Answering the question many people are asking should I upgrade to Windows 8? I decided to take the plunge and upgrade my only home machine to Windows 8. I took the risk of applications not working, dealing with an interface I may not like because I wanted to be in the same position a person would be if they purchased a Windows 8 laptop or if they upgraded their own Windows 7 to Windows 8. I did this so I can learn about Windows 8 as well as share that information with my readers and fans.
About Windows 8
First of all I did take the $14.99 upgrade path where if you bought a Windows 7 PC between June 2012 and January 2013 you are eligible to purchase the Windows 8 Upgrade for only $14.99. Microsoft has you validate your Windows 7 purchase to confirm you actually did purchase it the date you said. It appears to have ability to search Amazon.com to find and confirm order, but when I put in a NewEgg order it required me to enter my Windows 7 license to confirm it was actually purchased.
Windows 8 Checklist
Ironically the only major application that it found not compatible with Windows 8 was Microsoft Security Essentials. The rest I just ignored or didn’t care about and it turns out many things that it thought weren’t compatible worked just fine after the upgrade.
I had only a 90GB SSD drive and needed to make sure 20GB of free space was available, this did involve me stripping down some applications and installing them to a separate drive so I can complete the upgrade.
Windows 8 Upgrade
I started installing Windows 8 expecting it to take hours but was surprised to find the whole process took less than 15 minutes which included several reboots.
Windows 8 upgraded and every application worked right out of the gate, Thunderbird, Chrome, Picasa, even MagicJack worked on Windows 8 though it doesn’t recognize the USB device, if you have the application start .exe file it will recognize the MagicJack and work just fine.
Windows 8 Application Test
Guild Wars 2, Minecraft, Pirate101, Live Writer, Steam, Fraps, Camtasia Studio 8, Paint.NET, Firefox, Opera, Spotify.. all worked flawlessly on Windows 8 and I had no issues whatsoever.
I would have liked to say I found problems, but the only thing that is changed is the interface look and some of the applications (particularly the Microsoft ones now have a different interface to get to settings (see later).
Windows 8 Interface
Probably the most jarring thing to consumers about Windows 8 will be the start or home screen, this is basically what replaces the start button/start menu that used to exist in the bottom left on previous Windows versions and as a bar. Now the start screen is your entire screen with tiles laid out in a grid pattern across it.
Some of these tiles are two squares wide and can display real time information updates such as the Live mail client, News application, Finance, Weather, Bing, Calendar and more. All of the applications that don’t support live stream feeds are square icons which will be most of your non-Microsoft apps at this point.
Things that I like is the pin to start now pins any application or program to your start screen, this gives you more real estate to store the immediate applications you want to access right away. One thing I don’t like is the way you have to drag your cursor to the top right off screen to make the right bar appear, this is your search, share, start, devices and settings buttons. This same settings button is the same one you will use for all Windows 8 optimized applications. Gone will be a tools or settings menu at the top of an application, I expect most applications will look like Live aka. Mail.
This is an extremely minimal design, there are no menu bars, nothing but columns and reading. Your only bar is the right tool bar which opens with moving the mouse to the top right of the screen, or you can use the short key Windows+C which instantly opens it up.
Oh the other thing I learned about Windows 8 that will throw people off is 1 left click opens applications in the Start screen, if you want to select an application you right click to checkmark it. This presents some options at bottom of screen such as uninstall, remove from start menu…etc as well as you can access the settings for that application in the right toolbar. I like that you can select an application and instantly uninstall it without having to go to the control panel, and I think the double click thing is a relic and wasn’t really needed anymore so I do like this functionality. It knows if you hold left click long enough you mean to drag the icon around and organize them, so I never had confusion between relocating app icon and opening it.
Switching Between Windows 8 Applications
There are now 2 ways to select open applications too, for any application opened and compatible with the Windows 8 Interface, you have your desktop which is your traditional Windows 7 style desktop. This is exactly what you are used to and comfortable with, you can just click on the desktop icon on your start screen, or you can simply hit Windows+D and it will open your desktop for you, or the last application you had open on your Desktop screen.
One more thing about Windows 8 is tabbing between desktop applications is still done with Alt+Tab which will show all desktop open applications and let you select them, but from the Windows 8 Start Screen perspective “Desktop” is only 1 open application. If you hit Windows+Tab you will be able to select between the Windows 8 Optimized applications that are open, not the ones that are open on your desktop. Windows+Tab is how you switch between Mail, Bing, Internet Explorer, Control Panel…etc.
Searching in Windows 8
Everbody knows F3 is your search key right? Well in Windows 8, F3 only searches if you are on your Desktop, you have to hit Windows+F key to search (Find) from the new Start Menu.
I was really hoping Windows 8 search would be great, but alas it sucks.
Search apps was the only really cool function of search, when I searched files it was so limited it could never find any files I searched for unless they were blatantly in one of the default Windows indexed folders (My Documents, Desktop…etc).
I figured it had to do with indexing not being set for the majority of folders, so you use Search to look for settings but the problem is unless you know what settings you are looking for you don’t know what to search for. Search settings shows nothing until you start searching, fortunately just searching for index found the settings I was looking to change.
Overall the VoidSoft Search Everything tool is still vastly superior for searching files. I will say the Windows 8 search tool is very fast however for finding files in folders you have indexed and I had no trouble finding *csv files as long as they were in the indexed folders by default.
Windows 8 Task Manager
The Windows 8 Task Manager is greatly improved compared to previous versions by a long shot and is one thing I find no faults in. You get a much clearer and better breakdown of what your application processes are doing and are able to see how much CPU, Memory, Disk and Network utilization is being performed by each application instantly.
For a tech person who often has to kill processes, see which programs have memory leaks and terminate crashed programs this was a cool thing to see in Windows 8.
Share Function Useless?
I couldn’t figure out what the hell the share function was for in the command bar? I mean you can’t share anything from your desktop
So I tried maybe sharing a picture or an app, but it doesn’t allow you to select a photo and click share. It looks like Share is only to share links to someone for an application that you like from the Windows Store and share it via email. This is the most pointless function I have ever seen.
My Computer Missing in Windows 8
The thing that took me the most time to figure out was how the heck to open My Computer so I can see my disk drives and how much space they had left. I realized you had to do this through the desktop and add the my computer icon there, then right click and pin it to start screen. The problem is this wasn’t very intuitive and without going through traditional desktop mode and building the icon, pinning it I don’t know how you would add the My Computer icon or access your disks from the start screen.
There is a cheat however, Windows + e key will open My Computer and show you your disks, so this is where it is helpful to know Windows 8 shortcut keys.
Sure Windows 8 start screen is different, but underneath it isn’t that much different than your traditional Windows system. You will probably want to leverage some hot keys to help navigate the start screen faster, a reprint of my favorite are below:
Windows 8 Shortcut Commands
Windows + c = Open Command Bar on right which shows Search, Share, Start, Devices, Settings.
Windows + d = Open the desktop where you have access to traditional icons/navigation
Windows + Tab = Switch between your Start Screen open applications
Windows + f = Search Files
Windows + q = Search Applications
Windows + i = Open Control Panel
Windows + e – Open My Computer to show disks
Windows + l = Lock Screen
Windows + m = go to desktop screen with all applications minimized / minimize all applications on desktop screen.
Has anyone else upgraded to Windows 8 yet? Have you experienced any problems? What do you like or not like about Windows 8 so far share your thoughts and don’t be shy. What else have you learned about Windows 8 that I haven’t covered yet?