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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  • Adrian

    I agree, there’s lots of improvements to the desktop. There’s also system-wide spellcheck and improved task manager and file copying. It’s just a shame that only Surface RT will be ready for the holiday season. I want a Surface Pro, since I’m a developer and I doubt there’ll be Dreamweaver and Photoshop apps available in the Windows Store anytime soon.

    • Andrew_Grush

      I was going to mention system-wide spellcheck in the article and totally spaced it out!Thanks for bringing it up in the comments, though.

  • AK

    Strange I think the Windows 8 UI is quite flashy…I am just about bored with the Windows 7 interface 🙂

    • Andrew_Grush

      I dunno… I honestly miss the glass. Don’t get me wrong, I like Windows 8 A LOT… but the transparent glass suited me for some reason.

  • Jose Herradez

    I do like how windows are trying to fix what they’ve done wrong, that’s what is all about, so i really will give it a chance, windows has always been there for users and that won’t change 🙂

    • Andrew_Grush

      At least you are willing to give it a shot, which says a lot. 🙂

      So many people I’ve encountered spew hate about it without even having tried it. If they legitimately hate it after a few weeks of using it- I can respect that.

  • Richard Edge

    Andrew, I encountered the same thing as you after restoring my Asus tablet back to W7. I went to do something that was natural on my previous W8 preview install and realized I couldn’t. I also tried a swipe to get the Windows 8 Start screen back forgetting I was on Windows 7 now. 🙂

    Looking forward to the Windows 8 release so I can upgrade to the release version properly. That was my reason for factory resetting.

    • Andrew_Grush

      It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to new versions of Windows— even ones as dramatically different as Windows 8. The same thing happened to me when converting from 3.x to 95, 95 to 98, etc.

      I never really ‘miss’ the old versions all that much. The only version I truly loved for some reason was Windows 2000 PRO. Still have an old laptop I occasionally mess around with that has Win2kPro loaded up on it. 🙂

  • 123321

    great article! thanks 😉

    • Andrew_Grush

      Thanks for reading. Much appreciated! 🙂

  • DigitalWolf

    I disagree that Windows 8 security is not as good as alternatives like Norton. i’ve exclusively used Microsoft Security essentials for over a year and I’ve found it to be fantastic over the paid alternatives, and so do many others.

    Windows 8 has mse built in to the OS. and in the time I’ve been using windows 8 I’ve never had an issue.

    meanwhile Norton gave me quite a few.

    • Andrew_Grush

      I actually have used Microsoft Security Essentials from pretty much day one… so you are probably right. I suppose that paid solutions still have the ‘reputation’ of being better though. Honestly– I have NEVER had a paid antivirus and have done just fine.

      So yah, you are likely 100% correct sir. 🙂 Guess I was just trying to be diplomatic to anti-virus companies that might hunt me down and beat me with sticks… lol

      • DigitalWolf

        ah screw em, their software has been slowing down computers for far too long!

  • jpal12

    my old laptop with 512MB RAM, and a pentium mobile single core 2.8GHz has booted in 7 seconds with the windows 8 consumer preview.

    • Andrew_Grush

      Not surprising at all. Windows 8 runs smoothly… though I’m curious– how well did the start screen actually navigate/work with such little RAM?

  • MachX

    I have used all versions of windows since the time windows came into business, I just love the way they have evolved and as said technology will always win, Honestly I have never used any anti-virus on my pc while running windows 7. Windows 8 is surely gona kick the ass of mountain lion OS X. Hoping for the release soon October 26th. Cheers!! All hail Bill Gates. One person changed the world of computers.