Microsoft's operating systems have come a long way since the 1990s. Before the introduction of Windows 95, many of the popularly used programs and games were DOS exclusive, but by the time that Windows 98 hit the scene the command-line based DOS was pretty much a thing from the past. Windows 98 was succeeded by Windows Me, this operating system had a very short shelftime, it was notorious for its poor stability and many users complained it was a regression from Windows 98.
Then came Windows XP, this operating system was launched in October 2001 and although it was first met with harsh criticism, the operating system quickly gained a wide adoption. Windows Vista is widely regarded as one of Microsoft's biggest failures, at launch the operating system suffered from poor software compatibility and performance issues, and the operating system never managed to capture people's heart and mind. Windows 7 on the other hand was an instant success, even the beta version had a relatively huge install-base and many enthusiasts finally saw a reason to upgrade from Windows XP.
Windows 7 was basically an improved version of Windows Vista, it delivered better performance as well as increased usability and functionality. Windows 7 resulted in many satisfied users and over time it managed to overtake Windows XP in terms of marketshare, but even today the over a decade old Windows XP still stands surprisingly strong. According to a November 2012 marketshare report from Net Applications, Windows XP clings on to a marketshare of nearly 40 percent.
With Windows 8, Microsoft is steering its operating system into a radically different direction. In the last ten years we've seen a shift from desktop PCs to notebooks, and now some are prophesising the end of the PC era as smartphones and tablets are becoming increasingly commonplace. While Microsoft is the dominant player in the x86 operating system market, the software giant has had little success with smartphone and tablet products, these markets are largely dominated by Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating systems. With its back against the wall, Microsoft decided to make a major gamble by making massive changes to the user interface of Windows 8 to make it more usable on touch-based mobile devices.
The new user interface of Windows 8 was met with massive pre-launch criticism, enthusiasts complained about the new "Metro" user interface and the new app model, and several game developers proclaimed that Windows 8 would mean the end of PC gaming. Despite a big marketing campaign, Windows 8 seems to have failed to generate a big boost in PC demand and data from Net Applications shows the adoption rate of Windows 8
has now fallen behind Windows Vista's. But is Microsoft's new operating system really that bad? I've been using Windows 8 for close to two months now and in this desktop-oriented review I will explore whether the negative climate surrounding Windows 8 is justified.
Initially I didn't plan on updating to Windows 8 because the new "Metro' interface sounded like a really bad idea for anything non-touch - but the ultra-low upgrade pricing of Windows 8 changed my mind. In the past, upgrading to a newer version of Windows was relatively expensive, but the download-only launch upgrade offer to Windows 8 costs only 29.99EUR ($39.99)
, and even as little as 14.99EUR ($14.99) if you've bought a Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. The low pricing is a welcome change from the expensive Windows upgrades from the past, but according to the rumor mill it fits in Microsoft's plan to switch to an annual release cycle for Windows. Future versions of Windows are expected to be relatively cheap as well, but will follow much quicker so Microsoft can adopt new technologies much sooner than ever before.
Installing Windows 8
Upgrading to Windows 8 via digital distribution is very easy, the installer scans your system for incompatible software and gives the option to burn the ISO to a DVD or to create a bootable USB flash drive. If you run Windows 7 you can do an in-place upgrade that will preserve not only all of your files but also all of your applications and settings, but I recommend a clean install to ensure you don't run into any unexpected compatibility issues and to enjoy the best possible performance.
You also have the option to do a migration to Windows 8, this means the installer will not wipe the partition you're installing Windows 8 to, instead it will move all files currently present on the volume to a folder named "Windows.old". After installing Windows 8, you can then move all documents and files you still need and delete all the rest.
I didn't time it but I estimate the installation of Windows 8 took about half an hour on a HDD. After everything is finished installing, you'll be greeted by the operating system's new user interface.
One of the big improvements in Windows 8 is the faster bootup time, by default the Windows kernel enters a hibernation mode on shutdown to enable a much faster bootup time. Especially if you have Windows 8 installed on a solid state disk you can expect bootup times of well under ten seconds! It's still not instant-on, but it's getting very close. Additionally, Windows 8 also shuts down faster than previous versions of Windows.