Windows 8 is by far Microsoft’s most significant improvement in its operating system since the leap from 3.1 to 95. What’s not to like about it? It looks good, performs well, and won’t break the bank. Here are my Top 10 Reasons you should upgrade to Windows 8:
1. It’s relatively cheap
Microsoft charges $39.99 for a digital download ($69.99 for a DVD). That’s a little high compared to Apple’s $20 charge to upgrade from Mac OS 10.7 (Lion) to Mac OS 10.8 (Mountain Lion) but it’s the lowest Microsoft has ever charged for an upgrade. By comparison, the Windows Home Premium digital upgrade was $50 ($119 for the retail DVD).
If you buy a new Windows 7 computer before January 31, 2013 you can get the upgrade at an even lower price, $14.99.
2. It’s blazing fast.
One problem that’s always plagued Windows is how long it takes to go from a cold boot to a usable state. Microsoft has clearly put work into improving performance in Windows 8. Tests have shown it boots almost twice as fast and runs several benchmark performance tests quicker than Windows 7
CNET has published some benchmarks about Windows 8 performance compared with Windows 7, concluding that “Windows 8 lives up to its promise.” In addition to faster boot up and shutdown speeds, Windows 8 produced better performance in Microsoft Office and also took less time to complete a multimedia test, according to the CNET report.
3. It Runs Way More Apps.
Windows 8 gives PC users a whole new world of full-screen, touch-friendly, Web-connected apps to explore. And these new apps can even display relevant information on their Windows Start screen tiles, something impossible in Windows 7 or just about any other operating system around.
The new Windows Store makes discovering and installing these new-style apps a breeze. The update process is simple, and you can install purchased apps on multiple Windows 8 devices without paying again, provided you’re signed in. Finally, uninstalling the apps is streamlined by the store, with no registry complications as in past Windows versions’ apps.
4. It’s Integrated With SkyDrive
Microsoft’s cloud service has become more than just online storage. Sure, it still lets you save and access files to an online space that’s accessible from a Web browser or apps that run on not only Windows, but also Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
But with Windows 8, SkyDrive is accessible to any app that wants to use it, just as though it were a local drive. It also backs up your PC’s settings, letting you replicate your environment if you get a new PC.
5. It Has Much Better Security and Less-intrusive Updates
PC Magazine networking and security analyst Fahmida Rashid considers Windows 8 “the most secure version of Windows yet.” This stems from a couple of things, starting with Secure Boot. ExtremeTech’s Sebastian Anthony explains secure boot succinctly as follows: “Windows 8 stops a computer from loading an operating system that hasn’t been signed by the publisher (in this case, Microsoft or an OEM).”
Another security gain is that all apps in the Windows Store are scrutinized for security issues. Finally, Windows 8′s default Web browser, Internet Explorer 10, was rated best in a recent test by NSS Labs, detecting and blocking over 99 percent of malicious downloads without any help from a third-party antivirus program. This compared with 70.4 percent for Google Chrome, which uses the same Safe Browsing API as Firefox. Opera and Safari only managed to block about 4 percent of the malicious downloads.
6. It Has Touch Input
In some ways, touch-screen input on Windows 8 is superior that of the Apple iPad. For example, you can do everything you need to by swiping with your thumbs, making a tablet easier to use by holding it by the sides. Also topping the iPad interface is Windows 8′s ability to snap a sidebar to the side of the screen with a touch gesture, so that you can keep tabs on two apps at the same time.
But mouse and keyboard are hardly forgotten. The full complement of keyboard shortcuts still works, and navigating through the new interface with the mouse and mouse wheel is almost as intuitive as touch gesture input, though there are certainly some actions where touch is a better fit.
Using the Windows Key becomes particularly important, as it summons the Start screen and offers key combinations that let you search, share, change settings, access devices, and more.
7. It Has Reset and Refresh
Windows 8 has improved and simplified the once-clumsy process of reinstalling the operating system.
“Reset Your PC” lets you reset Windows to the factory settings, useful in case of a malware infection, or if you just want a clean start. It’s similar to the factory reset feature you’ll find on smartphones and tablets–all your settings are erased and a fresh copy of Windows 8 is installed.
According to Microsoft, a similar process (restoring from an image) would have taken close to 30 minutes in Windows 7, but should take around 6 minutes in Windows 8.
This feature also has a more thorough cleansing, which includes overwriting the contents of the hard drive with random data before reinstalling. This is for users who have more confidential data on their computers, though it will also take a bit longer.
A less drastic measure – “Refresh Your PC” – keeps all of your user profiles, data and apps in place, while wiping out programs you’ve installed. Metro-style apps that you download from the Windows Store will also be retained, though full-fledged desktop apps are removed. However, a list of these desktop apps will be generated, so that you can reinstall them if you like.
It’s a convenient way to get your PC back into shape without having to redo all your settings or backing up your data to another drive.
8. It Includes File History
Did you know Windows has long included a backup utility? Probably not, since only about 5 percent use it, according to Microsoft’s internal data.
In Windows 8, the backup tool is File History, which protects your files against corruption or unwanted changes and works differently enough from previous Windows that you may just use it.
This feature isn’t enabled by default — users will have to turn it on (and attach an external HDD or network drive). File History saves copies of files residing in your libraries, which include My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, etc. It will also save data from your contacts, favorites and other items on your Desktop. You can also specify other folders which you wish to backup.
File History is configured to check your files every hour for changes, and it will save them to the external location, with no need to schedule a backup. The process should happen in the background with minimal disruption. Power users can also configure the tool with more advanced settings such as changing how often files are saved.
9. It Includes Storage Spaces
Windows 8 lets you use multiple connected disks (of any size) to create a pool of storage, which is treated as a single location with its own drive letter. If you start to run out of space you can simply connect another drive to the pool.
Instead of having multiple internal HDDs with their own drive letters, you will see a unified storage pool with a single drive letter. At any time, you can add more storage drives to this pool (and they can be any mix of internal or external drives of various capacities). You can even allocate more storage space than what’s on your PC, and add the physical drive later when it’s required.
Like File History, the strength of this feature is that you really need to configure it just once (or when you add more drives), and it should work with little intervention. With all your files in one location, you don’t have to remember exactly where your stuff is on a physical drive.
10. It Has Other Less Obvious Benefits
Windows Defender, a tweaked version of Microsoft Security Essentials, the company’s standalone antivirus tool.
Windows account synchronization, which means all your apps and preferences can be saved to the cloud, allowing them to be synchronized across any other devices you have running Windows 8. If you don’t have a Microsoft account you can quickly set one up.
Hyper-V, a powerful replacement for Windows Virtual PC that you can use to run multiple guest operating systems simultaneously. Great for developers and IT professionals.
In short, if you want a new OS that delivers on its promises and is a major step in the evolutionary process of business computing, upgrade to Windows 8 today.
Sources: CNET, Beta Business, PC Mag