Windows 8 Survival Guide

Started Dec 14, 2012 | Discussions thread
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skyglider
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Windows 8 Survival Guide
Dec 14, 2012

Microsoft is selling Windows 8 Pro as a download for $39.99 until January 31, 2013. If you're wondering if you should take advantage of this introductory offer or whether to buy a new PC with Win8 or Win7, I hope sharing my experience can help you out. Please realize that these are just "MY" personal feelings as a first time user of Win8 and should not be interpreted as attacks if you like Win8. If you don't like reading negative comments about Win8, please stop reading now.

Will refer to "Windows 8 Pro" as Win8 in the following narrative. Will refer to Win8's user interface as Metro (although that name has been dropped by Microsoft).

When I decided to install a solid state drive (SSD) in my aging Dell Studio 1537 laptop, I had to decide whether to reinstall Vista or buy a copy of Win8. With many negative reviews and posts on the web, I was reluctant to buy Win8. I wasn't sure if Win8 would be compatible with the software that I was running in Vista (and on my Win7 tower PC). And I wasn't sure if I could get used to Win8's Metro interface. I took the plunge and bought an intro copy of Win8 Pro.

INSTALLATION:
Win8 clean installed in the 256GB SSD smoothly without glitches. I was pleased that it loaded all of the drivers for my Studio 1537 laptop without my having to hunt for, download and install all of the drivers myself. The screen, built-in optical drive, built-in touch pad, USB ports, eSATA port, Ethernet port, HDMI port and two audio out jacks all worked.

When I played youtube videos using the Ethernet cable, they all played fine. However when I played the same youtube videos using wireless, the data throughput was too slow causing halts every 5 to 10 seconds even at low resolutions. After some web research, I downloaded and installed a Dell wireless driver and was then able to play youtube videos at any resolution without problems. (There can be halting using wired or wireless due to internet routing but refreshing and getting a different path allows the video to play smoothly.)

THE WIN8 USER INTERFACE:
Win8 first opens to its Metro UI. I clicked on the calendar app and the calendar opened full screen. But there was nothing to click to close the calendar or minimize it. I fooled around but was lost. Had to Google on my Win7 PC to learn that to close a Win8 app, the mouse cursor has to be moved to the top of the screen until it changes to a hand. Then drag down to the bottom of the screen and out to close the app.

I clicked on the Music app and an xbox music app opened. One choice was a Glee sample so I clicked that. Music from Glee started playing but no controls were displayed. The audio was a bit soft but no volume control on screen. Fortunately my laptop has hardware volume controls so I was able to increase the volume that way. I have no idea how one would do that on a desktop with a keyboard that does not have volume controls. .... Now how do I pause the video??? Not even a pause icon. Moved the mouse all around the screen but nada. Finally clicked the screen and then some controls appeared as < o > where the o is the pause icon. The < icon restarts the music. The > did nothing. I felt as if my powerful computer had become a kids toy.

No controls on the Metro UI. Googled again and learned that the mouse cursor has to be moved to the corners of the screen to display additional controls. Moved the cursor to the corners and nothing happened. Then discovered that the cursor has to be moved to the very corner of the screen, like about 1/16 inch from the corner on my screen, for the controls to pop out.

I looked for a way to shutdown or restart. Could not find it. Mousing to the bottom left corner brought up a desktop icon so I clicked it and the Metro UI was replaced with a blank desktop. Moused to the corners but still could not see a way to shutdown or restart. Moused to the bottom left corner and clicked a Start icon displayed but clicking the Start icon just brought me back to the Metro UI. ..... Back to Googling again. Learned that one must mouse to a right corner to display the "charms" icons, click the Settings icon, click the power icon and then the options to restart or shutdown were displayed.

By this time I was feeling really sorry I bought Win8. Things looked and worked as if I had just bought a toy computer for a child with none of the in depth power that I'm used to with Vista and Win7.

*** I did learn .... by Googling again (more time searching) .... that by right clicking in the bottom left corner, a list of nice options appear which includes Device Manager, Disk Management, Command prompt, Task Manager, File Explorer (the normal windows explorer), search and a few more options. This is a nice touch that Win8 has.

But I couldn't find a way to see and run all of the things that are in a normal Windows Start menu because there is no usual Windows start menu! .... Darn, what was Microsoft thinking?

.... More Googling ... and I learned that the development version of Win8 had a registry option to enable the usual Windows start menu. But Microsoft decided to remove that functionality for the release version of Win8. .... Darn, what were they thinking?

THE CLASSIC SHELL:
Now I was about to shelve Win8, re-install Vista on my laptop and accept the $40 loss. But during all of the Googling that I had to do, I had read about third party software that could simulate the normal Windows start menus. So I decided to give Win8 one last chance. I installed the "Classic Shell" which is free. ...... Amazing! Win8 was transformed to a normal Windows computer with a Start icon in the task bar. I always liked the XP start menu so I selected that. ... The taskbar using the Classic Shell includes the quick launch area, task area and notification area like it always has. Very nice indeed!

Running the Classic Shell, on power up Win8 boots directly into the desktop with the Start icon in the bottom left corner. Clicking the Start icon brings up all of the usual Start menu stuff and mousing to "Programs" displays all of the installed normal windows applications. Well, now we're getting someplace!!!

I tried to right click in the bottom left corner to bring up the nice list of links (see *** above) but that no longer works with the Classic Shell's task bar at the bottom of the screen. But no problem. Just press the Windows key + X and that nice list of links displays.

Since computer monitors are so wide now, I like the Window's taskbar on the right side of the screen instead of at the bottom. I moved the taskbar to the right side and it worked! Great! ... As a bonus, with the taskbar on the right side, clicking in the bottom left corner works as normal Win8. IOW, left clicking goes to the Metro UI and right clicking brings up that nice list of links.

Now that I'm thinking I'll keep using Win8, I installed most of my usual applications. I put the shortcuts to the applications on the desktop the way I always did in previous versions of Windows and they all work the same way. One glance at the desktop shows every application without having to scroll the screen to see more apps as in the Metro UI. One click on a desktop icon to launch any application. I pinned my favorite icons to the quick launch area of the taskbar as I did on my Win7 PC and that worked the same way.

The Start icon has the Shutdown option in it again... hooray! But I've always put shortcuts on my desktop to restart or shutdown so I did that. With those shortcuts I can restart or shutdown with one click on the icon.

SOFTWARE COMPATIBILITY:
To buy the intro version of Win8, one must run Microsoft's Compatibility Assistant which will list the software that is not compatible with Win8, and check the hardware for compatibility. In my case, Win8 said that Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Visual C++ Express 2010 are not compatible with Win8. But Chris Lofty posted that MS Office 2000 installed in his Win8 fine so that convinced me to buy Win8.

I was able to install MS Office 2000 and MS Visual C++ Express 2010 successfully and both run fine so far. I can't fathom why the Win8 Compatibility Assistant said that they both were not compatible.

CONCLUSIONS:
My laptop now boots directly into the desktop and everything works just like it does in Win7. Any Win7 user could power on my laptop and never know that Win8 is the OS.
There are pros to running Win8 as the OS. Win8 boots and shuts down faster than Win7. It only costs $39.99 until 1/31/13.

My conclusion is that if you've been wondering if Win8 will work for you, there's no need to wonder. Just install Win8 along with the Classic Shell. Use Win8 just like you would Win7. Any differences between Win8 + Classic Shell and Win7 are so minute that they are negligible.

I also conclude that any program that installs and runs in Win7 Home Premium (what I'm running in my tower PC) will also install and run in Win8 Pro. My current thought is that Win8 is really Win7 with the Metro UI added on and the Win7 Start menu disabled. As such, anything that runs in Win7 Home Premium will run in Win8 Pro. .... The reason why Win8 boots faster than Win7 is that MS is using a type of hibernation to minimize boot time checks. (What I've read anyway)

So go buy Win8 for $39.99 before January 31, 2013 and save some cash!

Best regards,
Sky

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