The Tech Herald

Should You Upgrade to Windows 8?

by Charles Jackson - Jul 24 2012, 06:26

With Windows 8 becoming available to the general public on October 26, 2012, many people are already thinking about upgrading to Microsoft's newest operating system as soon as possible. However, even for consumers, upgrading your computer to a new operating system can be a major job. Although you can usually perform an upgrade install rather than a completely clean and fresh install, this can never be recommended. Any problems as well as old and disused data from the previous installation will likely be lingering on your computer preventing you from being able to enjoy the new operating system to its fullest potential. A clean installation is always the best way to do things.

So before you even think about upgrading to Windows 8 the moment it hits the stores, you should consider the amount of work and time involved in getting everything up and running. If you have a lot of software or video games installed, you will have to spend many hours reinstalling everything afterwards. You will need to take care to back up all of your documents, downloads and multimedia collections. Any software or video games that you've downloaded will need to be backed up or otherwise downloaded again which can take an enormous amount of time.

Now that you have some idea of what upgrading to Windows 8 entails, you should come to a decision as to whether or not it is really worth it. Ask yourself what Windows 8 can do for you. Is it going to make your time spent in front of the computer more productive, enjoyable and safer? Perhaps, but that entirely depends on what you are hoping to get out of the new operating system. Windows 8 introduces a plethora of new features and above all, a revolutionary interface overhaul which presents the greatest change since the launch of Windows 95.

The new interface is designed almost entirely with touchscreens in mind, such as those of tablet computers. Although the tablet PC market is growing faster than any other sector of the computer market, the majority of people will still be using traditional computers as well, if not exclusively, for the foreseeable future. Navigating the new Start Screen (dubbed 'Metro') using a keyboard and mouse, though greatly improved since the earlier pre-release versions, still feels cumbersome and unnatural. This certainly does not mean, however, that you should stick to Windows 7 and completely skip Windows 8. It means that desktop and laptop users will still be using the desktop more than anything else, although the Start Screen will remain the largely unavoidable replacement for the start menu.

Fortunately, Stardock, the popular producer of desktop modification and customization software, provides a start button replacement for Windows 8, allowing you to use the new operating system in a similar way to Windows 7 and older versions. This program, called Start8, also allows you to boot up your computer straight to the desktop, skipping the Start Screen entirely. However, this, of course, partially defeats the purpose of upgrading to the new operating system anyway.

Windows 8 is not just about making touchscreen users more comfortable with using a Microsoft operating system, however. While you will constantly hear about Microsoft's obsession with tablet computers with regards to Windows 8, the new operating system does offer an abundance of new improvements and features which are equally, if not more beneficial, to traditional computer users as well.

This includes, but is certainly not limited to, faster boot times, improved security, full antivirus integration (courtesy of a new and improved version of Windows Defender), a new ribbon interface for Windows Explorer, a greatly enhanced Task Manager and generally higher performance. On the other side of the coin, however, Windows 8 certainly isn't without its shortcomings.

For home users who rely on their computers for important things such as work, banking and other matters, upgrading to Windows 8 would probably best be put on hold for a while. Wait until the operating system has been out for at least a few months, received some updates and bug fixes and, preferably, its first service pack. The first service pack for Windows 8 will likely not come out until late 2013, however.

Enthusiasts who always like to have the latest software and hardware installed are probably less likely to wait under any circumstances and will likely want to get Windows 8 the day it comes out or shortly after. If you fall into this category, yet you are still somewhat anxious about upgrading, then you will be glad to know that you can easily continue running Windows 7 alongside Windows 8 in a dual boot configuration where you can choose the operating system that you want to run when you turn the computer on.

This way, you get to enjoy the latest and greatest features and innovations of Windows 8 while not having to worry about compatibility problems - you can always boot into Windows 7 if you find that your favourite game or program isn't working in Windows 8. For best results, purchase an additional hard disk for installing Windows 8, although you can just install it on a different partition on the same physical disk as well.

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