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Should you upgrade to Windows 8 while it's still $40?

Brad Chacos | Jan. 30, 2013
The opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $40 will vanish on Jan. 31. Should you rush out to buy a cheap upgrade license? Maybe. But only after reading this.

Thursday marks the last day of January, and this particular flip of the calendar brings about the end of more than just another month. Jan. 31 is the last day you'll be able to pick up an upgrade license to Windows 8 Pro for the dirt-cheap price of $39.99 (or $69.99 if you want a physical disc). Starting in February, the price of a Windows 8 Pro upgrade license skyrockets fivefold to the full retail price, a much, much less wallet-friendly $199.99.

The time for fence-straddling is over, folks. But does that mean it's time for you to take the plunge into Windows 8, while the price is still as low as it is ever likely to plummet? Not necessarily.

Do you really need Windows 8?

Setting the money talk aside for a minute, whether you actually need Windows 8 the big question. Nabbing Windows 8 Pro for $40 is only a deal if you want to move to Windows 8--otherwise, it's just $40 down the drain.

There are credible arguments for adopting Windows 8, and there are credible arguments against adopting Windows 8. Three months in, we're going to have to stick with the decree we made in our original Windows 8 review: If you're a perfectly happy Windows 7 user, the new operating system doesn't offer a compelling reason to upgrade. You'll need to learn a new, less-than-intuitive interface, the Windows Store (which stocks modern UI-style Windows 8 apps) is still woefully barren, and the operating system's controls simply work better on a touchscreen--a capability that many PCs under upgrade consideration simply don't have.

All that said, I've been using Windows 8 on my desktop for months now and I'm glad I made the switch. The once-confusing controls quickly become second nature when your brain acclimates to hot corners, and my early fears about the jarring switch between the desktop and the Live Tiled Start screen proved unfounded. I ignored the default modern-style apps (like Mail--bleh) in favor of tried-and-true desktop alternatives, and now that I've stocked the desktop taskbar with my most-used software, I virtually never see the Start screen except to search for specific, rarely used programs.

Between a bevy of under-the-hood improvements--once you're used to Windows 8's ultrafast boot times, going back to a Windows 7 PC is excruciating --and the seamless, multi-PC experience enabled by the cloud connectivity of SkyDrive and a Microsoft Account, Windows 8 basically feels like a smarter, faster, better version of its predecessor after you've tweaked it to your liking and spent some time learning its nuances.

I dig it. You might not, and as I said, Windows 8 is far from a must-have upgrade for Windows 7 users. If you're at all inquisitive about the operating system, however, sating your curiosity for $40 makes more fiscal sense than doing it for $200--especially considering Windows 8's divisive reception. You could always dual-boot Windows 8 alongside Windows 7 if you're scared of diving in whole-hog.


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