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Does Windows 8 suck?
June 3, 2014 8:02 AM   Subscribe

I need a new laptop for school/writing/scientific programming/mefiting. I will be spending a lot of time on buses so I need it to be light. I've always had a PC but may switch to a Mac since I heard that Windows 8 sucks. Does it?

Everything I read is that it is really different from Windows 7, and is optimized for a tablet. The start screen doesn't even look like Windows. Price is a big factor--does windows 8 suck so much that the hundreds of dollars I will save from buying a PC over a Mac make it not worth it?
posted by MisantropicPainforest to Computers & Internet (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
It took some getting used to but I don't hate it anymore. Once you click off the tablet style start screen it looks just like previous windows versions.

I hate the default pdf and picture viewer since I can't figure out how to close them but I have others programs that I use as the default openers for those files now so it doesn't affect me.

I did have to google how to shut down my computer so clearly that wasn't intuitive but now that I know where that menu is it makes sense.

I use it on a normal laptop, some people at work have the touchscreen Lenovos and they HATE them and our IT department is slowly switching them out because they have been really poor performers. No problems on the non-touchscreen version though.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:10 AM on June 3


From my years of earning the Family Tech Support Merit Badge, you will easy spend any price-tag savings in anti-virus software, hours lost removing virii and adware that got in despite the anti-virus software, hours lost figuring out why things won't talk to the network, hours paid to the Best Buy Geek Squad, and, finally, in more actual dollars because the hardware is crappy and fails faster + "it's been slow ever since you fixed that paper jam."

Windows 8 will be such a shift for you anyway, that moving to Mac shouldn't be too difficult. I'd guess that the weirdest thing will be the difference in placement/function of the "control" key--on a Mac, it's the "command" key--but if that's irritating to you, you can actually switch their functions pretty asily.
posted by mimi at 8:13 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


Some people like it, some people don't. After a while, any operating system will become usable.

Depending on what programming you're doing, you may prefer having a Unix-based system. I certainly like my Mac much more than I ever enjoyed using Windows PCs.
posted by katrielalex at 8:14 AM on June 3


It's not that big of a difference from seven to eight, in my opinion. You're no more likely to get viruses or have things not work than you are on any other version of Windows--if these aren't things that you struggle with now, I can't imagine that they will be in the future.

It took me maybe three days to get used to Win8, and now I don't think about it at all. The default boot to Metro screen was moderately annoying, but you can disable that now, and even without disabling it, once you clicked Desktop, everything was pretty much the same. I really don't get what all the hate is about.
posted by MeghanC at 8:20 AM on June 3 [6 favorites]


Windows 8 is fine. Most of the complaints are either hyperbole or the standard thing that happens whenever some company changes their UI. That said, I have to admit, if you're looking for a light machine that you're going to spend a lot of time typing on, I heartily recommend a Macbook Air. The keyboard is just significantly better than any of the lightest Windows machines out there. The trackpad is definitely the best. And, having just gotten back on a 5-hour bus ride that I used it from beginning-to-end, I can say it's comfortable, and I didn't even have to plug it in because the battery life is tops. That, more than the OS difference, is probably worth the extra.
posted by General Malaise at 8:21 AM on June 3


I used Startisback ($3) right after installing windows 8 on my new machine, and it runs just like the windows you are using now. No "metro" screen and the start button is back (obviously). Also, it loads up even faster than Win 7 did, and I've had no compatibility issues with it.

So you can spend a buttload more on the computer and learn a new OS, or you can save on the computer and spend $3 more and not have to learn a new OS.
posted by Grither at 8:21 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I use Classic Shell to get rid of the Metro/new start screen, as well as the charm bar. (I've heard 8.1 gives the option of getting rid of the Metro screen entirely, but I'm still running 8.0.) Once I did that, Windows 8 became my favorite OS since XP (and I ran Vista and 7). It boots fast and generally leaves me alone, with minimal prompts and dialogue boxes. On a completely shallow note, I like how customizable the color scheme is. I wouldn't go back to 7.
posted by coast99 at 8:23 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


you will easy spend any price-tag savings in anti-virus software
Microsoft offers free anti-virus software for Windows.
posted by soelo at 8:23 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


The Windows 8.1 update has really made it easier to ignore the tablet-ish features, and to make it a little more like Windows 7. You can set it to boot to the desktop and basically ignore the start screen. 8.1 is a bit more stable than Windows 7 as well. It does push you to use a Microsoft account which I find annoying (but no more so than having an Apple ID), but you can just skip that and make a regular user account (not linked to anything online).

As to viruses, if you're not in the habit of visiting weird websites and downloading random stuff on the internet, just run the built-in Windows Defender. I actually don't run anything, not even Defender, but I don't do that much downloading. If you are worried, you can install one of these.
posted by bluefly at 8:25 AM on June 3


You're basically asking a religious question here.

Personally, I like Windows 8 a lot. I think it's fast and logical, and I know how to use Google to figure out things that aren't obvious. Once I learned the quirks, I found it very satisfying to use.

Many people don't like it. Partly I think this is leftover knee-jerk rejection of anything Microsoft does and/or irrational reverence for Apple, but it does seem like a pretty big change from previous Windows versions at first glance. It's very understandable that most people immediately don't like it, although I've noticed that folks who give it a fair shot come around eventually.

-1 for the part of mimi's answer about viruses, etc. Windows 8 is not a magical virus magnet, and Macs are not magical virus repellants. Your usage patterns will determine whether you get viruses, how many, and how severe they are.
posted by Dilligas at 8:27 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I was hesitant to get a Win 8 laptop to replace my beloved Mac Book Pro, but I couldn't afford it. Classic Shell brought back a familiar environment (I had a woefully under powered Win 7 netbook). I've spent exactly 0 dollars on Antivirus in the last 10+ years. Avast is good enough for my software engineer brother, it's good enough for me. Malware Bytes is on my machine too, but I rarely run it (as in when I think about it, which has been once in the last month). I don't visit shady sites or download random crap. My user account is a limited one. I bought the most future proof laptop I could find (happens to be a Toshiba with a current gen i7, 8 gigs of RAM and a 1 TB HD).

Long story short, Win 8 isn't that bad and I saved a boatload of money over a similar spec Mac.
posted by kathrynm at 8:29 AM on June 3


you will easy spend any price-tag savings in anti-virus software
Microsoft offers free anti-virus software for Windows.
posted by soelo at 11:23 AM on June 3 [+] [!]


Windows 8 has its own built in version called Windows Defender. Total crap, just like Security Essentials, it misses a lot of SpyWare and AdWare. If you go the Win 8 route you should add SpyBot and AdAware to your arsenal of anti Malware.
posted by Gungho at 8:37 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


My daughter is on Windows 7, but she has asked for a MacBook Pro to take to college in August, based on using my work laptop for an hour, once. Take that for whatever it is worth.

Looks like I'm buying my first Apple product ever.
posted by COD at 8:39 AM on June 3


I need a new laptop for school/writing/scientific programming/mefiting. I will be spending a lot of time on buses so I need it to be light. I've always had a PC but may switch to a Mac since I heard that Windows 8 sucks.

Oh, I missed the scientific programming part. If you're used to Windows for scientific programming, then definitely go forward. But, if the field you're in uses mostly Linux/unix tools, you may find a mac easier to use with the terminal. I use one for my work computer where I do a lot of scientific programming, and it has made my life much easier. (I know there are terminal alternatives for Windows, but after trying them, it's not as seamless as OS X in this regard.)
posted by bluefly at 8:44 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I love it. It's fast like Win 7, it hasn't crashed or frozen once in the 8 or 9 months I've had it, and the only thing that occasionally irritated me to start with was that I'd accidentally "swipe" the screen sideways when I was typing because of where the trackpad is on my laptop. That issue when away once I realized *what* exactly I was doing that made it most likely to happen. Sure, I could turn that feature off, but I discovered I sort of like the feature itself, and use it.

The people that I know who've had the most difficulty with it are those that tend to be resistant or have difficulty with any changes to their computer - even my 67-year-old MIL is content with Win 8 once she got over the "OMG it changed!" period. If you consider yourself willing and able to learn a whole new OS, then you're not going to have any trouble with Win 8 whatsoever, because the changes themselves are tiny in comparison to switching to a different OS. All the whining is primarily because for once, the changes are very visible instead of being hidden in control panels.

I fully expect Mac to change to a somewhat similar setup in the near future, if they aren't already. I still want one a Mac, in addition to my PC, because SOFTWARE. And that's the important thing that should be driving your decision, along with price. Do you have any software desires that simply aren't available on one or the other?
posted by stormyteal at 8:46 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I have Windows 7 on my desktop and my work desktop but Windows 8 on my laptop. I installed Classic Shell on the laptop and I usually forget that it's running Windows 8.

We just bought a Lenovo Yoga 2 for Mrs. VTX. She wanted something ultra light (3.5 Lbs), really thin (0.68"), and she is really sensitive to the feel of typing on the keyboard. She tried out every keyboard in every thin/light laptop we could get our hands on and the Yoga was the one she liked. After having it for a week, she likes it a lot.

We were close to getting her a Macbook Air but it was a lot more expensive for the same hardware specs (we found a refurbished Lenovo and refurbished Macs don't seem to get discounted as much) and we couldn't justify having one computer in the house with such a completely different OS than all the others.
posted by VTX at 8:46 AM on June 3


Classic Shell is free and cancels out pretty much everything people don't like about Win8 - you never even have to see the Start screen or Metro/touch/modern/whatever interface if you don't want them. And the improvements, while not monumental, are definitely present.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:00 AM on June 3


Thanks for the replies. I should add that my scientific programming will be relatively light, with just munging and analyzing data in R and Python/pandas.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:02 AM on June 3


Surprised that nobody has mentioned this tutorial vid from a recent post on the blue.

Personally I'm rather looking forward to using it when I get my next laptop.
posted by ropeladder at 9:17 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


I like Windows 8.1 just fine, except for the way it's done weird stuff to searching.
posted by jeather at 9:19 AM on June 3


Windows 8 honestly makes the most sense if you're going to use a Windows-based tablet/hybrid. There are settings and 3rd party applications that make the experience more pre-8-like if you want, though.

I have Win8 on my Surface tablet and love it. I absolutely loathe it on my parents' crappy Windows 8 netbook with no touchscreen.

If you go with a device designed for Windows 8, like Microsoft's Surface lines, you should find the touch experience to be great, if needing some acclimation. But if you're going for the full-on desktop-only experience with pure keyboard+mouse input (no app games, etc.), just use the various tweaks out there for a more "classic" look if you want. Though even using my Surface tablet mostly for writing (typing), I find myself touching things because it's way faster than a mouse, even if less precise for text cursor placement
posted by Ky at 9:51 AM on June 3


Windows 8 is fine on a laptop with a touchscreen, esp in the Windows 8.1 incarnation which you can make pretty similar to the look-and-feel of Windows 7 if that's what you want.

Given that cost is a big concern for you, I wouldn't go for a Mac unless you really need to make heavy use of Unix tools for your work.
posted by philipy at 9:55 AM on June 3


I'm running Windows 8.1 on a laptop w/no touch screen, and honestly, I'm perfectly happy with it. The only minor irritation was the infamous WAIT WHERE DID YOU HIDE THE OFF BUTTON issue.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:06 AM on June 3


Echoing those that say it's no big deal.

Most of the time, I'm using programmes, not the OS itself. On Windows 7/8 Chrome is Chrome, Excel is Excel, Spotify is Spotify etc.

When I am using the OS, I find it better, most things are a bit slicker (especially finding/renaming in explorer).
posted by chrispy108 at 10:24 AM on June 3


I just chose a Windows 8 laptop over a Mac alternative and I'm very happy with it.

I agree with all the advice that has said to buy something designed with Windows 8 in mind. I am very happy I did and am surprised by how often I find the touch screen helpful. Particularly when the computer is in my lap and not on a desk, I find myself poking the screen to get things done rather than using the touchpad.
posted by coreywilliam at 10:35 AM on June 3


It'll take you three minutes to figure out how to bypass the new start screen and boot to the desktop. Once you've done that it's just Windows. I moved straight from XP to Windows 8 and was prepared to hate it, but it's really pretty unobjectionable. In fact it boots fast and is very stable and usable as far as I can see. I'd say don't worry about it at all.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 11:46 AM on June 3


Windows 8 is perfectly fine. You can buy a cheapish decent computer for three hundred bucks and store the difference for just in case money. The idea that viruses are unavoidable is a little bit odd, I haven't had one since I've used 8, even downloading sort of shady programs. I'm honestly not sure how people get them...
posted by Trifling at 12:04 PM on June 3


you will easy spend any price-tag savings in anti-virus software, hours lost removing virii and adware

Malwarebytes (available in free or -- whopping! -- $20 versions), plus the built-in Defender, should be able to handle most anything the villains lob at you. Combine that with some common sense, paying attention to opt-outs during downloads, and maybe a free browser app, like Web of Trust, and you will probably be fine.

I won't lie, I've had some frustrations in adapting to the radical changes in 8.1: The accidental side-swipe that calls up a previous location can be really irritating (until one learns what's going on), for instance, and some functions have been moved/combined in ways that require a little research. I'm still learning my way around, and would describe myself as kind of "on the fence" about it. I need to replace my desktop soon, and can't quite decide whether I want to stick with 7 or move to 8.1 yet.

That said, I think the direction the OS is moving in is very promising, from an intuitive use standpoint. In a setting where control needs to be dead simple (i.e. just thumbs), the tile-based interface iteration running on my Nokia Windows Phone is outstanding. (I mean, I'm borderline religious in my zeal for the thing.) And I can see why MS is using some of the same approach with 8+; many, many people are switching to lightweight tablets/tablet hybrids for mobile computing. In a small real estate, touchscreen centered environment, the new Windows works pretty well, if not yet flawlessly. And it goes a long way towards resolving the "it just works" talking point used in the fan[person] wars; Windows 8.1 runs smoothly and -- at least in my experience so far -- never crashes.

In summary:

Windows Phone: Oh gawd, yes.
Touchscreen laptop, or tablet: Yeah, pretty good (switching to desktop view still necessary).
Desktop: Maybe not (unless you want to upgrade to a touch monitor).
posted by credible hulk at 12:19 PM on June 3


This is, as others have mentioned, a bit of a religious question. I've always been a unix person, and switched to the Mac early in the OS X days, but I have no experience with Windows 7 or 8, so I won't try to answer your question.

But I will take issue with this one thing:

... the hundreds of dollars I will save from buying a PC over a Mac ...

This is not true, and has not been true for a very long time, if you're talking about comparable machines. Yes, Apple does not make very cheap machines (i.e., in the $300-500 range, say), but if you configure machines with similar specs, the prices for comparable Mac and Lenovo and Dell hardware are rather similar. This is before you consider included software or virus protection or anything else.

Analogy: you can't get a BMW at Honda Civic prices, but if you price out an Acura with BMW specs, they're pretty close. (I imagine - I have a Civic and love it and have never tried to price out either a BMW or an Acura. But I spend far, far more time on my computer than in my car.)

One other thing: if your needs are
... munging and analyzing data in R and Python/pandas ...
you might be very happy with the Unix environment on OS X.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:37 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


It'll take you three minutes to figure out how to bypass the new start screen and boot to the desktop. Once you've done that it's just Windows. I moved straight from XP to Windows 8 and was prepared to hate it, but it's really pretty unobjectionable. In fact it boots fast and is very stable and usable as far as I can see. I'd say don't worry about it at all.

Maybe it's my mild PTSD from dealing with my non-tech savvy wife's screams of rage at her W8 laptop, but that's not my experience. The start screen pops up all the time, the charms pop out, the weird metaphor of Metro apps vs non-metro apps is constantly annoying, the completely different look and feel of the Metro programs - you can either conquer each of these with add-ons and program choice, or just get used to the new way (and either are fine) but from my pov I'd prefer not to spend effort I don't have to.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:58 PM on June 3


It took some getting used to but I don't hate it anymore.

This is me; I installed an application called Start 8 that was five bucks and makes it very similar to 7.

Basicaly, for me, everything about 8 is better than 7 - it's faster, more stable, the file explorer is much better, the task manager is much better - except the frigging user experience and stupid goddamn full screen apps. But I've mostly eliminated all of that cruft now.
posted by smoke at 5:31 PM on June 3


Windows 8 is fine. I think that in 2014 Apple is actually less about bondage and discipline these days, and the third party devs are better. But Windows is serviceable.
posted by wotsac at 8:34 PM on June 3


I've been using MacOS since 1984. Windows 8 is the only MS OS I've ever coveted. Especially on tablets/phones. I keep trying to cook up reasons to get a Windows tablet.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:32 AM on June 4


RedOrGreen: "This is not true, and has not been true for a very long time, if you're talking about comparable machines. Yes, Apple does not make very cheap machines (i.e., in the $300-500 range, say), but if you configure machines with similar specs, the prices for comparable Mac and Lenovo and Dell hardware are rather similar. This is before you consider included software or virus protection or anything else. "

Unfortunately, RedOrGreen is wrong on this count. I just priced out a MacPro (not the macbook pro) with the equivalent specs as the desktop I just built, and my desktop cost $2000. The MacPro comes to a whopping $3800. Obviously you'll pay a little more if you buy a desktop that's pre-assembled, but not $1800 more!

And even in the laptop domain, a quick comparison between Dell and Apple shows that the same specs for a laptop come out with Dell at $2350, and Apple at $2600. Much closer, to be sure, but a 10% difference is nothing to sneeze at.
posted by Grither at 6:00 AM on June 4


As an ex Mac consultant who now runs Windows systems for personal use, it's just a machine that does stuff. The OS's, while run by different companies, do pretty much the same thing for most users. Open files, surf the internet, run applications. I walked away from using my Mac one day and never really looked back it was so easy to migrate. You pay a premium for that Mac logo with no real increase in ability to get stuff done.
Having said that, I do look at the Mac Air books as the 'one machine' that could run multiple OS's and do it elegantly in a light package.
posted by diode at 6:19 AM on June 4


Analogy: you can't get a BMW at Honda Civic prices

This might be partially true, but you also need to consider whether you actually need or can afford a BMW. The asker of this question is not a BMW driving type, but someone who rides on buses and says "price is a big factor" for them.

A Honda Civic is perfectly adequate transportation for most people, and likewise a well specced Windows laptop that can be gotten for half the price of a Macbook Pro will be a perfectly fine computer for most people.

I recently helped my father buy a Windows 8 laptop. The nearest Macbook Pro equivalent (one with same processor, same memory, but a smaller screen, and a smaller hard drive) costs more than twice what we paid for a very nice HP laptop.

There are certainly good reasons for considering a Mac, especially to do with whether you need to work with the Unix or Apple ecosystems a lot, but if a Windows 7 laptop has been doing the job perfectly well for you so far, a Windows 8 one will also.

Data science stuff is perfectly do-able on Windows these days as well. (e.g. See the info on Python resources in this.)

Btw if you are interested in games, those can be a lot less well supported on Macs.
posted by philipy at 12:10 PM on June 4


Grither: I just priced out a MacPro with the equivalent specs as the desktop I just built, and my desktop cost $2000. The MacPro comes to a whopping $3800.

You squeezed in dual GPUs, 6 Thunderbolt ports, and the ability to run three simultaneous 4K displays into a totally silent package that is about the size of a roll of paper towels? Pardon my skepticism.

And even in the laptop domain, a quick comparison between Dell and Apple shows that the same specs for a laptop come out with Dell at $2350, and Apple at $2600. Much closer, to be sure, but a 10% difference is nothing to sneeze at.

I'll take your word for it. If you're happy with the Dell battery life and trackpad performance, it sounds like a good deal. (I'm deliberately not bringing up software.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:30 PM on June 4


Also, pricing out the equivalent of a Mac Pro is tricky because it uses components that are purpose-built to be really really good at "pro" tasks like rendering regardless of the numbers attached to their processor speed and the like. The Xeons aren't just Core i7s with a different name, they actually do different stuff. Same with the FirePro graphics cards.

The laptop comparison is much more apples-to-Apple, though.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:38 PM on June 4


I expect you've already bought something, but in the event that you haven't, I would keep right on not buying a laptop until you get to your new department and then get the dominant machine there, or whatever your methods people are using.

I wouldn't sweat Win8 versus Win7. If push comes to shove, most Win8 flavors have downgrade rights to Win7 and you can quickly google to make sure that whatever are the final contenders run well under Win7. Lenovo sells pre-downgraded machines with Win7 on them.

I also wouldn't sweat the underlying Mac-versus-Windows very much either. You can get a perfectly good Air for $1k. Or a perfectly good Windows ultrabook for that. Either will be far more computer than you really need.

Either way, the inherent betterness or worseness of either world will be swamped by the network externalities of the department.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:39 AM on July 14


strange! I just bought a macbook air... about an hour ago.

We use R mostly and the lab is full of macs.

my laptop died last week so I had to the pull the trigger.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:06 AM on July 14


"I recently helped my father buy a Windows 8 laptop. The nearest Macbook Pro equivalent (one with same processor, same memory, but a smaller screen, and a smaller hard drive) costs more than twice what we paid for a very nice HP laptop." Really?

HP HP Spectre 13t-h200 x2 $1337.00 Apple MacBook air 13 $1398.00
4gb RAM vs 8 for Apple
13" touchscreen screen vs 13" retina display
128gb flash HD
8.1 Pro vs mavericks
The HP does not include any Office software or anti Virus Software. The Apple includes iLife and iWorks. both configured with 3 year warranty.
posted by Gungho at 10:42 AM on July 14


The nearest Macbook Pro equivalent

HP Spectre 13t-h200 x2 $1337.00 Apple MacBook air 13 $1398.00

I think I found the issue.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:23 PM on July 14


Just a thought after reading all the posts - my Internet Service Provider (ISP) supplies all customers with Trend Micro free of charge. It certainly wouldn't hurt to ask yours if they would provide AV software as a courtesy.
Personally, I love Windows 8 (that's 8, not 8.1). At first I didn't like the start screen with all those tiles but, after a few tutorials on YouTube, I got very comfortable with the system. Your desktop can be accessed any time you want by simply moving the pointer to the upper left corner of your screen. If fact, I have a tile for the desktop on my start screen (I can't remember if it came that way or I put it there, though). I always leave my PC on the desktop & the start screen is always right under the Windows key (or in the lower left corner) when I need it.
The charms menu does not pop out randomly. It only comes out when you move the pointer to the upper or lower right corners of you screen. Of course, I don't use a touch screen either. Easier to control the pointer with a mouse.
I highly recommend viewing a few tutorials to anyone just starting out with Windows 8 or considering getting it but not sure.
Good luck to all.
posted by Hectahenny at 8:30 PM on July 14


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