Recently, I had the good fortune to acquire a shiny new solid state drive. My new drive happens to be a Sata3 drive, a Kingston HyperX drive capable of reaching read speeds of 555 MB/s (which is very fast). Like most nerds would be, I was quite dissatisfied when I couldn’t utilize Sata3 with Windows 7, since I had selected an IDE compatibility option when installing 7 years ago. I quickly learned, however, that you can upgrade to Windows 8 rather cheaply ($40 from an old copy of 7, and $15 if you bought/buy one between June 2 2012 and Jan. 31 2013). So I downloaded a copy of Windows 8, burned it to a disk (which the installer makes super easy, provided you have the necessary blank disc and burner), and performed a clean install of Windows 8 on my shiny new drive.
It was better than I expected. Using Windows 8 in Best Buy on demo PC’s was frustrating, as I found there was a bit of a learning curve that being in a crowded store exacerbated. Trying Windows 8 at home has been a bit better. My two biggest gripes against Windows 8 are the treatment of the desktop, and the power menu. My two biggest likes are the folder system revamp, and the app store. The biggest thing most people seem to complain about with 8 is the start menu, to which I am mostly ambivalent. Compatibility is an issue for some programs, but for a brand-new version of Windows, it felt minimal to me (though I did have to kiss a few old games from the 90’s goodbye). All in all, I like Windows 8 marginally more than Windows 7, though I haven’t got totally comfortable with it yet.
The desktop has to be launched from the start menu, which is rather irksome. The treatment of the desktop has allowed a bit of a rift between certain types of applications. Traditional apps, like Chrome, or Microsoft Office, run on the desktop (which I like). Apps downloaded from the new app store are full-screen endeavors separate from the desktop, and accessed the same was as the desktop (when they are running) by sliding the mouse to the left side of the screen. App-store applications can’t be closed by clicking the x in the top right corner; it isn’t there anymore. Desktop applications are treated very similarly in 8 as they are in 7, though, and this is really only a minor annoyance once you get used to it. Further, if you really can’t stand the new start menu, there are alternatives (that I haven’t tried).
The other thing that really annoys me is the power menu. You have to slide your mouse to one of the right hand corners, wait for the menu to pop up, then you can navigate to power down your computer. I liked being able to quickly click 3 times to hibernate my computer. Again, it’s a small thing, but it is sort of annoying. There is a work-around, though.
The location of the control panel and lack of hibernate in the power menu both were annoying, but Google is your best friend when making the switch to Windows 8, and I was able to easily find help on both (control panel, hibernate). You can easily pin the control panel to your start bar for future use by right clicking on the icon (on the start bar when you have the control panel open), and selecting to “Pin this program to taskbar”.
The folder system rework. I love it. I like using shortcuts for copying and pasting files, but the built in options are nice. The new visualizer for moving files is drastically better than the old time remaining indicator (having been the butt of many a joke). There a lot more menu options in folders now, and it is now easy to show hidden files (go to the view tab, it’s right there).
The app store is pretty handy also. It’s been a nice feature on my phone to be able to use Google’s Play Store, and this brings a similar functionality to my desktop. It’s much easier to find little games or interesting little utilities (like one app that plays every episode of Tom and Jerry, or Sudoku, or apps that show the current weather). Plus, using an app store just feels safer than using Google to find new programs.
Windows 8 feels faster than Windows 7. Windows 8 is faster, but an intelligent use of transition effects make it feel more seamless. The only real way to quantify this is that my computer starts faster, though that is in part due to my shiny new ssd.
I really should stress that there isn’t too much to be afraid of, or to care about, in the switch. This event didn’t drastically change my life. What I liked I can live without, and what I don’t like I can live with. So, that said, most of the rest of the stuff I’ve notice I’ve been ambivalent about. You can still hit the Windows key on your keyboard to bring up the start menu, and you can still just start typing to search from the start menu (though the search does feel better in 8). You can still hit Windows Key+P to open up a screen-sharing shortcut menu, in fact, I haven’t noticed any shortcuts working differently. The start bar is similar to the start bar in 7. Other than the folder system and the app store, 8 doesn’t provide me any huge benefits. The start menu doesn’t bother me, not really, but it may help that I have a rather large monitor. I can still run Steam, Chrome, and Microsoft Office, and that is what is really important to me.
I like Windows 8, but not enough to ditch Windows 7 without an auxiliary motivation (in hindsight). The new folder system is nice, as well as the app store. Everything else is really pretty minor. It may be worth it to upgrade now, while it is cheap, but I’d be $40 richer if my hard drive could have worked well on Windows 7. The learning curve wasn’t bad, but if you do want to switch, you should be ready for a few more changes than when you switched to Vista from XP. The installation is easy as pie, even when burning the disc yourself (which will save you $30).