Dan the Computer Man

Your Computer's Best Friend
In-home computer repair in the San Antonio area

Windows 8

Should I upgrade to Windows 8?

No. Don't put new wine in old bottles. Just buy a new computer with Windows 8 already on it. As a rule, I never recommend upgrading from any version of Windows to any newer version of Windows.

Upgrading Windows is a major upheaval; even if the process seems easy for the owner, the programs rarely carry over smoothly with the new operating system. You would get better results by erasing and starting fresh. But why would you bother? A newer version of Windows will demand more work of an older, slower computer. That means the same computer will be slower after the upgrade.

Should I get a Windows 8 computer?

If it's time for a new computer, get one. Don't be afraid of Windows 8. It will be a transition, but I can help make it easy.

Windows 8 is the only version you can find in stores. However, if you need Windows 7, you can still get it if you order a new computer from a major manufacturer's website (e.g., Dell, HP, etc.).

Is Windows 8 so bad?

In technical terms, there is nothing at all wrong with Windows 8. But the user interface (what you see and how you get around in Windows) is so different that it can be a jarring and disorienting experience. But when you understand just two changes in Windows, it's pretty straightforward. With a little help, the transition from Windows XP, Vista, or 7 can be pretty easy.

Why is Windows 8 so different?

Windows 8 uses a mix of 2 different interfaces: the plain old desktop windows that everyone has been using for many years, and new full-screen apps. Microsoft's rationale is to provide one universal operating system interface for all devices: desktop and laptop computers, touch screens, tablet computers, and phones.

Really, that's the reason for the differences: touch screens. Windows 8 is perfect for touch screens, but the new stuff doesn't always make sense with a keyboard and mouse.

What's different in Windows 8?

The two major differences are the Start Menu and full-screen apps.
  • When you turn on a Windows 8 computer, you see the new Start Screen with tiles representing programs. If you click the one that says Desktop, you get to the familiar Desktop with icons, a taskbar, and a clock. But no Start Menu in the corner.
  • Some programs are designed as full-screen apps like on a cell phone or tablet computer. They fill the screen so thoroughly that you cannot see an X at the top to close it, or the taskbar and clock at the bottom to do something else.

How can Windows 8 be made easier and more comfortable?

  • Start Menu

    Start Screen. From the Desktop, it's hard to know how to find anything because of the missing Start Menu. Really it's there, but it's just hidden until you move the mouse to the upper right corner and click the Windows logo that appears. But that's the Start Screen again, not the familiar Start Menu.

    Restore the Start Menu. Fortunately, the regular Start Menu can be put back in with a very helpful program. Classic Shell is a free program that restores a replica of the good old Start Menu that we know and love, so we can find our way around the computer!

  • Full-Screen Apps

    My approach to full-screen apps is twofold: Understand how to close them in the event you get stuck in one, and avoid them in the first place if you can.

    Close Them. If you move the mouse to the top of the screen, the cursor becomes a hand. Click and drag all the way to the bottom of the screen to close the full-screen app.

    Avoid Them. If you just use other programs instead, you can accidentally encounter these full-screen apps less often. In Control Panel, the Default Programs area lets you decide which program comes up when you click a document or picture. For example, when you click a picture, use Windows Photo Viewer (a regular program) rather than Pictures (a full-screen app).

Where can I get more information on Windows 8?

See my Tips page with links to a helpful book, and to Microsoft's videos on Windows 8 Basics and Getting Started With Windows 8.