Eight good reasons to upgrade to Windows 8

First in a series. A lot of people are on the fence when it comes to Microsoft’s forthcoming OS. The Modern (formerly Metro) UI has made some previously enthusiastic Windows devotees reluctant to upgrade and, to be fair, it’s easy to understand why. But there’s much more to Windows 8 than just its touch-friendly but slightly clunky Start screen. If you’ve yet to make up your mind about upgrading, maybe some of these new features will sway you.

Earlier this week, colleague Martin Brinkmann identified "10 Windows 8 features you should know about". I've got eight more. In a companion post to this one, colleague Mihaita Bamburic gives "Eight reasons why Windows 8 is NOT for you".


1. Boot up speed. One problem that’s always dogged Windows is how long it takes to go from a cold boot to a usable state. I stripped down Windows 7, removed everything I could from the boot process, and upgraded to a SSD just to get it loading in what I consider an acceptable time-frame. If you can’t be bothered to do all that, the good news is Windows 8 loads much, much faster, even when dual booting.

2. Refresh/Reset. This great feature lets you reset Windows to the factory settings, useful in case of a malware infection, or if you just want a clean start. Refresh keeps all of your user profiles, data and apps in place, while wiping programs you’ve installed. Reset is much more extreme and clears out all of your personal files and apps, and changes the PC’s settings to the defaults.

3. File History. I’m a big fan of this new inclusion, which is a combination of Previous Versions and Windows Backup, and protects your files against corruption or unwanted changes. It monitors common locations, like Libraries and the Desktop, and when it detects a change to a file, automatically makes a backup to your choice of location (which includes SkyDrive and networked drives). You can set how long File History should keep versions of all the changed files.

4. Windows Defender. The new Defender is really a tweaked version of Microsoft Security Essentials, the company’s standalone antivirus tool.  It’s fairly basic, especially when compared to other free alternatives, but really is about time Microsoft had proper built-in antivirus protection.

5. Windows account synchronization. Linking your Microsoft account to the OS means all your apps and preferences can be saved to the cloud, allowing them to be synchronized across any other devices you have running Windows 8. If you don’t have a Microsoft account you can quickly set one up.

6. Improved file management. When you copy or move a file in Windows 8, you are presented with a graph showing the transfer speed and a regularly updated completion estimate. Copy or move multiple files and they’ll be stacked up in the same window.  A big improvement over the previous system.

7. Hyper-V. The new OS comes with Hyper-V, a powerful replacement for Windows Virtual PC that you can use to run multiple guest operating systems simultaneously. Great for developers and IT professionals.

8. Storage Spaces. Windows 8 lets you use multiple connected disks (of any size) to create a pool of storage, which is treated as a single location with its own drive letter. If you start to run out of space you can simply connect another drive to the pool.

I purposely made the list two short of Martin's -- eight for Windows 8, and room for your reasons. What would you add?

Photo Credit: Pete

43 Responses to Eight good reasons to upgrade to Windows 8

  1. WebWarp says:

    File History seem to be the only improvement I care about..
    I could not feel any difference in boot up time.. But a lot of wasted time on navigating in windows.. So back on windows 7 hoping to see file historiy in SP2 (but that not likely to happen I guess)..

  2. The Muss says:

    How about opening .iso, .rar, .pdf, video-audio files natively. It was really surprising for me to not download 4-5 extra software.
    Boot time for me is 11.4 seconds on a 7200 RPM drive.

    Win8 is basically necessary upgrade

    • codebubba says:

      Why is boot-time always such a big arguing point? Who boots their system all the time? I probably only restart my main Win7 system once or twice a week (if that), otherwise the machine sleeps and comes up in seconds. For the system I do shut down (I don't use it as much) I just fire it up and go do something else for a minute while it settles down. Not a selling point to me.

      • The Muss says:

        Well I boot 2-3 times every day. It feels like I'm starting "fresh". Everything will start from scratch.

        Even those lightweight mobile OS like android or iOS doesn't boot that fast. Shutting down my laptop "saves" energy. I don't want to use electricity for standby power.

        P.S. Since I'm a school student most of the time I've big pauses between my usage.

      • codebubba says:

        Hey. I can appreciate your wanting to save power costs but, really, just close the lid on your laptop. It will "sleep" for awhile using very minimal battery power. Starts up instantly from that mode. After a longer period of time the unit will write its state to the hard drive and go into hibernation. It only takes my unit 20 or 30 seconds to come back from hibernation (after sitting overnight). You really won't notice a power cost. I'm not sure why you're booting 2-3 times per day but it's probably not necessary.

        This whole "boots fast" argument is a straw man for selling upgrades to the O/S. Even when I do restart my laptop that's, what, 2 minutes? Just get up and get a cup of Java or something! The whole reboot speed issue is a non-problem looking for a solution. Don't let Microsoft (or anyone else) convince you an upgrade is worthy just because it boots faster. This particular issue is a scam.

        Later! :-)

  3. The MAZZTer says:

    All I have to say is once Windows 8 (the second beta, not the Release Preview or RTM) decided to not boot and Refresh/Reset failed to work. I had to reinstall from scratch. So I wouldn't be so quick to put that as a bullet point without some testing.

    Windows account synchronization doesn't work for me since my Live account is associated with an e-mail address that no longer exists. I have discovered it is possible to change it without needing a verification e-mail, but you have to wait a month.

    Hyper-V is not new to Windows 8, but I guess it's first for a consumer Windows.

    Storage Spaces sounds cool, but it's limited usefulness if you intend to dual boot with Linux or an older Windows.

    Definitely solves the problem of splitting up types of files between a bunch of drives. My Steam library broke 1.5TB and at least some of the games (Valve's GCFs) do not like it when you try to move them to another drive and symlink them.

  4. psycros says:

    So your selling points are a bunch of things that 99% of users will never notice or use..all wrapped in a user-hostile package sporting a design aesthetic from 1993. Yeah, that bodes well.

    • NoMac says:

      It sure does, don't it? :)
      Win8 = Vista2.

    • AndrewC73 says:

      User hostile? How absurd. I am running Windows 8 Pro, and it is anything but user hostile. If you are in the desktop mode, it is identical to Win 7. I use my computer heavily for development and gaming, and I like Windows 8. A few things could be a bit more refined on the Metro side, but overall it's a great OS.

      • prgeno says:

        Why do people keep saying Win8 Desktop mode is identical to Win7.
        That flat out isn't true!!!

        Replacing a perfectly integrated Start Menu with the combination of the goofy and jarring jump to the Metro interface and incredibly useless and ever changing charm menu is a very different experience, and I submit far less productive.

        The integrated Search is now broken up into a hierarchy, which requires being in the right group to actually get the expected results. But on the other hand the programs groups are not hierarchical and end up spreading out all over the screen and beyond. Who came up with the lame idea of dumping something simple and useful for something so bizarre and useless?

        And just try and find the control panel item you desire. They got rid of the super efficient fly out list of the Start Menu and gave us two different control panels. One in Metro that controls both Metro and some (and only some) items effecting the desktop or system wide items. The other control panel access is the horrible method from Windows XP/Vista/7 that nobody ever liked or used, in a grouped or icon list view. You can at least change the icon size in the list (at least they left some user choice in there).

        Making the desktop experience flat out ugly is also a big difference and a very questionable idea. I get why some people might not want Aero dragging down their low power battery based devices, but why did they have to completely remove the option from users, instead forcing all of us to live in this ugly, drab new world?

        I think Windows 8 under the hood is a wonderful upgrade from Windows 7 and there is much to like about it it you don't look at its horrible UI disaster. Why did they have to waste a modern Ferrari engine by putting it into a 1991 pickup truck? I'd love to get some of the speed and new features (including Metro in the right context), but it is not worth it to me to have to put up with the horrible UI experience.

        This is such a disappointing release, and worse yet it seems to be THE future from MS. They appear to be tone deaf when it come to constructive user criticism toward their new FrankenOS.

      • rseiler says:

        re #3, Skydrive is not a backup location choice. Read the W8 blog from Jul 10, in the SkyDrive section: "File History doesn’t back up your files to the cloud."

        Anyway, @psycros, 1993, yup. If not earlier. Sad. I used a Win7 machine the other day for the first time in a couple weeks and was stunned at how attractive Glass is when coming from Win8. I'd grown accustomed to it over the years, and before trying out Win8 hadn't even really consciously thought about it for ages, but it's much more attractive than the Primitive UI (there's a replacement name for Metro that probably won't run into any copyright issues) in Win8.

        @prgeno, you really nailed how MS blew transforming the Start menu into the Start screen. That's exactly it. I hate mostly being wrong about in which section what I want out of search will end up, and don't get me started on the idiocy of a non-hierarchical Start screen filled with mostly junk icons that I have to constantly prune. Bad move.

        Worse move: not making all this stuff, including the demotion of Aero, a user choice for desktop users, even if by Registry. Yes, MS desperately wants eyeballs on Metro, and thus new apps, and thus their app store, but to do that they slit the throats of desktop users. If MS doesn't restore these things by the you-know-its-coming 2013 Windows release, then I think that will close the book on Win8 for me.

        I guess this article won't be turning up on Google anymore.

      • prgeno says:

        @rseiler, I've fought and wrestled with this ugly beast and am always finding myself having to compromise and settle for less.
        Then when I boot back into Seven the clouds clear and I find myself relieved to be back home and life is good again.
        To make matters worse, I don't even experience much of a performance boost (boot up is faster with 8, but other than that nowhere else is there anything noticeable and it might actually be a little slower in my use).
        Add to that I can't manage my Windows 2008 R2 and Hyper-V server network (why does the included Hyper-V in 8 not support managing 2008 R2 Hyper-V hosts? - Stupid!)
        If MS' intent is to force users eyeballs on Metro and the app store they will have to do without mine on a daily basis for the foreseeable future.

  5. NoMac says:

    Not worth upgrading, as Win7 suits my needs just fine, without all the added B.S!!

    • extremely_well says:

      Not worth an "upgrade" from Win7 (or earlier) machines for me, either. Their hardware isn't gonna benefit from Win8 touch-optimization...

  6. mtzyplik says:

    Windows 8 is awesome. All you whiners are missing the biggest problems with it. The apps all suck and take forever to load. No one wants to wait for programs to ramp up and go. Otherwise it's great.

    • Brett says:

      Smoke another bowl.....You must not be in IT like me..... If you were in my shoes you'd understand where it lack for end usrs in corp. america

      • mtcoder says:

        Actually it works wonders for IT, we have had a few test bed users of it, and they all love it after a small here is how to do this or that class. Heck my IT requests on windows 8 machines are down tremendiously. Usually tech call, um computer doesnt work, come fix. I go spend time and energy figuring out which toolbar they just put into IE to make it not work. Now I say refresh machine, or the users do it on their own. Poof they are back up and running and everyone happy. The only annoying piece so far is dealing with windows 8 trying to get everyone a microsoft account. Which really with enterprise edition isn't a pain at all cause it installs looking for the domain and key servers etc. It is a bigger learning curve on how to block stuff but its not bad once you get your group policy updated to manage windows 8. I do wish the apps would load faster but on the flip side you never really ever need to close them. Microsofts app resource swapping and suspension is best I have seen in the industry to date. I can run and keep open about 30 times more programs than I can with windows 7 cause of the suspension it does even when with desktop applications.

  7. Joco says:

    This Windows 8 tablet will go no where. It will die by itself. At first the OS is lean and may take a few GBs. After a years or two of system and software updates & service packs, the space used on the hard drive will grow to the point that you'll need 30 GB for the system to boot.

    A 16 GB tablet containing WINDOWS? It's barely enough to display the login screen. If you want to go further than the login screen, go with model having 128GB + 4 GB RAM and a huge external hard drive is recommended.

  8. bibleverse1 says:

    If I was in the market for a new PC or laptop these points might sway me. I am not conviced it is necessary to upgrade an existing Win 7 to Win 8 by these points.

  9. Neoprimal says:

    I would suggest that even if you don't plan to upgrade now, you buy a few copies at the reduced price before it goes to full price in Feb. You can whine on about how bad you think it is now and then change your mind. There's nothing worse than hearing mega whiners go on and on about how expensive it is after they've missed the "window" (ha!) in which they could have purchased it for less. I know plenty who also swore of 7 because it was "Vista SP2" and then scrambled to buy it a few months after it hit the shelf.

  10. Anthony Clark says:

    Not good enough reasons. Sorry.

    Still a pass for me.

  11. nilst2011 says:

    It sure has some great features, but with "Metro" (or whatever the UI is named today) it is a no way ! I just don't like it. I have really tried to like it, but nope ! I stay with Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP3, Windows XP x64 SP2, Vista x64 SP2. Just like them a lot more, and they are more suitable for me.

  12. Brett says:

    I applaud the one liner NoMac!

  13. The ONLY reason I upgraded is to be available to develop apps for 'Windows UI' which I am not yet convinced is viable; But I am creating a couple apps for when the Surface RT comes out....

  14. Guest says:

    1. Boot up speed.
    2. Refresh/Reset.

    These are the only improvements I see in this article.

  15. James Curran says:

    "Refresh keeps all of your user profiles, data and apps in place, while wiping programs you’ve installed."
    Could you clarify the difference between the "apps" is keeps and the "programs" it wipes?

    • mtcoder says:

      It clears apps installed and most programs. Sorta the old roll back feature that has been in windows for years, but on a global nuclear level. But for the "apps" they are nesstled in the "MyApps" tab of the app market place and you tell it to instal all of them again, and it pulls a fresh copy down. This is really less painful than it might sound. For your traditional programs, they are uninstalled, and depending on how they were built settings within them will need redone. Reset pretty much says reinstall cause I foobarred this thing hard. Windows then basically takes it's original install ISO and runs a clean install against it. 99.999% of the time though a refresh can take care a really nasty virus / malware without to much pain and suffering from a user. Granted it's a pain to redo your computer but it's nice for the average joe to "repair" their computer without paying Tim's computer exchange 150 bucks to basically do a refresh.

  16. Nahima says:

    Everything that you just said could be done as a service pack update. No reason to update.

    • mtcoder says:

      except the whole file system on the back end sorta got an overhaul, windows 8 doesn't run on the ancient windows nt from 30 years ago, and a bunch of other backwards incompatiable changes. the "windows desktop aka windows7" inside of windows 8 is actually a built in hyper-V of windows 7 running inside of windows 8. Windows 8 is really not backwards friendly at all. However in a bit of brilliance they stuffed a special windows 7 version into hyper-V to make windows 8 appear to be backwards compatiable. Which techinically it is everything you can run today will work with windows 8. But not at the level you are thinking it might. So no a service pack won't work, but to your worry, 40 bucks to upgrade not a big deal. It's what Apple charges it's users for it's service packs, so...

      • maw136 says:

        You are so wrong I could not even comprehend. First, Windows 8 kernel is not a completely new kernel it is just optimized and evolved version of windows 7 kernel which belongs to the Windows NT family kernels, yes there is a lot of code that was written in 1991-1993 inside the Windows 8 (6.2) kernel. Second, the desktop and the start screen are both implemented by explorer.exe and its dependencies (dlls). Third, the Hyper-V is the hypervisor from windows server and is a thin layer inbetween kernel and hal, it is vm engine and can be used to emulate XP mode from Windows 7 and run any other OS supported, it is NOT repeat NOT used to 'emulate' desktop 'mode' the desktop and the modern UI are both first class citizens in Windows 8. UI is very far away (in programming sense) from the kernel and can be impleted in countless ways. Modern Style (Metro) apps are drawn by DIrectX 2D/3D directly (in theory) and Desktop apps are mainly drawn by GDI which is implemented with Direct2D (from Windows 7 onwards) and Direct 2D is a layer atop Direct 3D. The architecture of Windows NT operating system lives in Windows 8 the same as it lived in Windows 7 and so forth. The Win RT API is just a glorified/hated COM/DCOM with new metadata format (winmd) which (what I understand) does not rely on registry as previous versions of COM. It is good that MS finally understood that Windows required newer NATIVE API not a manager one, on the other hand it would be really good that RT had more than one level of 'separation'. At least for know it cannot fully replace previous APIs that are available in Windows 8.
        I hope my English is not so bad, hail to grammar nazi.

      • maw136 says:

        Go educate yourself before posting such BS!

  17. darkninja962 says:

    I see a lot of people disagree with the new Metro UI, but my favorite part about that are the App Contracts. Being able to search an app, or even better, using an app to open files is a really nice feature. While I do think the new UI stuff can be polished a bit more, after one good session it didn't matter anymore to me.

  18. Will_Rubin says:

    This blog post paid for by a grant from the Microsoft Corporation.

  19. mtcoder says:

    I love how everyone wants to bash the Ui. When instead of metro UI you will create a bunch of desktop shortcuts to all the key things you need and click on them, to get what you want. Oh yeah so different from win 8 UI. That is the funny thing 99% of all users use their older "desktop" in the exact manner that windows 8 makes the default user experience and people complain about it. Now there are a few unusual pieces like the charms menu, but once you get use to it, its not bad at all. The biggest thing for me to teach people is to right click to open the context menu, which is exactly what we do in todays world, but they aren't use to seeing it open below or that it now has unlimited abilities when you right click for your context menu. Also as other posts have pointed out what do you do in windows7. You hit start key type what you want and hit enter, same is with starting an application in windows 8. I have watched people for decades, press the show desktop key so they can minimize all their open apps and get to their desktop to click on a short cut. Windows 8 does just that exact process. I had to prove it to a few people at work. I sat a windows 7 machine and a windows 8 machine, next to each other, had people watch. The windows 7 user would do something and I would do the exact same thing, in windows 8, and low and behold a light bulb went off. The UI's are exactly the same and mimic each other exactly. The only difference is windows 8 made the icons bigger so you can use them with touch devices. OMG how horrible. But really sit down and think about how you interact with your windows 7 desktop and ask how is windows 8 any different, if you take an open mind honest approach you will find its not different at all.

    • Adam Smith says:

      Interesting comment which is self defeating. "if you take an open mind honest approach you will find (Windows 8) not different at all (to Windows 7)".
      Thats why the majority of Enterprise will be avoiding upgrading to Windows 8, and why the general public will again, like with Vista, argue that the upgrade has too many flaws over the current Windows 7/XP status quo

  20. Sohaib says:

    in my laptop windows 8 auto install drivers and show message no need to update .....

  21. guru_v says:

    1. Boot up speed. One problem that’s always dogged Windows is how long it takes to go from a cold boot to a usable state.

    This has been shown by several tech journalists to NOT be true. The speed gains on similar hardware are minimal - this is a place where only the previous offerings of of the writer kept me reading on, as usually when I spot a major blunder in a piece, all reading, and even contemplating, stops. [Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDNet has shown the speed gains as minimal a couple of times at least.]

    2. Refresh/Reset.

    Great, if it works as advertised. If not, just a snipe hunt.

    3. File History.

    Nice idea, for those with unlimited storage. For the rest of us, not so much.

    4. Windows Defender.

    Likely the first thing to be rendered inactive, as Microsoft can't seem to get this right with any iteration of Windows Security Essentials thus far, and Defender has been shown to not play nicely with other security programs installed.

    5. Windows account synchronization.

    Nice idea - at first. Not everyone has unlimited space, or gigabit internet speeds, or quad core processors - so when the synchronization begins to take place, and the machine slows to a crawl, there will be some unhappy customers. Plus, how many people will upgrade ALL of their machines to WIndows 8, just to get this feature? Nice try, Microsoft.

    6. Improved file management.

    All fluff, no filling. The Windows Explorer still sucks, and is easily outdone by any number of other [and many free] alternatives. If Microsoft wishes to impress me, they'll come up with a multi-window file manager that does the job of at least one free alternative.

    7. Hyper-V.

    Useful to less than 5% of the user base.

    8. Storage Spaces.

    Again, of limited usefulness to anyone who cares about the safety of their files.

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  23. Aimen Yemen says:

    i like trying new things , especially new software , and a new OS is just what im looking for , luckly , im getting the windows 8 for $14.99 because i purchased a laptop in July , i cant wait for the upgrade .

  24. PatM says:

    I just had the activation key on win 7 corrupted which is forcing me into a reload. I look back over the years at how many times I've had to reload windows because of various different reasons, then i look at the experience that my wife has had with her Mac and I wonder why I want to reload win 7, or even continue with another Microsoft O/S. Doctor, doctor, it hurts! Then quit doing that! While I'm not a big Mac fan, i do like linux. That will be my primary O/S going forward. Unfortunately i can't get away from windows, but that is what a VM is for, correct?

  25. doesn't it seem like the ideal user for this operating system is someone with a touch screen pc and a windows tablet? that makes sense to me but i have neither.

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