Unless you don’t have internet, and don’t read the news, by now you’ve heard Windows 8 operating system is out. Yes, the long awaited “upgrade” from Windows 7 (or if your small business happens still to be running the older workhorse, Windows XP), is finally here.
While Windows legacy has overwhelmingly focused on the business desktop/laptop user, with Windows 8, Microsoft is attempting to have you use one operating system for all of your computing needs, be it work, play, desktop, mobile, locally (on your hard drive) or in the “cloud” (Microsoft’s SkyDrive servers).
We here at Mach 1 Web Design, also a small business, use variety of devices and platforms, and though our mobile devices are your garden variety, Windows operating system still rules on our desktops and laptops. All of us have been using Windows 7 for years now, with all of its advantages and disadvantages. Like with anything in life, once you grow up with something, in this case an operating system – we all are the product of the 1990’s Microsoft dominance – it’s difficult to jump in to something new and different. Yet that’s exactly what Microsoft with Windows 8 is asking us to do.
So, you have a small business, and you want to stay on the bleeding edge, why not jump in and upgrade to Windows 8?
The upgrade process is simple, and at the moment, quite inexpensive. For a direct download upgrade, you can install Windows 8 for $39.99, while having the DVD box shipped to your location will set you back $69.99. The actual purchase and subsequent installation experience is intuitive and quick. Once the download (~3.7GB) is complete, the installation follows Windows’ tried-and-true format, with options to do a “clean” installation, wiping your hard drive clean (backup all files before you choose this option!) or the more commonly used upgrade path where you keep your local files and settings.
After installation is complete, you’ll be greeted by a new login screen. You may feel the computer boots up quicker, and you would be correct: we’ve noticed about 30% quicker boot up times; wake from sleep or hibernate are also quicker than on Windows 7. Our test rig with a Core i5-3750k CPU, a solid-state-hard drive and 16GB of RAM, boots up in less than 10 seconds from BIOS to a working desktop. You’ll also notice most modern hardware (ethernet controllers, video cards, bluetooth adapters, printers) will be supported out-of-the-box; no need to spend hours online searching and re-downloading drivers for equipment you had running on Windows 7. Windows 8 has your driver needs covered from the get-go.
Once you’ve logged in though, things become a little unfamiliar. Unlike the years and years of boot ups to your friendly, albeit aging, Windows desktop, you’ll be greeted by a completely new Start screen. The Modern UI, as Microsoft calls it, is centered on a “live tile” interface, with big boxy colorful icons. The idea again, is to have those same tiles work with touch interface, like on a tablet or a phone, as well as with a mouse. And here’s one of the biggest user complaints Modern UI has: with mouse as the pointing device, the tiles really don’t work on a large 22”-24” monitor; lots of mouse movement, scrolling etc. just to get through the ocean of icons. So, instead of using a mouse, you’ll end up using keyboard shortcuts, and the search function for applications and settings. To get back to the conventional desktop, a quick tap on the Windows-key, and it’s a Windows 7 -looking landscape. Unfortunately Windows 8 always boots to the Start screen with live tiles. This can become quite annoying if you use hibernate or shut down the computer on a regular basis – sleep is the most practical power option in this case, as it’ll return to the exact state you left the computer.
[Well, this is not entirely true. You can create a “task” Windows performs based on parameters you set. In this case follow this: Control Panel –> Administrative Tools –> Schedule Tasks –> Task Scheduler Library –> Name “StartInDesktop”, description to your choosing –> Trigger: “When I log on” –> Action: Start a program –> Start a Program: C:\Windows\explorer.exe –> Finish. What this will do is automate opening File Explorer every time you log in, thus bypassing Start screen.]
Windows 8 ships with Internet Explorer 10 as the default web browser. IE’s legacy is somewhat troubled, mainly due to security holes and lackluster performance compared to its two main rivals, Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome. Yet IE is still the most used browser for small businesses; fortunately Microsoft has made real improvements for IE 10, so now Internet Explorer is a viable option for safe and fast web browsing.
So what about the rest?
Underneath the somewhat confusing and occasionally irritating Modern UI lies a reworked, but familiar Windows. File Explorer works as it has for decades (with a few modern tweaks), the familiar Control Panel for adjusting settings, uninstalling programs etc. looks and works as before, and the more techie features like command prompt, registry editor etc. are all in their familiar suit. But while everything works the same as in Windows 7, it’s the getting there that usually creates a headache.
While Windows 8 feels modern, performs quicker, and is Microsoft’s way to the future of desktop and mobile computing, we can’t really recommend your small business upgrading to it just yet. If you are on Windows XP, now would be time to move up to Windows 7. However, if you are on Windows 7 already, with its official support extending to year 2020, we recommend your small business to stay with Windows 7. In the next few years Windows 8 will go through several update and upgrade cycles; while Windows 8 will be an exciting opportunity for consumers to experience something completely new, now is not the time for your small business to jump in. Windows 7 will serve your business just fine. And maybe, if we are lucky, Microsoft will even include a Start Menu in the future!