Everything you need to know about Windows 8

What are the benefits of Windows 8 over Windows 7?

Much like Windows 7 was an improvement over Windows Vista, so is Windows 7 to Windows 8. One of the primary goals of Windows 8 is make your Windows programs work seemlessly on tablet computers as well as desktop/laptop computers. Another goal of Windows 8 is to greatly reduce the boot time of computers. In fact, Windows 8 the boot process on Windows 8 is significantly faster than any previous version of Windows. Windows 8 also be able to synchronize settings and files with all their computers through a cloud service Microsoft is offering. Although this has its own sets of problems.

Why should I care that Windows 8 supports tablet computers?

As it is now, for technical reasons, software meant for a desktop or laptop will not work on a tablet computer. This means if you bought a program for your laptop, you will cannot install a copy onto your tablet. It is Microsoft's goal to end that problem. Windows 8 is the first step to allow some programs to be installed on both tablet and regular computers. Because the CPU used in desktops and laptops is much more complex and powerful, some programs can never transition to tablet computers. For example, a tablet computer would not be powerful enough for Photoshop. And the complex 3D games found on desktop and laptop computers will not work on tablets either. But most people do not use those types of programs.

As an example of this, the next version of Microsoft Office, Office 2013, will be released for both the Windows 8 meant for tablets and the Windows 8 meant for regular computers. One of the primary benefits of Microsoft's tablet computer named Surface is that it includes Office 2013. However, the Office released for tablet computers is just a basic version and will not support all files that the regular Office will.

What are some changes in Windows 8 and Windows 7?

Probably the most drastic, and controversial, change is the new user interface (UI) once called Metro. Since almost everybody still calls it Metro, we will too. (Microsoft found out that they did not have copyright rights to a software interface with the name Metro and so pretended it was always a codename.) The Metro UI is meant to replace the Start button people are familar with. The idea behind the Metro UI is make Windows 8 look and work the same no matter what computer it is in. Metro UI is very similar the design found on the Windows Phone version 7 software and people who have these phones really like the interface better than iOS and Android. However, very few desktop and laptop computers have touchscreens. Those that do are not meant to be used without a keyboard and mouse and are very uncomfortable if a person only uses the touchscreen. Microsoft has completely removed the classic and well-understood Start menu and is actively disabling any hacks that put the Start menu back in. But you can still get it back. Perhaps the best program that does is Stardock's Start8, although it is not free. Based on our experience, you will either love Metro UI or hate it. But everyone will still have to relearn how to use Windows. Since the Start menu is now gone, Techs-on-Call strongly recommends not getting Windows 8. In fact, now that Windows 8 is released we have been advising our customers to ask for a Windows 7 computer, even calling the computer manufacturers and asking for Windows 7.

It is not all bad with Windows 8. Windows 8 now comes in only two editions, aside from the standard editions meant for large corporations: regular Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional. The edition meant for tablet computers is Windows 8 RT. (RT stands for runtime; don't ask us why Microsoft chose to use that confusing name.)

Because of licensing costs and because it was a feature most people didn't use, Windows 8 can no longer play DVD movies without purchasing the add-on. Usually, a computer came with a DVD playing program anyway, so this won't be a problem. People who used Windows Media Center as their DVR will now have to get Windows 8 Professional and then pay extra for Windows Media Center.

Windows 8 does have some enhancements. The best is full USB 3.0 support. USB 3.0, or SuperSpeed (SS for short) is a much faster upgrade to the current USB standard. You know a device uses USB 3.0 because the inside of the adapter is blue. Another excellent feature is an improved boot sequence. Much of the boot sequence is the same every time the computer boots. Windows 8 now starts the boot process after the things that are the same every time the computer boots by default. Of course, sometimes a full boot will be required. This improved boot sequence will save much time. Windows 8 also has improved the factory restore feature. The factory restore option now can keep your documents, favorites, and personalized settings but just removed installed programs. If Windows 8 had the Start menu, these enhacements would make Windows 8 an excellent operating system worth upgrading too.

Windows 8 also has a secure boot feature that helps prevent certain viruses called rootkits. A rootkit is a special program that has full control of your computer but is able to hide itself. The most common rootkit Techs-on-Call sees is one that uses your computer to click on ads that defraud the advertiser and pay a commission to cyberthieves. When you click on an ad, the advertiser pays a commission to a specific company per click. This is how Google makes all its money. Windows 8 makes it much more difficult for this rootkit to get onto your computer. But it requires a newer computers with what is called the UEFI, which is the replacement to the BIOS that is used to get your computer going. And this secure boot feature makes it very difficult to dual-boot Windows 8 with any other operating system.

In imitation of the Apple store and Android store, where you can buy apps for your device and Apple or Google get a cut of what is sold, Windows 8 also has a Windows store. You can still buy your software somewhere else and install it on Windows 8. But Microsoft is trying desperately to make the desktop and laptop more like a tablet and smartphone to get a cut of "app" sales. App is just another way of saying program.

Finally, Windows 8 is tightly integrated with Bing, advertisement, and Microsoft's cloud server, OneDrive. For these reasons alone, I personally do not recommend Windows 8.

What are the requirements of Windows 8?

If your computer runs fine with Windows Vista or Windows 7, it will run even better with Windows 8. However, if your computer came with Windows XP chances are it is not enough for Windows 8. Officially, the minimum requirements are 1 GHz CPU, 2 GB of memory, a DVD drive, and a 30 GB hard drive with at least 20 GB free. You will hate Windows 8 even more unless you use Techs-on-Call recommend minimum requirements which are a dual-core CPU, 4 GB of memory, a DVD drive, 100 GB hard drive.

I want to upgrade, which version is right for me?

First, reconsider your decision to upgrade. Yes, we hate Windows 8 that much.

Most likely, you will not need Windows 8 Pro unless you want Media Center, remote desktop, virtual Windows XP, or some other program that requires Windows 8 Pro (or Windows 7 Professional or Windows XP Professional).

I don't have time to upgrade, how much do you charge to do it?

Please see our Windows upgrade pricing chart.

For a personal opinion of Windows 8, please see this blog post.