October 26 marked the launch of Microsoft’s latest foray into desktop operating systems, Microsoft Windows 8. With the end of support for Windows XP on the horizon, many people may be considering whether it is worth upgrading beyond Windows 7. I loaded Windows 8 recently to see what big changes come with Microsoft’s latest offering.
In an attempt to streamline their available installations, Microsoft has pared down their versions to Windows 8, 8 Professional, and 8 Enterprise (Windows 8 RT also exists but as it is designed for tablet PCs we will forego discussing it for now). For business purposes, Windows 8 Pro is the minimum required level to add a machine to a Windows domain. Additionally, it is possible to upgrade Windows XP, Windows Vista, and every version of Windows 7 except Enterprise to Windows 8 Professional.
Let’s take a look at 5 of the new features in Windows 8:
- Start Screen
Most notably when first seeing Windows 8 is the start screen. Probably the most touted feature of 8, users are greeted after logging in by a series of tiles, Microsoft’s defaults and your installed programs, which populates with programs you use frequently. With this addition, we also see the Start Menu that people are accustomed to seeing vanish. Luckily, anything you would want can be found by moving your mouse to the same corner of the screen, bringing the start screen back with a left click or common troubleshooting tools with a right click.
- Store App
Windows 8 is designed to be a similar experience across all platforms. As such, there are some features that seem a little out of place in a business environment. Foremost is the Store App. While there are certainly a number of useful apps available, this invites a lot of discrepancy between each business system. Fortunately, this feature can be removed from the Start Screen and also disabled via Group Policy.
- Windows To Go
Another interesting feature that comes with Windows 8 Enterprise is Windows To Go. This allows a functional version of Windows 8 to be run from a USB flash drive. There are a few interesting options that arise from this. One option is being able to run a standard business image on any machine that is brought into the office, provided it’s powerful enough to run Windows 7 and is capable of booting to USB. The other benefit is that machines running Windows To Go are much harder to infect with Malware and Viruses, on account of it removing access to the local hard drive. In a business environment, it is generally considered a best practice to save items to the network anyway, so this should not be a major drawback.
- Charms Bar
With Windows 8, users now find a lot of the traditional start menu features on the new Charms Bar. Power options, connected devices, and search features are all available by moving your mouse to the right side of the screen. Additionally, Microsoft has refined its search feature to provide more specifics as well as a wide variety of common questions you may have about setting up various aspects of your computer, whether it’s adding a printer or setting up an extra monitor.
- Multiple Monitor Support
Speaking of monitors, Windows 8 has made efforts to improve multiple monitor support. These improvements include access to the start screen, application bar, and charms bar from the corners of any screen, to easier travel of the mouse between shared screen edges, to individual taskbars and the option for easier switching of applications launched from the start screen.
Overall, people who are comfortable with Windows 7 may not feel compelled to upgrade. But as Windows XP is phased out and tablets find themselves more and more integrated with desktop PCs, many people will find that Windows 8 is a worthy successor to their current operating system. Feel free to reach out to our team with any questions you have about upgrading to Windows 8.