Windows 8 is here, taking over from Microsoft's immensely popular Windows 7 operating system. It may not excite folk quite as much as a new iPhone, but millions and millions of people will end up using it. So what is Windows 8 all about?
What is Windows 8?
Windows 8 is Microsoft's new computer operating system, taking over from Windows 7. This will become the standard software for nearly all laptops and PCs that aren't Macs. It's a pretty important piece of software.
How is Windows 8 it different to Windows 7?
The biggest difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8 is that the new software is designed for touchscreen operation as much as the classic mouse and keyboard combo.
It's split into two halves. The touchscreen UI is basically a tablet interface that's a little like a half-brother of Windows Phone 7. It uses a home screen of coloured tiles. Although not exactly the most space-efficient of interfaces, it does look nice. The other half of Windows 8 is a dead ringer for Windows 7.
How many versions of Windows 8 are there?
There are five consumer-grade versions of Windows in the UK:
Windows 8 N
Windows 8 Pro N
You can instantly discount the "N" versions, as they simply cut out the Media Center software in order to comply with a European Commission ruling. Microsoft charges a bundle more for them, so no sane person would actually buy them.
The Pro edition is what's on sale at the moment, and over the non-Pro (aka Home) version, it offers greater data security, Remote Desktop functionality and connection to a corporate network over Domain Join. Enterprise editions are available too, but they're not really intended for the likes of us - normal folk.
Windows RT is a slightly cut-down version of Windows 8 designed for tablets like the Asus Vivo Tab RT. It's not something you'd buy and install, but rather a piece of software that will come pre-installed on some new Windows 8 gadgets. Mostly tablets.
How much does Windows 8 cost?
Windows 8 is fairly cheap, by Microsoft standards. Physical upgrade editions of the OS for users of Windows 7, Vista or XP cost £49. You can buy them from the usual suspect online retailers, including Amazon.
A better option is to download the upgrade online, which is half the price at just £24.99. This gets you the Pro version, the base version at this point. You can buy the upgrade online at windows.co.uk.
Here's the full Windows 8 Price breakdown as we currently know it:
Microsoft Windows 8 DVD OEM
The standard edition of Windows 8 is set to cost £76.49 for a DVD edition in either 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro DVD OEM
The Pro version of Windows 8 is available to pre-order for £109.99, again for either the 32-bit or 64-bit editions.
Microsoft Windows 8 Pro Upgrade - from Windows 8
To upgrade to Windows 8 Pro from the normal version of Windows 8 it will set you back £49.99.
Microsoft Windows Upgrade Offer
If you bought a Windows 7 PC or laptop after 2 June you can upgrade to Windows 8 for £14.99 under the Windows Upgrade Offer.
Microsoft Windows 8 N edition
To upgrade to Windows 8 N it will set you back £129.99 for standard and £189.99 for Pro.
What does Windows 8 need?
The minimum specs for Windows 8 are very low, meaning that if you have a computer that can run Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should be fine. You need a PC with a 1GHz priocessor, 2GB RAM and 20GB of hard drive space.
If you're already using Windows 7, you can install Windows 8 without completely starting from scratch, by installing it from within the previous Windows OS. However, if you're using Vista or XP you'll need to install it from a burned DVD or a USB memory card.
How do I upgrade to Windows 8 Touschreen?
Windows 8 requires a multi-touch screen for its touchscreen goodness, so your best bet is to get hold of a touchscreen monitor if you want to use your existing desktop PC. A decent 20-odd inch touch monitor will set you back around £200-250.
Touchscren monitors and laptops will become far more prevalent, though, which will see the cost of these devices fall rapidly.
Is Windows 8 Any Good?
We think so, especially if you're upgrading from a version of Windows older than Windows 7. For more, read our full Windows 8 review.
Will Older Windows Apps Work With Windows 8?
Worried about software compatibility? Don't. Most software that works with Windows 7 should work just fine with Windows 8. As with previous versions of Windows, there are also compatibility modes that half-emulate older editions of the OS to try and get errant apps working.
Any app that's still supported and worth its salt will get a Windows 8 tweak fairly quickly anyway.
Are you going to upgrade to Windows 8? Drop us a line in the comments.