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So you're looking to upgrade to Windows 8

A detailed run down of what changes you can expect moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8.

Microsoft Windows 8Microsoft Windows 8

Windows 8 is due for release on October 26th 2012 and when it is out you will be faced with the big question: Do I upgrade or do I stay where I am? So today I am going to be taking a look at what’s new in Microsoft’s latest operating system with the hope of guiding you on what to expect once you make the purchase, as well as hopefully inform you on whether you should upgrade or not in the first place.

We already took a look at what differences you can expect between the different editions of Windows 8, so to find out which one might be right for you why not read our article which we hope will help you decide which edition is right for your computer.



Out With The Old

So let’s start by taking at what isn’t in Windows 8 anymore. Some things have to be stripped out to make room for certain new features, some things get a little out dated and of course many other things see new updates older ideas, so what isn’t part of Windows 8?

The first one is a big one, the Start Menu has been removed, and in its place we have a full screen interface known as the Start Screen. You still have your “Start” icon which works much in the same way, but upon clicking it you’re presented with the Windows 8 tiles interface of apps. It’s not unlike that of the Windows 8 phone and Xbox dashboard interface and provides a great way to display information and applications while keeping your screen clutter free. As part of this you will also find Gadgets have been removed in favour of apps for the tiles interface.

Microsoft Windows 8Microsoft Windows 8

The Aero Glass theme has now been retired, it’s had a good run through Windows Vista and Windows 7 but now it’s time for the sleeker and slightly more minimalist Windows 8 theme. This isn’t a big deal though as I’m sure the online communities will quickly work on bringing your favourite themes over to the new OS soon enough.

Windows Media Centre is no longer included by default; instead it will be available with some of the retail packages or as an add-on download from Microsoft, giving you a little more freedom of choice on your default media solution.
BSOD (blue screen of death) has had an overhaul too, no longer showing you in-depth technical details when your computer crashes, although I’m not really sure if this is a big deal or not, but I imagine there are some people out there that found all that information useful.

Microsoft Windows 8Microsoft Windows 8

Parental Controls has now gone in favour of Family Safety, but we'll take a better look at that new feature in the next section.

In With The New

Now that the Start Menu has all been replaced, it’s time to learn a little more about the tiles interface. This works like a large pin board that you can place apps on, allowing you to re-size, replace, move and customise the app layout, style and information that they display, much like you can move things around on the screen of your smart phone to suit your preferences. For example you can have it display your email, Facebook client, a link to your favourite news site (or any site for that matter), a tile that loads your favourite game and a media player. If you run out of space, the screen can be scrolled horizontally to make room for more titles.

As well as the titles there is also the “charms bar” move your mouse or finger (touch screen compatible devices only of course) to the right of the screen and you will find features like search, sharing, device management, settings and more hiding out of the way of the fun stuff.

Apps play a big part of the tile interface; essentially acting as plugins for the interface, with a strong emphasis on offering touch support throughout the OS this is something that really shows in the titles interface. While this is great for a tablet device or mobile platform, it does also give things a nice clean layout that is great to use on PC, even more so if you actually have a touch screen monitor on your desktop computer or laptop. Apps will be downloadable through the Windows Store with a mixture of free and premium offerings from launch.

Microsoft Windows 8Microsoft Windows 8

With all these apps and new interface features also comes better online integration of Microsoft services, something that I don’t think has been well utilised in past editions of Windows. This means  better use of your Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID), ability to synchronize your settings over multiple computers, SkyDrive cloud storage, Xbox Live branded games, music and video integration, as well as the new SmartGlass app which works in conjunction with your Xbox 360, social networks and even services like Flickr.

Internet Explorer 10 has seen a big update too, with better integration of touch features that actually work well, built in support of Adobe Flash Player and more useful integration into the OS with features like full screen browsing and support for the tiles interface. Making it overall a much more pleasant experience to work with, I think that this functionality may even be enough to tempt many people back from other web browsers.

New security features are in place here too, with picture login allowing you to draw three gestures on a picture to login, or even use a pin number interface to unlock your computer, a nice change from the old password system and much more practical for a touch screen interface mobile device. With the new security features is Family Safety, great if you’re a parent as this allows you to monitor and control internet activities and usage. Windows Defender now also acts as an anti-virus and is set to replace Security Essentials, giving windows a more complete security suite from install.

The lock screen, while sporting its new security features also serves more purpose now too, with a new display that features a clock and notifications much like many smart phones will, meaning you don’t have to feel fully locked out when you lock your computer. This is a great idea and may actually encourage more people to lock their devices between usage.

Time To Get A Little More Technical

File Explorer come with more features now too, such as a ribbon that gives more up to date and accurate progress dialogues, more useful and detailed statistics, pausing of individual file transfers and better conflict management when copying files. This is something that hasn’t been overhauled in a very long time with Windows and while only a small change for the end user, this has a big impact on the OS as a whole and are easily some of my favourite new features of Windows 8.

Task Manager has had a facelift too, with a new processes tab, allowing you to display more or less of the information and running applications that you require, a handy heat map showing resource usage, counters for both network and disk usage, process type grouping and finally file names that you can understand instead of the somewhat cryptic process names from previous edition of Windows, so now you actually know what is running at a glance.

There are many more features in Windows 8 too, with support for Hybrid Boot allowing you to boot to desktop even quicker, Windows To Go allowing you to have a bootable copy of Windows 8 on a flash drive (Win 8 Enterprise edition), native USB 3.0 support and of course little changes to the overall style, colours and layout of bits and pieces that are too countless to list.

So Should I Make The Jump To Windows 8?

I really can’t tell anyone if they should or shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 8 or not, but what I have hopefully done is guide you through what to expect from the new operating system in a way that will help you decide if you need these features on your device.

I will be looking to upgrade to Windows 8 this year for the purpose of multi-platform integration. I run an Xbox 360, have two PC’s and a laptop that we use daily and we also need a tablet device for when we’re on the move and need something a little more mobile than the laptop. So it makes sense for me to upgrade to Windows 8 to unify all these devices better, with Windows 8 on the tablet, the use of Smart Glass between the Xbox and the tablet, synchronisation of our different user accounts across the devices and computers all adds up to a lot of time saved and a similar experience across each platform.

Microsoft Windows 8Microsoft Windows 8

I hate to make the comparison but if you look at what Apple does at the moment, with its app store, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, Mac and other “i” devices, they all work together, they integrate and you can go from one to the other with relative ease. This is what Microsoft is trying to achieve here. Not to say they are copying Apple though, far from it in fact. Microsoft and Apple offer two completely different packages and I really like what Microsoft has done here. Come this time next year I think Microsoft is going to be looking pretty cool and more and more people will be making the jump to the new Windows 8 devices and operating systems.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the new OS, will you be upgrading this October?