Ask LH: Is Windows 8 That Bad And Should I Upgrade?

Ask LH: Is Windows 8 That Bad And Should I Upgrade?

Dear Lifehacker, Windows 8 is out, and it’s all anyone’s talking about — except everyone just keeps telling me how much it sucks and how I shouldn’t upgrade. Why does everyone hate it so much? Should I upgrade, or hold off? Thanks, Worried About Windows

Dear Worried,

Windows 8 is getting a bad rap from lots of people, but it actually has a lot going for it. Why is everyone freaking out so much then? Some of that comes down to resistance to change; some of it comes from a misunderstanding of what Windows 8 is capable of. Here are some of the issues people are complaining about, and why they don’t matter in most cases.

Complaint #1: The New Interface Sucks (and My Start Menu Is Gone!)

Why People Are Upset: This is the biggest thing people are complaining about. The Start menu is gone, and it’s been replaced by a new, full screen, tablet-friendly tiled interface that isn’t really that effective on a desktop computer. It seems inefficient to go to a full screen interface just to launch a desktop app, especially if you could do the same thing from a small menu on the desktop.

Why It Isn’t A Problem: I disagree with Microsoft’s choice to get rid of the Start menu, and that change was always going to confuse a lot of novice users. However, it’s also really, really easy to bring back. In fact, if you download a Start menu replacement, you have a lot more control over what you see in that Start menu, which is actually impressive.

Furthermore, the tiled Start screen — while imperfect and not very mouse-friendly — gets the job done; it just does it differently. Once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to get around. You can still launch an app by pressing the Windows key and typing the name of the app you want, which remains the fastest way to find most apps on any current version of Windows. Alternatively, you can use an app launcher such as Launchy, which pretty much negates the need for a Start menu anyway. Many of the other options found via the Start menu, including the Control Panel, PC Info, and Shut Down buttons, can be found in the Charms bar just by pressing Windows-C. Easy.

Complaint #2: There Aren’t Any New Desktop Features


Why People Are Upset: I’m not really sure, to be honest. This isn’t an accurate complaint; there are a lot of new desktop features.

Why It Isn’t A Problem: Sure, the tiled interface is the biggest change in the new OS, but there are a lot of other changes too, particularly those that pertain to the desktop, and we’ve talked about then numerous times. Highlights include:

  • Better performance. We tested both versions of Windows and found that Windows 8 was faster at almost everything. Boot times are a lot faster, which is really useful. And day-to-day operation is also smoother.
  • The new Windows Explorer, which has some handy context-sensitive menus, as well as a much better file copy dialog than Windows 7.
  • The new Task Manager, which gives you tons lots information about how your computer’s resources are being used.
  • Reset & Refresh, a cool new feature which lets you perform a clean installation of Windows with just the click of a button.
  • The Windows 8 Store. It may be a full screen app, but it has desktop apps in it too — making it easier to discover new and awesome apps, not to mention read reviews all in one unified place.
  • File History, a new backup tool that keeps incremental backups of all the files in your libraries. It’s not unlike the Mac’s Time Machine, letting you restore back to any version of a file at any point in time. File History also has a lot of advanced settings, which is awesome.

Even if you bypass the Start screen entirely, there are a lot new features to get excited about in Windows 8. They may not have been as well- marketed as the touch features — which I think was a mistake — but they are there, and they’re worth upgrading for.

Complaint #3: It’s Bad for Gaming


Why People Are Upset: Gabe Newell, head of Valve (the company that makes video game app store Steam), recently called Windows 8 a “catastrophe”, and other game developers joined in synchronised chorus about how Windows 8 is going to destroy our firstborn children and gamers should just stick with Windows 7. Somehow this has led people to believe that gaming is horrible on Windows 8, Steam won’t be supported, and that Microsoft is going to close off its system so you can only buy games in the App Store. None of these are true.

Why It Isn’t A Problem: In short: people are reading way too much into a few tiny comments. Gaming on Windows 8 is, well, the same as gaming on Windows 7. Performance is virtually identical. Steam works just fine. Valve has made no claims that it won’t support Windows 8, and Microsoft has made no claims that it is going to shut Valve out.

Valve’s anger is understandable — after all, the built-in Windows 8 Store will be a big competitor — but there’s no evidence to support that gaming on Windows 8 will be any less functional than gaming on Windows 7.

So Should You Upgrade?

In short: there are some definite benefits to Windows 8, and it’s also the cheapest Windows upgrade in living memory. But should you make the switch? If your hardware and apps are compatible (which they probably are) and you can spare the $40 to upgrade, then yes — we think Windows 8 is well worth the upgrade. Of course, no one’s saying you have to — Windows 7 will be supported for a long while — but if you’re on the fence, we think you’ll like a lot of the new features in Windows 8, even if you don’t have a touch screen.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Having used Windows 8 for a few months now I’ve come to realise that I hardly used the Start Menu anyway. My primary apps are already pinned on the Taskbar. Perhaps running 8 on a dual-monitor setup makes the fullscreen start menu less intrusive.

    What I’m most looking forward to is RDP touch-input passthrough (as opposed to touch-to-mouse emulation) to have a better RDP experience controlling my Windows 8 PC from my phone and tablet.

    • I too have been using it for a few months and after a week or so everything became second nature. However, I really want to try it on a touch screen to see how intuitive it is compared to mouse input

      • I’ve been using since the Dev-preview and I rarely visit the Metro screen. I’m sure once I get my tablet I will but I never found it as an issue either.

  • Upgraded from Windows 7 on Friday night. Went smoothly and I think all the “problems” people were predicting for PC users were overstated. If you’re prepared to spend half an hour getting used to the new interface it’s actually easy and fast and the old desktop is still there. And the ability to now link a PC/Phone/Tablet is a good thing.

    • Why? I don’t need/want/have a smartphone, tablet or laptop!! I want my PC to do WHAT I TELL IT TO DO NOT WHAT MS WILL LET ME DO. I have only just got win 7 and that only because I had to…programs getting so big now they needed more than 3.2 GB of memory to run and that meant 64-bit. BTW has anyone noticed how many media players/ CD burners you get automatically on a PC these days? Pointless isn’t it?

  • I hated the Windows 8 prototype. I bagged the crap out of Windows 8 – it was hard to use, and real garbage.
    However, i’m now using the final release version – and it works much better than the demo version. You can’t see the start button, but if you move the mouse to where the start button used to be, you can see a summary page that’s very much like the start button.
    I’ve gone from hating it to being indifferent to it.
    If you used the prototype, it’s worth giving it a second go. I was VERY surprised that Microsoft bothered to listen.

  • I have to disagree with all the people who say the new start menu is no good for mouse and keyboard. I have been using 8 for a few months now, and I find it far better than the old 7 start menu. The new tiled menu can be easily organised, it shows all your most common programs in an easy and large icon view, and it is easy to scroll across the menu with a mouse wheel.

    Searching is still there, so a lot of power users probably wont even care, they just hit the Windows key and start typing. I do have one complaint about search results though, that typing something like “Power Options”, is a result that shows under settings and not apps, so they have split the search results across different screens, which adds a few extra clicks or keyboard movements.

    And the Start button isn’t really gone gone, you still click in the bottom left corner of the screen like you always have, and it is actually quicker now, because you don’t have to aim for the start button, you just move the mouse to lower left and click. There is also a right click menu (or Windows+X) on the start button that provides a lot of useful shortcuts in one easy location.

    I think a lot of people should let go of the “thats not what I did in Windows 7” attitude and just go with it, and they might actually find that they end up liking the new interface.

    Just my opinion, I find I’m really liking the new interface, and when you go back to other Windows versions, they now feel dated.

  • I’ve been on Mac for a year now and I’m looking forward to dual-booting Windows 8. Excited.

    Hey Whitson (or anyone), just as an aside, do you know where the header image is from, or who the artist was?

  • I bought and upgraded to Windows 8 Pro for $40 . Kept all my apps and settings. I hated metro for the desktop because most of my apps are desktop apps and you find yourself switching between metro.and the desktop so much your eyes hurt. So I downloaded Start8 by Stardock that brings back the start menu which was nice. The fateful mistake I made was when I switched to a local account because some apps kept asking me to keep signing in or it wasn’t synching. When I did so I created a new password. It logged me o and I was unable to log back in. I then noticed there were pending updates, thinking it might be a bug I waited for a half hour for 20 updates to download and install. After rebooting my computer just hanged in the Windows 8 loading screen. Now I find myself transferring all my data over and switching back to Windows 7. On the bright side I only wasted $45. The downside I wasted my time and lost some important files.

  • Windows 7 looks like such a slut, it shows off so much knee (no offence intended to any of brazen OSs out there). Windows 8 though is all kind, nice and modest looking. Just what I hate. Give me them legs any day!!

    Although with a bit of spicing up I may be more obliged to try something new. A service pack may make things a bit more trusted too or perhaps a new image.

  • I work in retail and we have a few Windows 8 laptops out already. One customer came in today and went to use one to save something onto a USB. It was on the Start Screen. The first words he said to me were: “Where is Explorer?” I had to have a laugh at that, because he hadn’t even bothered to read the tile that said Desktop and think to click into it.

    Also, my specific store sold out of Windows 8 (a pallet load) over Friday and Saturday alone. I had one guy say he was just buying it to upgrade his two computers because it was cheap, which it is compared to Windows 7. I think it’s going to be a lot more successful than everyone thought.

  • Well, after messing around with it over the weekend, I didn’t find it that bad to use – BUT the real test comes NOW when I use it for real work :/
    So far it seems everyone’s opinion has been made up for them by the media…

  • Installed on my dual monitor workstation the other day. Very impressed. After an hour or so I realised how little i really used the start button anyway.

    Its fast and looks great. My main bugbear is that I cant keep the start screen visible on my second monitor all the time. Any key press minimises it to what ever app you have running. I like having the tiles flick over giving me update info. aside from that, all good!

  • My main criticisms so far:
    Solitaire/Minesweeeper games being full (or mostly full) screen. I liked having smaller windows so the cards were closer together.
    When I try to shut down it instead crashes inside some applesomething.sys and tells me it needs to reboot (should’ve gone for a clean install instead).

    Start screen is good, much quicker to click on nice big buttons, people app in the sidebar works well, I disabled the task bar on my second screen (which I only really use as a tv) but I certainly appreciate having the option.
    Nicer boot times, way better task manager, very fast overall. Certainly worth $40.

  • The feedback on Windows 8 seems to be roughly broken into two segments – those that have used it and those that haven’t. It seems that those who have used it, have no major gripes with it.

    I know what I said above is a big generalisation, and I’m sure there are people who have used it and still dislike it – and that’s a perfectly ok result. They are expressing an opinion based on their own experience.

    Those who are ranting about how terrible Windows 8 is, but make no indication that they’ve arrived at their conclusion after having used it themselves, can be safely ignored.

    • I’ve been in both those segments. Previously I was ‘Meh, I hate the new look, I’m not going to touch it’ Now I am ‘Hey, this is actually so much easier to use that I could have imagined…it all makes sense’

      For $40, it’s worth checking out.

    • I disagree with you, i am a longtime computer user and just cant see the sense in making my computer work like my phone. true i changed my phone from a windows system to an app system but its my phone which i use in a very different way than i use a computer

  • I had a bit of a snigger when I was setting my new Alienware 14x Windows 8 machine, and saw that aside from the IE logo, the only other icon on my taskbar was for Steam.

    Clearly, while Gabe Newell thinks it’s a disaster, it’s not enough of a disaster to stop having his software pre-installed on gaming rigs.

  • Dont upgrade if you have upgrade money burning a hole in your pocket and cant help yourself seek professional help before disaster comes your way. that or take your money and buy lottery tickes so at least you will one in a billion chances of ending up with something you want.

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