November 3, 2012

Going to Windows 8

When I went to college in 2001 I bought a new computer. It finally died in the summer of 2009 and it was time to buy a new one. I seriously considered getting an iMac, but I wasn't ready to jump off the Windows wagon. I ended up getting a Dell with Windows Vista.

A few months later Windows 7 came out and I upgraded. I have been using it happily for the last 3 years with no major problems. Then in early October my Carbonite backup stopped working. Out of the blue one day it just quit. I had an email chain back and forth with their support department, but finally I just had to call them. I was on the phone with them one evening for over 2.5 hours and it still wasn't working.

The diagnosis was most likely a corrupt registry file. I was thinking about a fresh install of Windows 7. However, I remembered that Windows 8 had come out just last week and it was only a $40 upgrade. I bit the bullet and downloaded it, expecting the worst. I'm not sure what I mean by “the worst”, but I've never had much fun dealing with OS installs.

The entire process was extremely easy. It took a while to complete, but I didn't have to do anything. Just pop in and check on it from time to time. It was by far the simplest OS installation I'd ever dealt with1. I was back up an running in a couple hours and I once again prepared for the worst. I figured none of my programs were going to work. Even though before you even agree to buy the software there is an assistant that scans your computer and tells you what programs may have issues. It even reminded me to de-authorize iTunes on the computer in case something goes wrong. According to the assistant all of the programs I use on a regular basis were fine, but I still expected something to not work.

I was surprised to find out that everything was in perfect working order. I went ahead and reinstalled Carbonite and was extremely happy to see it was backing up again. It could not have gone better. The only thing that broke in the upgrade was my HP wireless printer. I spent an hour tracking down, and installing the drivers. It wouldn't have taken nearly that long if I didn't have to restart the computer 6 times. The good news is that a restart is significantly faster on Windows 8 than it ever was on Windows 7. I really feel like I have a new computer.

Before I decided to install 8 I had a lot of fears. Most of it was the fear of the unknown. I had seen some screenshots of the new Metro UI, but knew almost nothing about it. I didn't really know if/how you could still use the classic Windows interface. I had a bunch of concerns, but most of them were based on ignorance, and they turned out to be completely unfounded. The new look threw me off a little bit, but after only using it for a few hours I really started warming up to it.

The Windows live tiles and the flat look of the new interface really seems like the future. I don't really know how to describe it but when you are thrown back into the classic UI is it jarring, and it just feels... old. The navigation may not be perfect, but the look of Windows 8 seems like the future. The entire experience is disjointed as you jump back and forth between old and new, but once I got the hang of it I have few issues with it. It feels faster and offers a better day-to-day user experience than Windows 7 did. For the occasions where I do need to dig around in the settings it is cumbersome. Everything you have learned about Windows is rendered useless. You kind of have to start over.

There seem to be quite a few apps for Windows 8. The built in apps look really nice. The other ones I've downloaded have been fine, but slightly awkward to use. They were made with a touch interface in mind and since I can't swipe I have to constantly move the mouse all around the screen trying to navigate. It got tedious. I did find a nice markdown text editor that works well and looks nice. In the past I would always turn to the iPad to write because the tools were better than the desktop. That is still true, but they are getting closer.

Overall I am really glad I decided to shell out the $40 and upgrade to Windows 8 just a couple days after it came out. I still wish I had a Mac, but I will get by on this computer for quite a while longer.

  1. I am not counting iOS installations. Those are probably easier. However, this last week I tried to install from a backup on my new phone and it took forever.  ↩

Filed Under: , , ,