I recently upgraded my laptop to Windows 8. I had initially experimented with the preview release and was impressed by some of the new features, such as speed, security and power savings. The upgrade cost was only $40.00 which made the switch quite worthwhile. I was also able to download Windows 8 and install it from Microsoft's web site, so it was a very convenient process. There were no discs and no need to wait for a shipment.
Faster and more efficient
Windows 8 offers a host of improvements and some significant quirks. In terms of boot up and shut down speed, Windows 8 wins, especially on UEFI compliant (newer) hardware. My boot-up time went from about 15-20 seconds to 8-10 seconds. Your mileage may vary as my laptop is using a solid state drive, but nonetheless I noticed a substantial improvement. Shut downs are practically instant most of the time unless a lot of programs are running.
Applications also seem snappier, especially when rendering graphics or when fonts are involved. This improvement is the result of Microsoft overhauled their font rendering engine and toning down the resource-heavy Aero interface that is found in Windows Vista and Windows 7. In addition to that, Microsoft has also put a lot of emphasis on efficiency because Windows 8 will be also run on tablets.
Battery life should also improve on laptops, as a lot of the improvements are included with Windows 8 that put less of a burden on processors and video cards in comparison with Windows 7. This allows for greater energy savings, faster resume from the sleep mode and more.
Security is serious business
Windows 8 introduces significant improvements in how memory is isolated to improve protection against malware. It also adds in a more secure boot process that protects against some of the most malicious software out there. This means that a lot of the current malware in circulation will not be effective in attacking Windows 8.
Microsoft has also made improvements in the security of Internet Explorer in version 10, which should be less exposed to conventional malware attacks. In case you do see a malware attack, it's comforting to know that right out of the box Windows 8 comes with anti-virus software through Windows Defender (which is actually a re-packaged version of Microsoft Security Essentials).
There are some drawbacks
For many people the new default interface is not ideal. The menu and lack of a start button on the desktop can be confusing and less than intuitive. These problems have generated a lot of bad press for Windows 8 as it seems like Microsoft entirely reinvented the wheel in their user interface. The account system can also be confusing.
Fortunately a number of developers have introduced alternatives to restore the start button in Windows 8, some of which include disabling the entire tile interface and adding back the start menu (I've covered some of these third-party start menu options in a separate article that you can find HERE). This customization allows users to have an experience similar to that of previous versions of Windows while still realizing the benefits of Windows 8.
The Windows 8 operating system was also designed with the Cloud in mind, but users who aren't comfortable sharing that much information with Microsoft over the Internet can opt for a local account sign on instead of using a Microsoft account.
Windows 8 is a solid upgrade and offers a lot of worthwhile enhancements over Windows 7, but it needs some work to be easily used. Microsoft should allow users to easily return the interface to the desktop as the default login destination and return the start button to the task bar. In fact, the biggest problem with the Windows 8 release is Microsoft's assumption that users want to completely re-learn how to interact with their computer, rather than letting them customize the experience when they first setup the computer.
About the author
Alexander G. Chamandy is a seasoned information technology professional with more than two decades of experience in the industry. He is a managing member of Envescent, LLC, a business IT solutions provider serving the Washington, DC area.