The Truth: Windows 8 DOES Improve on the Windows 7 Desktop Experience

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from the anti-Windows 8 crowd is that the desktop was largely ignored and the only real change in Windows 8 is the new start screen and other touch features. I have a question for people that are sticking behind this idea, have you actually used Windows 8?

I can already here the potential rebuttal here, “Yes I used it. Sure, there are a few changes, but not enough to warrant a new version. In the past, Microsoft would have just made this a Service Pack or something”.

Okay. Maybe. Still, think back to Windows Vista. What changed in Windows 7? From a desktop aesthetic view, we had the new taskbar that used grouped icons and somewhat resembled a dock.

Other major improvements included improved desktop search, integrated remote access, vastly improved security features, updated and improved UAC, better driver support and much faster overall performance.

Windows 7 is also more optimized than Windows Vista and runs better on the exact same hardware. There are other changes, but these are some of the big hitters.

That’s what a sizable update to the ‘desktop’ OS looks like, right?

With that in mind, let’s look at Windows 8 desktop, tossing out anything that is too touch-oriented and cloud-oriented. A pure look at the desktop and nothing else:

Windows 8 – Changes to the Desktop

Windows 7 received major accolades for being a speedy update to Windows Vista that could run faster on the same hardware than the older operating system. You know what? Windows 8 does the same.

You can take Windows 8 and it will happily chug along with good speed on just about any hardware you throw at it. In fact, just about any PC made in the last decade will run perfectly fine if you have a decent amount of RAM on board.

Not only this, but the start-up and shut-down times are dramatically faster. The boot time in Windows 8 can be as little as 6 seconds, depending on your hardware. A while back, I tested it with an early Pentium 4 build that barely met requirements and it still managed to load up in about 20 seconds or so.

A good start, but not enough. What else is there?

Virus Protection. For the first time ever, you are protected with built-in virus protection from day one. Sure, Windows Defender ( with the addition of malware and anti-virus in Windows 8) isn’t as capable as offerings from companies like Norton, but it is a heck of a lot better than going without any protection.

Power efficiency. The new UI isn’t as flashy as Windows 7. It’s not about eye candy as much as it is about being power efficient. This might not matter to desktop users, but it does to a laptop user.

Windows 8 will help with your battery life. Sure, it is not going to add an additional 4 hours or anything, but you will likely notice the difference. On my HP laptop I saw that the battery seemed to last about 30-45 minutes longer than I remember it getting with Windows 7— mileage probably varies there though.

This isn’t HUGE, but it is still an improvement.

Changes to file explorer. File explorer has been changed with the new ribbon approach. Not everyone is going to like this change but it can improve how you get things done.

Business and power user improvements. From the new BitLocker and Windows to Go, there are true improvements for the Enterprise version. There is also a new menu that you can get by clicking on the right mouse button where the start orb used to be.

This gives you access to Event Viewer, System and a lot of other tools quickly and easily.

Summing it up…

There are many more little tweaks and changes in the desktop for Windows 8, but this gives you an idea that there are very real changes that have nothing to do with a cloud-based or touch-based future.

Yes, you have to put up with the Start Screen. Honestly though, the enhancements here make the initial inconvenience worth it. Plus, the annoyance goes away quickly and soon you find yourself used to it.

In fact, I was using Windows 7 recently and tried to do something only to realize, “Wait… I can’t access stuff this way… this isn’t Windows 8”.

Give it time, give it a try. You will soon find that the idea of ‘no changes to the desktop’ is completely and utterly false. What do you think of Windows 8, agree that it adds a big change to the desktop or not?

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