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The Windows XP upgrade question: Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Jared Newman | April 7, 2014
Ready or not, it's time to move on from Windows XP. Here's how to choose your next operating system.

The case for Windows 8
To say that some users dislike Windows 8 would be putting it lightly. The drastic interface changes have polarized critics and alienated mouse-and-keyboard users, who feel Microsoft put too much emphasis on touchscreens. 

windows 8 start screen
The default Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 (pictured) Start screen looks nothing at all like Windows XP and hides important commands behind invisible controls tucks into corners. 

The traditional Windows desktop is available in the new-look Windows 8. While it lacks Windows' iconic Start menu (for now) and you have to travel through the app-filled Start screen to get there (again, for now), those concerns will one day melt away, as Microsoft is trying to address PC users' biggest Windows 8 complaints through software updates.

And if you can keep an open mind, Windows 8 brings lots of benefits, even without a touchscreen PC or tablet.

Some of those benefits are subtle or under the hood. Startup and shutdown times are much faster in Windows 8, and overall performance is slightly improved. Virus protection is now built into the operating system, so you don't have to download Microsoft Security Essentials or pay for an antivirus suite, and a new secure boot option is enabled by default.

Windows 8 also adds some more tools for desktop users, such as a new file transfer dialog that combines everything into a single window and provides a pause button. The task manager has received a complete overhaul as well, with a cleaner look, stats on disk and data consumption, an app history view and a better way to manage programs that run on startup. If you use multiple monitors, Windows 8 has multimonitor features built-in, so you don't have to buy third-party software. File backup tools are also much improved in Windows 8, with a way to save a full history of your documents, music, photos, and videos folders.

If you aren't afraid of the new interface of Windows 8, you may even find some uses for its modern-style apps. A full-screen text editor, for instance, can be a great way to tune out distractions, and the ability to "Snap" multiple apps side-by-side is helpful in all kinds of situations, such as pinning a calculator app right next to your Excel spreadsheet.

Pondering hardware and support realities
There's also the hardware to consider. It's not a challenge to find Windows 7 PCs online, and you can still buy copies of Windows 7 from retailers if you're building your own PC. But overall, the selection of Windows 8 hardware is much broader, from super-cheap laptops to thin-and-light Ultrabooks. Just to sweeten the deal, until June 15 Microsoft will give you $100 to upgrade to a Windows 8 machine. You'll also be able to take advantage of newer hardware, such as Intel's battery-efficient, fourth-generation Core (Haswell) processors. Downgrading to Windows 7 on a new PC is an option, but not from standard Windows 8. For that, you need to be running Windows 8 Pro, which adds to the total cost of your new computer.

 

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