) There is the matter of passwords. Every time you reboot, you MUST provide a complex password. Using one to access my computer should be my option, not that of Microsoft. Of course, we are not talking simple passwords that keep the children away.
3) A continuing problem is, Microsoft establishes a default location for your personal files. If the OS glitches, it's restored - to empty. Someone as smart as the programmers believe themselves to be would know the majority of the public does not understand back up and its importance. They, certainly, do not understand that if they don't create their own folder(s) for their photos and things, all will be lost in times of hard (O.S. issues)
4) There really is a problem with running many of your time honored programs - they, simply, will not run. If your programs are old enough, you may even have to buy the company's earlier upgrade, then upgrade that.
5) Microsofts simpler way does, at times, require extra steps. You may have to open something to open something.
6) Of course, you can rearrange the application displaying your programs, but gone are simple lines that allow you to see, on a single page, the many programs you have loaded. Instead, you have to pretend you have a smart phone and wave through pages of icons for that one program you use only on occassion.

I cannot attest to whether or not it's fact, but if true, it's just one more reason to support any and all Microsoft competitors. Specifically, it's been published, in several prominent computer sites, Windows 8 reflects a belief the future of computing is touch screen. To those who type thousands of pages a year, such a belief suggests one you avoid giving any credibility to the supporters of such.

It will be years down the road before computers are to the point they can be used to build documents, be they legal documents, spreadsheets or data bases. To get to that point means we either have to do everything by touch screen or via voice recognition software. However, the latter requires reliable voice recognition, and an easy way to undo mistakes.


Posted on Jul 13, 2014 4:39:40 PM PDT
It is interesting to watch how folks react to change.

I found Windows 8 a bit problematic. Just before the release of 8.1, I began to see that the problems I was experiencing were the species and not the specimen. Then I found out, coincidental to a call to technical support about a licensing matter, that there was a major update. I immediately performed the update, and MOST of my issues were resolved. Subsequent updates have eliminated or alleviated most of the issues I noticed.

Thanks for a great review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 13, 2014 6:08:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Feb 11, 2015 7:46:52 AM PST
Dejure says:
So, Leon, there was, or was not a problem?

That any company provides an update is clear indication it thinks the program needed change. When an update becomes mandatory, it's a sustained admission. An upgrade to 8.1 from 8 is all, if not a mandatory update for the program to function. Had MS not provided it, the public would have been clamoring for Lee Harvey Oswald's resurrection, and a new target.

First we had a FREE upgrade to 8.1 from 8. That should say much. Now, we are told we will be able to upgrade to the next upgrade for free. Does anyone really believe M.S. has evolved from a corporate shark to Mother Teressa?

Even today, you have to hover to activate subprograms. Alternately, you can spend time modifying the interface. Of course, this is not a task many are up to. They, reasonably, expect turn key performance out of the box.

I ran a business for decades. Throughout that time, it was my stance that I, as the authority on matters with which my business dealt, had to make it easy for my customers to utilize my product. Unfortunately, the race to profits often results in the customer being left with a substandard product. Of course, this (Windows 8/8.1) is not the first time the M.S. Corporation left the public holding its [deflated] ball.

In the end, change is not all good. Destroying the tried and true, in the course of implementing changes that were good, is not sound practice.
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