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Windows 8 - What's new? To upgrade or not?

Windows 8 - A look under the hood, what's different, should you upgrade? New features, big changes.

With the release of Windows 8 last year - Microsoft has made a dramatic shift in what most users are used to when it comes to navigating your home pc.

The most significant change is the removal of Start Menu - yes, there is no longer a start menu in Windows 8.  For many users this comes as quite a shock after having worked with the native user interface for many years.  Incidently - there are a number of free 3rd party shell (software) replacements that will bring back your Start Menu and other accessability options.  But with the change comes alot of interesting features.  For some the learning curve is difficult and it's harder to navigate to areas you're used to at first.  In my opinion Windows 8 is targeted at the younger crowd - and also at the tablet market's increased popularity;  Windows 8 also features an app store, similiar to Google Play or iTunes.

Windows 8 is built off a series of customizable "live tiles" in essence replacing your desktop.  Live tiles can pull in data from from many sources, such as social media sites (Facebook, Google Plus, etc), your pictures, weather and much more.

When you first logon to a Windows 8 PC you'll be asked to create a Microsoft account (if you don't already have one).  This enables many features, including account synchronization of user data between with other Microsoft services such as Xbox live, Xbox music and Xbox video - and if you happen to have that same email associated with your Facebook account (w/the same password), it will automatically pull in your Facebook pictures as well.

Windows Family Safety is one of the most significant enhancements, replacing Windows Parental Controls from previous versions of windows.  Enhanced web-filtering options will block unwanted sites in ALL browsers, games can be blocked based on rating, Safesearch can be locked for Google, Bing & Yahoo and contact management allows parents to create an "allow list" for windows live contacts services such as Windows Messenger and Hotmail to prevent their children from communicating with unknown users (and only with "approved" contacts).

Enhanced security and quick-boot and repair features are also new additions and enhancements included in Windows 8.  Windows 8 ships with an enhanced version of Windows Defender now includes anti-virus as well as the default malware protection.  The new repair and recovery features of Win8 include an improved feature set allowing Win8 to detect problems preventing the system from operating correctly - and will automatically launch the Advanced Startup Menu to access diagnostic & repair features, as well as "Refresh and Reset" feature - which allows users to reinstall Windows without installation media.  In previous versions of Windows this would only be available on select OEM systems.  The quick boot feature or "hybrid mode" hibernates the kernal when windows is shutdown allowing for faster subsequent boot-ups.  Additional support for multiple processor cores on start-up also increase boot time.

So is Windows 8 for you? 

If you want to have the latest technology - and you are okay with the learning curve, then I'd say "yes".  If you want to take advantage of the newer enhanced features of Windows 8, but want your old windows interface back - that can be fixed with 3rd party shell software that will bring back your Start Menu and other accessability options.  Happy with what you've got right now?  Don't want to upgrade?  All "new" windows-based pc's are required to carry the latest version of Microsoft's Operating System, however there are still alot of Windows 7 systems in circulation.  If you're not looking to buy a new pc - and want to keep what you've got, below are the "end of support" dates for previous versions of Windows:

  • Windows XP SP3: April 8, 2014
  • Windows Vista SP2: April 11, 2017
  • Windows 7 SP1: January 14, 2020
  • Windows 8: January 10, 2023

If you're currently using Windows 7, and even possibly Vista you can likely hold-off and upgrade to a newer version of Windows down the road - but again it's ulimately your decision.

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Have you been using Windows 8 for awhile? 

Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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