Windows 8 - Worth $40 on a new desktop?
January 31, 2013 1:14 PM   Subscribe

Today is the last day to buy Windows 8 (specifically, upgrade) at the discount price of $40. Is it worth it?

I'm going to build a new desktop in a few months, and can install either Windows 7 or 8 onto it. I can buy Windows 8 and install it at my leisure later on, but today is the last day.

For those who have now used both (with a non-touchscreen monitor), how do you feel about the new version?

I know the various issues with metro and will install some software to bypass it on start-up and will re-register some of the files to default to desktop software instead of the various metro apps.

I already have a Windows 7 that I can install for free. It's only $40, but is it worth it?
posted by Auden to Computers & Internet (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What do you use your computer for?
posted by jacalata at 1:16 PM on January 31, 2013

No. The wannabe XBox-UI awful and confusing. Also, in some cases, you can’t get rid of the operating system if you change your mind because of secure boot. Stick with 7. You couldn’t pay me to use Windows 8.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

I really don't believe 8 is worth the upgrade from 7 unless you have a touchscreen. I like the Metro front OK on tablets and touchscreen monitors, but it just seems clumsy with a mouse and keyboard. I'd actually much prefer any non-touchscreen device have 7.
posted by selfnoise at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2013

Windows 8 is by all accounts terrible for anything but touchscreens.
posted by Justinian at 1:23 PM on January 31, 2013

I have Windows 7 running on my main PC at home, and installed Windows 8 on a non-touch enabled laptop computer. While Windows 8 ran decently enough, I didn't find a compelling enough reason to make the switch on my main computer.
Depending on your usage habits, there probably isn't a reason for you to go with Windows 8. If you're a gamer, it's worth noting that Steam doesn't officially support Windows 8 and probably won't for some time (if it will at all).
posted by Dr-Baa at 1:24 PM on January 31, 2013

You don't have to use the Metro interface, but by all accounts if you stick with the desktop version there's not enough new in 8 to justify an upgrade.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:24 PM on January 31, 2013

I've found some things annoying but for the most part it's not that bad. (However, I'm a Linux user most of the time, so I'm not at all picky about controls being in the same place.) I would say it's worth it for $40 on a new system.
posted by XMLicious at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2013

PC Pro Produced this list of the 30 best features of Windows 8. In my opinion they had to scrape a little. But it might help you judge.
posted by rongorongo at 1:27 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

From a future proof perspective: there are already microsoft sdks that require windows 8. Over the next however many years, it is quite likely that some other programs will require it. If you only ever use Office and Firefox, then I'd say it's not a big deal. If you are more advanced than that (and I assume you are, if you're re-registering your file extensions), then it seems like a good idea to at least have the OS on hand so that if it does become required by something you need, you can install it.

I have been running windows 8 on one desktop and windows 7 on another for a while now (since pre-release) and honestly find it pretty similar. I also installed it on a laptop and have had some driver issues, but that should be less of a concern if you're building your own machine.
posted by jacalata at 1:28 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

(note that I work for microsoft, although not on windows)
posted by jacalata at 1:28 PM on January 31, 2013

Its probably worth it to buy because theres a push to make stuff Win8-only, its cheap, and personally even building my own machines I've somehow never managed to skip a Windows version as much as I tried with Vista and WinMe, but I would be careful about installing it now.

My partner and I have noticed some compatibility issues on non-microsoft essential-for-us programs. Primarily Autodesk stuff for us, some of which is pretty much explicitly broken and not getting fixed until the next version, but also some other niche things.
posted by McSwaggers at 1:32 PM on January 31, 2013

Also, both my partner and I do kinda loathe metro on non-touchscreens, but I know some who love it, so hey, ymmv.
posted by McSwaggers at 1:37 PM on January 31, 2013

Depends. I have a windows phone 8 , and windows 8 on my desktop at home. Having everything sync up rocks. I have windows 8 at work now to and everything syncing up with skydrive is a really good feature.

IF you have dual monitors I think it might be useful since windows 8 now spans the taskbar in desktop mode across both monitors.

Also if you have an ssd drive windows 8 boots almost instantly for me. I have an ssd drive and windows 8 is almost instant. about 5 seconds from power button press to logon.

Also the new task manager and the new filecopy are big plus's too.
posted by majortom1981 at 1:41 PM on January 31, 2013

I'm running Windows 8 on my non-touch enabled desktop PC. I find myself never using the Metro interface for anything but searching, but it doesn't offend every fiber of my being like it does some people. I'm the sort of person that only ever used the start menu to search for something anyway, so pressing the start key and typing something is my normal use case.

It's also sped up the boot process quite a bit for me. I have an SSD, but I'm sure it's noticeable on a platter drive. The upgrade process was pretty seamless for me. You can download MS's "upgrade assistant" which will let you know what programs you might have issues with. I think the only thing that broke for me was a print-to-pdf driver.
posted by dobi at 1:41 PM on January 31, 2013

Win 8 is on my new HP all-in-one computer (my old one had Win XP SP3). The Metro is confusing and I have not used it much so far.
However I installed Classic Start Menu which brings back the Start Button and it can look like Win7. It is excellent.
posted by lungtaworld at 1:55 PM on January 31, 2013

You know how sometimes we look back at the interface designs of the past and think about how the R&D people had good ideas but the interfaces don't in any way take into account the way technology actually works? Things like the Apple Knowledge Navigator or this Home of the Future, or, hell, all of EPCOT Center in 1985?

Windows 8 is as if Microsoft released their bizarre projections on how imaginary computers will be used in the future as a quasi-mandatory update for the actual machines of today. Most of your time spent with it will be saying "Nope, that doesn't make any sense at all on my hardware." Then you'll think about it and say "Nope, that doesn't make sense on any hardware I'll ever buy." It won't be that it doesn't work, per se, and all of the old stuff is kind-of sort-of still there, it's just that it's all... an operating system designed for a future that will never come.

Is that worth $40? Maybe if you're buying into Microsoft's whole ecosystem and need a consistent interface between your Windows 8 phone and a Surface tablet. If you're not, it's a bit like paying $40 for Vista instead of just waiting and jumping from Windows XP to Windows 7.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 1:55 PM on January 31, 2013

I upgraded because I felt I should, because I was interested in the user interface experience and because I thought there'd be a silver lining. Apart from enjoying the toned down desktop chrome, I sincerely regret installing it. It also works significantly less well with Boot Camp and Parallels than Windows 7.

Having said that, it's unlikely to be this cheap to purchase a license at any point in the future. Whether or not that's something that's likely to be necessary for your use case further down the road is not for me to say, but that's the main reason why I don't wholly regret the purchase.
posted by Magnakai at 2:34 PM on January 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a long-time mac person who dabbles occasionally on the dark side for work and video games. I don't know if I could say it's "worth it" in terms of functionality, but it's certainly nifty and interesting to look at. And it makes my PC boot up like, instantly, which is startling to say the least after decades of wandering off to shower after turning the PC on and then coming back to find it finishing its start-up scripts half an hour later. :)
posted by kythuen at 2:37 PM on January 31, 2013

I'd like to know something: Does Win8 retain the traditional interface as an option? Are you forced to use the "big button" UI?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:20 PM on January 31, 2013

My daily machine is a hackintosh, but I dual-boot to Windows 7, and have another Windows 7 machine as a games/media machine downstairs. I'm pretty comfortable with most computing environments.

Whilst building my hackintosh, I ended up with - in essence - a spare machine cobbled together out of leftover parts; it's been sitting in a cupboard waiting for me to sell it. The Windows 8 offer seemed like a great idea - install XP, upgrade to 8, and then flog it.

Yes, Windows 8 does boot pretty quickly, even using a normal HDD - but that's the nicest part about it. With a non-touch interface, I found actually using it to be an absolute nightmare. I couldn't easily find the settings pages. I found it counter-intuitive trying to switch back and forth between programs, and really tricky to close programs. I also kept mis-clicking on the bottom-left 'button' to switch back to Metro. Ugh.

In the process of checking whether the hardware was setup properly, I plugged a set of headphones into the front-panel audio jack, and went to the videos thingy to play something - but there were no previews. I went into the music store, and there were previews - but the music blasted out at a stupid volume. I'm still not sure how to turn the volume down (unless you have specific buttons on your keyboard; I don't) - there was no obvious control on-screen, and in trying to find the relevant place, I ended up switching to other applications and then being unable to control the music. From searching the web, apparently there are 'charms' which seem to be keyboard shortcuts to particular functions that are otherwise unavailable (unless perhaps you have touch?)

It probably gets better with time as you get used to it, but for me everything became a headache of trying to find out how to do basic stuff, and looking up instructions on the web (via a tablet).
Maybe you have more patience than me, but basically I think that I reacted like a chimp who's found something interesting, but then gets startled by bright flashing lights and loud noises - and there's no obvious solution to stopping them, short of physical violence.

Needless to say, I'm not keeping Windows 8 - it took about 10 minutes (if that) for Microsoft to lose me as a customer. I'll stick with OSX and Windows 7 - and obviously I'm not going to air my concerns about the OS to any potential buyers of the machine... :)
posted by Chunder at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2013

I am kind of a weirdo, apparently, because I really like the Windows 8 metro interface, even on a non-touchscreen.

I've been using it full time since October. Installing it now means counting on the platform growing into its potential, because almost all of the Metro apps available in the Windows Store at this point are terrible. Pretty, but half-baked at best. Platform essentials like Netflix and Nook have had spotty track records, often not working for me at all. Good Metro apps do not seem to be a priority for anybody.

But even so, I find the full-screen default and partial-screen snap take on multitasking to be a pleasant, focused way to work. I run Chrome in Metro mode 100% of the time. I like Metro Skype and Metro Remote Desktop and Metro OneNote. I like the way the traditional Desktop resizes when it's snapped.

I have a small laptop with an 11" 1366x768 screen, though. I don't know that the model will work as well on larger displays. I suspect it makes less sense there.

I don't think the Metro start screen is the huge imposition some people make it out to be; live tiles turn it into a sort of global notification center for your computer, which I find to be far more helpful than system tray tooltips. The most important thing is that with the start menu open you can just start typing and it will filter down to the app you're looking for. I would never bother installing a 3rd party start menu replacement app.

Metro aside, you can use Bitlocker and UI language packs in 8 Pro, which I believe were Ultimate-only features in Windows 7.

Without a touchscreen it's a good idea to learn the keyboard shortcuts for accessing various new parts of the UI. Ars Technica has a good introduction to the OS that covers everything you'd need to know about how stuff works and where to find things.

At this point, if I were building a new computer, I would use Windows 8. I might not use it the same way I would on a small laptop. But going back to Windows 7 requires more mental effort for me now, and having learned Windows 8 I much prefer it.
posted by zjacreman at 3:39 PM on January 31, 2013

I'd like to know something: Does Win8 retain the traditional interface as an option? Are you forced to use the "big button" UI?

If you use apps built for Metro, you will be in Metro. If you use regular apps, like Firefox, you will be in the traditional UI.
posted by jacalata at 3:44 PM on January 31, 2013

I also upgraded a few months ago, and recommend it even though I still haven't taken much liking to the Metro interface.

But booting into the desktop and getting a Start button back were easy enough to do, and only get to Tiles for search.

Only today I discovered that Windows 8 has built-in server capability (PC World article) that led me to this article from Paul Thurrott about Storage Spaces, which I'm going to implement as soon as I can figure out how it works! (Storage Spaces is the 'spiritual successor' to what Drive Extender did under Windows Home Server 2011. In short, it easily manages storage across multiple hard drives of differing sizes and formats, including a USB stick.)

Another nice touch over Windows 7 has been File Explorer - many more options in it's ribbon interface, and I find a lot more informative windows when copying or moving files.

I didn't have much difficulty in installing all my legacy programs, either, unlike when I moved from 32-bit XP to 64-bit Windows 7.
posted by scooterdog at 3:54 PM on January 31, 2013

So far, I think jacalata has persuaded me to go ahead and purchase it for future-proofing, I think, esp. since I tend to upgrade OS's so rarely. Probably best to get it, cauterize metro as much as possible and hope that future upgrades to it by MS will address the concerns that I have and the annoyances and issues people in this thread have cited...
posted by Auden at 3:57 PM on January 31, 2013

Windows 8 is the first time I have skipped a version since Win 3.0. I'm advising other people to do the same if they're on a desktop or standard laptop.

The upgrade-anything-at-a-discount flop-sweat strategy MS has run this time will be repeated next time around, almost certainly, given the less than stellar success of this one, and hopefully Win9 or whatever they call it will be better thought out.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 PM on January 31, 2013

Hate it, hate it, hate it. Bought it for my husband's new pc and instantly regretted not sticking with Windows 7. It's been two months now since we installed it and he just asked me yesterday to remind him how to shut the computer off - he's a smart and computer-savvy guy, the interface is just that un-intuitive for a desktop user.

Also, if you plan on running any special or older software, double check your compatibility with Windows 8 before you buy. My husband was running an older version of ProTools that works just fine on XP, Vista and Win 7, but by upgrading to Win 8, we were forced to upgrade to the newest ProTools too, which cost me an extra couple hundred dollars I wasn't anticipating.
posted by platinum at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2013

No. Frankenstinian piece of shit. Also, two of my devices stopped working after I installed it. It felt like... Vista. I felt so ripped off that I deinstalled it and installed Ubuntu Linux (something i had been considering anyway). I will never look back.
posted by brownrd at 6:19 PM on January 31, 2013

less than stellar success

Just for the record though, Microsoft's Windows division has once again become the most profitable in the company, all while the sales of PCs themselves are not great.

So I don't know if they'd call it a stellar performance but I would be surprised if they're very disappointed by how it's doing.
posted by XMLicious at 6:38 PM on January 31, 2013

since I tend to upgrade OS's so rarely
2000... XP... Vista... Windows 7...Windows 8

MS has strong form in releasing new Windows versions which are innovative but flawed, interspersed with ones which fix the flaws. If you are an occasional upgrader the trick is to skip the flawed versions.
posted by rongorongo at 5:27 AM on February 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

My god, the amount of negative comments is incomprehensible. I've been a win95 fan in the early days and had my share of tweaking my PCs, so I've been very familiar of the Windows environment. Not really a Mac user, or a touchscreen user so I have no bias towards metro or big icons.

Learning to use Win8. Yes there is a learning curve, but after half an hour or so, you discover where things are and its not so bad. After 2 weeks you realise how awesome it is. It is the way of the future.

You still have the desktop. The start menu is simply a full screen interface (metro). Switching between screens is simply pressing the Windows button. Everything responds in a snap! That's what previous Windows was missing - Snappiness!

Shutting down the PC - anyone computer savvy knows its ALT+F4. Whereas I'm happy to move the mouse to the right and just select Settings --> Power. It is actually a JOY to use Windows now.
posted by gttommy at 8:37 PM on February 5, 2013

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