On October 26th we’ll finally get to enjoy Microsoft’s latest operating system. Windows 8 has a lot of buzz around it, though there are also a lot of questions among consumers who aren’t quite sure what to expect. Having played for early builds of Windows 8 for the past few months I’m looking forward to installing the final version. Lets look at some of the changes that might encourage you to make the upgrade.
First of all its worth noting that Microsoft is currently running an upgrade promotion through the end of January. This promo lets people get a Windows 8 upgrade for only a few dollars. Check out windowsupgradeoffer.com for details to see if you’re elligible but chances are if you bought a new Windows computer this year, you’ll be able to get in on this.
One of the first things you’ll notice with Windows 8 is it’s boot speed. It seems to perform a cold boot to a fully functional desktop in only a couple of seconds. Its even faster if you’re running it from an SSD. Its so fast its disorienting actually. If you’re used to pressing the power button then going for a walk to get a coffee while your computer thinks about starting up, this is going to change things for you bigtime. You’ll have to see it in person to appreciate just how snappy it is.
This new Windows uses the cloud much more effectively than we’ve seen to date. If you sign in with a Microsoft account you can enjoy a somewhat portable workspace. If you sign in to another Windows 8 PC your workspace will come with you, having been synchronized to the cloud. This brings with it all your basic settings, preferences, even your wallpaper. If you jump between computers it makes the experience feel much more like home. Now any computer can instantly feel like ‘your’ computer.
Much hulaballoo has ben made of the native touchscreen support in Windows 8. It works fantasically well. I’ve been able to test it out on desktop PCs, ultrabooks, and tablets with touchscreens and found it to be a great addition every time. Having a touchscreen isn’t at all nesecarry, and in fact I’ve been using Windows 8 happily for months with no touchscreen. When I was albe to test out machines with touchscreens I found that they did actually supplement the experience. I wouldn’t use the touchscreen for editing spreadsheets or anything, but for quick casual control it was a certainly a welcome addition. We’ll surely be seeing a lot more touchscreen hardware in the coming months as the technology becomes standard.
The new Windows Store is a one stop shop for Windows 8 certified apps that you can trust. It makes it easy to find good software from games to social media and even work applications. Sure you can already get software from anywhere else as usual, but having the Windows Store makes it a lot easier and gives you confirmation that the software will be trustworthy to install. No more malicious software installations. These apps will have automatic updates, work as standalone apps, and a personal favorite; these apps all implement a clean and reversible installation so they leave no trace. For me, that last point is worth the upgrade already.
If you ever do find you’re having problems with your system, probably from installing untrusted software not from the Windows Store, there are new options to refresh and reset your installation. Refresh effectively gives you a new copy of Windows without touching your personal files or user accounts. This means losing only your installed desktop applications but its a lot less intrusive than having to reformat and reinstall Windows from scratch. You can also Reset which rolls back Windows to the factory defaults, much more like a reinstall though in a quicker and more automated fashion.
Of course that is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to Windows 8. There are a lot of major changes, and even more small changes to behold. If you liked windows 7, you’ll probably love Windows 8 and what it can do for you. With each new Windows incarnation there's no shortage of evangelists and naysayers though. If you’re still on the fence or hearing conflicting information I strongly suggest you head down to your closest Future Shop after October 26h and take a look at it for yourself.
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