Customer Review

571 of 662 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Will the GUI Stick With You?, October 26, 2012
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This review is from: Microsoft Windows 8 Pro - Upgrade [Old Version] (Software)
BEFORE YOU UPGRADE: stop by the Microsoft website and run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (link in the comments). This program will comb through your system and offer you detailed analysis of what will and won't upgrade. It offers links to articles that explain in detail what you may need to do, and it can save you a lot of headaches. For example, I have a laptop with no USB drivers--yet! I now have a link to the manufacturer's website that I've bookmarked and when drivers become available I'll upgrade that machine too.

Windows 7 has been a well-received OS, so the case for upgrading to Windows 8 has been difficult for Microsoft to make. While the look and feel of Windows 8 is strikingly different, for the most part it boils down to one huge change: the Start Menu that we have had since Windows 95 is no longer a menu. Icons are now displayed as tiles of varying widths in a full-screen splash. 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: rather than needing to be launched, they idly stream information to you, and need a bit more room to be easy to read than the older Start Menu could have allowed for. 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.

UPDATE: Amazon customer Robert Haines says that there is a program called "Classic UI" that would restore the old look, so if you're dead-set on new code that skips the new UI, you might want to try that. There is also a program called "Pokki Menu" that will let you make your own customizations and last, Stardock makes a (paid) program called "Start8" that will also roll back the Start screen.

The Windows 8 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 has the tray of running programs you're used to in earlier versions, shows you wallpaper, and offers access to the Windows Explorer for looking through the files on your hard drive. All programs can be launched directly off the tile screen, and while Windows 8 apps always run in full-screen, older programs run from within the Desktop and can be resized. We have a version of Internet Explorer accessible from the desktop that looks just like IE 9 did in Windows 7, then we have a version of Internet Explorer in the tile screen that looks entirely different. Some parts of the Control Panel have the tile look and feel and the options cascade left-to-right like the Home screen in any MS Office 2010 or 2013 product. Other parts of the Control Panel look exactly like they did in Windows 7 and before. Unfortunately, I haven't found a good pattern for this yet: you may flip from one side to the other in order to do something like troubleshoot a network problem.

Performance-wise, Windows had been slowly moving away from always-running programs that drain performance to background services that would launch programs as needed...but this too started to get unwieldy. Microsoft have stripped several services out of Windows 8 which by default makes the OS more efficient than 7. Any machine that could run 7 can also run 8. Programs that used to run, shut down, then have to be fully re-launched to run again are instead put in a standby mode so they can launch faster when called again. 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 of the tile UI in favor of simple color schemes and blocky edges (though you can still see a subdued glassy effect on the Desktop). Interaction with Windows in this new look and feel 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 mouse users is that you occasionally spend time hunting along the edges of the screen for scrollbars and dragging screens around to be able to interact with everything. My chief complaint with Windows 8 hasn't been with the Tile layout so much as the fact that the scroll bars are too skinny.

For some features, time will tell. I've found the Tile UI version of the browser to be less compatible and more cranky with websites, but I expect that to change given time. I like the fact that security/antivirus are rolled into the OS without me having to take care of them or be interrupted with update notifications. The OS runs Windows Updates on a schedule that's far less aggressive than previous versions and won't nag you about rebooting when it needs to. 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 on the PC apart from faster boot-up and shut-down times (I did benchmark my machine with 3DMark11 and, after some adjusting, noticed a higher score). 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, and the assumption that you should be using a touchscreen. If you have a Windows Live account and/or SkyDrive, these can integrate fully into the OS: so much so that you would sign in to the computer with your Windows Live/Hotmail account and everything you do would be synced to Microsoft's cloud if your account has SkyDrive.

Windows 8 requires you to purchase a license for Windows Media Center separately; you still have Windows Media Player, but the Center is a separate application now, available for sale in the Microsoft Store.

UPDATE, 11/2013: Microsoft has now released Windows 8.1, an update to the OS that mostly attempts to make the user experience better. If you purchase 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. Sooo....if you go the Windows 8.1 route, there is then a Windows 8.1 "Update for Windows 8.1" that you should probably pull down that puts one more round of fixes into the OS. Reviews so far have been positive--minor adjustments like putting the power button where it's easy to find and making interacting with the Tile UI have been needed...but surprisingly it also lowered the OS' system requirements to where it can run on as little as 1GB of RAM.
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Comments

Tracked by 12 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 131 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 27, 2012 6:31:35 PM PDT
Greg Powers says:
I have never felt the urge to drive my car by sliding my fingers all over the windshield. So why does Microsoft think I want to run my computer by sliding my fingers all over the screen? It just doesn't make sense. I'm going to move to Linux or Apple.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 28, 2012 10:32:31 AM PDT
Eduardo says:
Same thing.... I just hate to scroll the screen horizontally... Windows 8 is great for tablets and phones...Not for desktops and notebooks....

Posted on Oct 28, 2012 11:46:38 AM PDT
Winter says:
I agree that the touch-versus-mouse is a bit overbalanced, but I can also see why they're doing it. Microsoft has set an ambitious goal of building a touch-based OS that will also unite PCs and Laptops with Tablets and their new Windows Phones. Once you launch a non-touch app it's business as usual, and the touch-capable apps still accept clicks and drags just fine...it's those darn scroll bars that give me fits. I suspect the intention is not to get PC users to buy a touchscreen as much as we will probably see Kinect for PC taking on the role of a controller--and that could be fun, I have to admit.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 29, 2012 7:19:12 AM PDT
Not to mention the Xbox360's been using a Metro-ish interface for a couple of years already.
Everything Microsoft is being united, which to me is an awesome concept.
My next phone is going to be a Windows phone.

Posted on Oct 29, 2012 7:58:58 AM PDT
AlanG says:
The new Internet explorer is just annoying and frustrating. No option to easily go back to your home page with a single click, you search and then want to research, you need to create anew tab to get back to home page !!!!!

Also annoying are :
You launch something that you don't want, you cant close it easily with just a single click...
Try pressing a MS sky drive and it asks you to sign in , you decide not now so press cancel. Whoops you are now in a continuous loop of sign in or try to figure your way out of that screen!!! The grfeat MS engineer could not have figured out that that if this is the case then there was no need to put a useless cancel button !!!!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 29, 2012 8:21:52 AM PDT
Winter says:
AlanG, you've hit on why I gave Windows 8 Pro a three-star review: there are some parts of the OS that are so very simple and quick...provided you want to do a specific thing a specific way: 4 stars! Then there are times you wander off that perfect user path and find yourself either digging for the Win 7 solution, or trying to figure out what it is you're supposed to do...ugh, 2 stars! And in cases like the IE 10 issues you point out, that can get very ugly. I haven't been able to figure out if IE 10 is ahead of its time or just trying to jettison too much baggage at once.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 29, 2012 8:26:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 29, 2012 8:26:30 AM PDT
Winter says:
DakillaKonKommeth, I agree--we've been slowly seeing this kind of UI make its way to the front across multiple platforms. Microsoft has taken on an ambitious project in trying to unify the platforms' UI. Unfortunately, mouse-and-keyboard ways are the ones that have to change the most, and that's probably the biggest reason that Windows 8 on the PC has its drawbacks. Kinect to me is an awesome concept, and I think it would be neat if we got some sort of OS integration with Kinect that would compensate for the mouse-driven drawbacks.

Windows 8 RT is also one to watch by the way - it's not the same as Windows 8, and those differences aren't immediately obvious (and are causing some frustration to people). Woody Leonhard at Windows Secrets has done some detailed write-ups to help people know what they're getting (and giving up) with the RT version.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment, by the way. I always appreciate it when someone does.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 10:41:45 AM PDT
Perry says:
They don't think that. Windows 8 is incredibly well done and very intuitive for desktop users as well.

WIN+Q in any app is Search
WIN+SHIFT+. Slides an app to the side of the screen (Like and IM)
WIN+SHIFT+ Right or Left Arrow moves an app to a second monitor.

WIN+TAB toggles between last two apps used
ALT+TAB toggles through all open windows.

WIN+PRTSCN captures a screenshot and automatically saves the picture.

Sorry but, it isn't out of place at all on the desktop!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 6:06:03 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2012 6:06:22 PM PDT
The Greg says:
So hotkey combos that require 3 key presses are the pinnacle of "intuitive"...?

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 8:29:37 PM PDT
Winter says:
I try to write reviews for the broadest audience possible, and with Windows that means trying to make a review that just about every possible user can get something out of. With Windows 7, I quickly got into the habit of tapping the Windows key and typing out what I need--so much quicker than having to click through, say, "Start-->Programs-->Accessories-->System Tools-->Disk Defragmenter" in the menus.

The trouble is, I haven't been able to convince the average users I help out, from friends and family to neighbors and co-workers, how very simple it is to just tap that one key and type. I've been trying for years to get my father to learn Cut/Copy/Paste, and despite him needing it every day (and me giving him a great tip for learning it), I still get the late-night phone call about how to copy some text when "the mouse isn't dragging over it right".

Power users probably won't have much of a problem with Windows 8 beyond the usual need to wait for driver updates and random software fixes that accompany any OS release. The average user with minimal skills is going to love the easy path of using the Tile UI apps, but get lost the moment they start trying to walk through settings, even in the Tile side of things. Or use keyboard shortcuts.
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