I’m still using Windows Vista on an old 1 GB 1.2 GHz computer. It works okay, slows down when my USB tries to take some heat off of the OS through ReadyBoost or SkyDrive wants to sync files with the computer (in which it comes to a complete halt for like 20 minutes), but unless I’m running 5 programs at once, or have 10 tabs open in my web browser I haven’t had any complaints.
I never upgraded the version of Windows I’ve used on a machine. I inevitably upgrade hardware, but if the hard drive still spins and the computer comes on I’m good to go. My only issue with Microsoft Windows, is the need to run antivirus software, so I usually keep a version of Linux around. Currently I am exploring Linux Mint 14 via USB, so I don’t have to reformat my hard drive. Persistence, which is a fancy way for stating that you aren’t starting from scratch and re-tweaking your computer every time it comes on, is part of the trouble I’ve had with running a PC off of a USB drive. You either need a really fast computer, or a really fast USB drive, and until USB 3.0 becomes the norm, this is an experimental means by which to run Linux, at best.
But I digress, this article is supposed to be about Windows 8. There are two problems users run into when upgrading Windows. The first is the learning curve that comes with each version of Windows. Each version of Windows has its idiosyncrasies consumers have to navigate. With Windows XP, viruses shut down the computer as soon as you turned it on. Windows ME had serious issues with the implementation of Active Desktop, which was an early attempt at tying in Internet Explorer with Windows File Manager. Active Desktop was supposed to popularize RSS, and make web pages interactive. At the end of the day Active Desktop allowed web pages to take over the operating system, and it was a nightmare.
Windows Vista attempted to make consumers versions of Windows more secure, through prompts that occurred any time a user needed to do something that would normally require administrative privileges on other operating systems. If you gave software permission to interact with Windows, that permission was only granted temporarily, for that action in question, and then privileges were revoked all over again. Running software as administrator provided privileges until the window running the software was closed.
Microsoft tried to find a way to handle administrative privileges for dummies, but the real issue with Windows Vista, was with the high memory requirements of the operating system. Windows Vista is an operating system that wants 2 GB of RAM, and a lot of people are using it on 1 GB and a few are even attempting to run it with even fewer resources. It isn’t a user friendly operating system, and is technical in ways that casual computer users should not have to comprehend. So Microsoft came out with Windows 7, which worked for most computer users. Windows 7 should have more memory than Windows Vista, but it does not cause the issues that Windows Vista did when it runs out of memory. Going above and beyond what the machine is capable of, in Windows 7, is not unlike doing so in Windows XP; you might have to wait a few seconds, but you aren’t waiting 20 minutes, like you are in Windows Vista.
In order to push sales of Microsoft decided to come out with Windows 8. This version has some really cool features whose origins can be found all the way back in Windows Vista. Instead of downloading SkyDrive and playing around with it, the functionality is already built into the operating system. Files you save on one desktop will synchronize with another desktop. File synchronization can be turned off, and you can save files directly to SkyDrive in the cloud, and access those files through a web browser. You can even view the file structure of a computer remotely through SkyDrive (but you can’t move the mouse pointer around and interface with the user interface of another computer) and save changes to their hard drive over the cloud. I can do all of this using SkyDrive on Windows Vista, but all of these great things are baked into Windows 8.
Windows 8 comes with two user environments, and that is causing a lot of confusion with veterans that are used to clicking on the Start button. If individuals can get past their aversion to the new Metro interface, they can go deeper into the operating system and see the technical innovations that differentiate Windows 8 from Windows 7, as those that like Windows 8, say its even quicker than Windows 7. But I wonder if Microsoft’s push towards the new Metro interface was misguided. Metro should have been a hidden setting in the operating system that users found through their exploration of this new software. It never should have been put in front of consumers that aren’t sure what to do with it. The last time this happened in personal computing, Unity was thrust in front of Ubuntu users. If you have 2 GB of RAM and Unity does not bring your system to a complete halt, and you become acquainted with it, you love the interface, but if you prefer an old fashioned Start button you hate it. Unity can be turned off, just like Windows 8 can boot up into a traditional Start screen, but attempts at navigating the new interface frustrate users, and they don’t want to find out how to regain old functionality on their new equipment, they want to go back to the old, tried and true version of their operating system.
From a security standpoint, Windows Vista is all most users need. The issues people have had with computer viruses on earlier versions of Windows I never had with Windows Vista. From a functionality standpoint, Windows XP is okay, but it pales in comparison with Windows 7, which has all of the security advantages of Windows Vista, plus better indexing, and a modern user interface that is lacking in Windows XP, which was an older “turn of the millennium” operating system from 2001. Once you get used to Windows 7, you simply will not want to deal with Windows XP anymore.
The advantages to Windows 8, over Windows 7, will not be apparent to most users. Technical people would write about them, but since people are still complaining about Windows 8, why get into this fine details. Do you really want to hear about improved USB 3.0 support, Advanced Format, the fact that Windows Defender now has antivirus capabilities SmartGlass, or SmartScreen? I didn’t think so; in fact, while technicians might applaud Microsoft for finally integrating Windows Defender with Microsoft Security Essentials, the average user could care less. People want to hear about what is wrong with Microsoft Windows, but every new version of Windows has both integrated existing third party software tricks into the operating system and provide newer, cutting edge, experimental functionality that doesn’t exist in other operating systems at the time of release. Someone out there actually likes Windows 8. Unfortunately, they’re not speaking with the same passion those that hate Windows 8 are.