Windows 8 – A Semi-Educated Review

Windows 8First, a small disclaimer on this article: While I have a Computer Science degree and have spent far too many hours using a computer over my relatively young life, I am by no means fascinated with the latest and greatest toys, software, or software toys. I see computers as a(n often overrated) means to an end; one that is usually not sought after in the glamor of the technology industry and their conferences, magazines, and websites. It is the end that matters, and the end is what most of my blog is dedicated to, so I’ll let you search about if you are interested. Now that that is out of the way…

I believe I was five years old when I started using Microsoft operating systems, starting with DOS, moving to Windows 3.1, then Windows 95, 98, XP, Vista, and then onto 7. I’ve missed a few versions in there, but I don’t think that matters too much; I’m familiar with the products.

Windows 7 has been my favorite incarnation so far, featuring the library system, a sleek user interface, speed improvements, snap-to-edge windows, and a number of other niceties that make using older versions of the Operating System frustrating. In the last days of the “Buy Windows 8 while it is $40!” phase of Microsoft’s advertising effort for their new operating system, I purchased a copy to experiment with. Almost a month later, I finally got around to installing it. Because I wanted to install it on my primary partition alongside Windows 7 and allow a dual-boot, I shrunk my primary partition and dedicated 50GB to Windows 8. This involved temporarily turning off the paging file, the system restore, hibernation mode, and a number of other features that should probably never be turned off. I defragged the disk, created a new partition, and then reactivated all of those services.

Windows 8 installed smoothly to the new drive in under an hour. I lost track of how long it was, but I didn’t notice the length. A shiny new boot screen greeted me to have me choose between Windows 7 and Windows 8, and I chose the latter. I appreciated their willingness to let me continue using the old operating system while test driving the new one. Upon loading Windows 8, I discovered why they might have that willingness. The new operating system is entirely different from previous versions of Windows. The Start Menu has been turned into a Start Page, complete with new buttons, clicks, and menus to learn. I call this post a “Semi-Educated Review” because I only semi-understand all of these new features and quirks.

The new Internet Explorer is pleasant to use, though I had to learn that right-clicking allows you to view open tabs, as it wasn’t intuitive. I had to learn that the Windows key brings up the menu (something I ought to have figured out quickly, but did not). I had to learn that programs continue running even when you close their windows. I had to learn that the desktop has a different set of programs running than the Start Screen, something I have yet to fully understand. Primarily, I had to learn.

I enjoy the ease of use and the design. I’m not sure how I feel about perpetually running programs without the easy ability to close them. The ease of access to programs is great. The difficulty in categorizing items at first was frustrating. I absolutely love the speed increases and the boot time.

The plan now is to use this operating system fairly frequently for a few weeks to see if it is worth switching over for non-development stuff (that is, fun stuff). So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised and enjoy it. If you can do it easily, give it a try for a few days and you might like it too.