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Windows 10 vs Windows 8: Should you upgrade?

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Windows 10 vs Windows 8: Should you upgrade?

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Why you should ditch Windows 8 right now

Our experience of Windows 10 shows it’s the upgrade that's been badly needed ever since Windows 8 launched.

Its combination of a much improved desktop experience, more intuitive integration of touchscreen features, a host of new apps and better performance makes it a clear upgrade over its predecessor.

With plenty of new features, better integral hardware support and improved performance it's also a worthy upgrade for Windows XP and Windows 7 users too.

Watch – A quick guide to what's new in Windows 10

Where the benefits of Windows 10 are most felt, though, are those that have bought a PC or laptop in the last few years and been lumbered with Windows. It improves the desktop experience by an order of magnitude, and introduces several new features that will delight power users.

Gamers have more to look forward to as well. Windows brings DirectX 12, which promises significant performance improvements plus a new Xbox gaming hub that includes constant gaming recording, for easily sharing gaming achievements with friends, as well as Xbox One game streaming.

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Start Screen vs Start Menu

The single most important addition to Windows 10 is the return of the Start Menu, particularly for regular desktop and non-touchscreen users. The fullscreen Start Screen of Windows 8 never made sense when using a mouse and keyboard and thankfully Microsoft has addressed this.

Instead, Windows 10 features a Start Menu that incorporates the Live Tiles of the Windows 8 Start Screen and it can optionally be made to fill the whole screen. It’s much more intuitive and simply makes using a mouse/trackpad and keyboard much easier.

If you mainly use the desktop in Windows then Windows 10 will make you much happier.

Related: Windows 10 Free Upgrade: Will you have you pay for it?

Windows 10 Start MenuWindows 8 (left) compared to the Windows 10 (right)

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Tablet Mode

Tablet users can choose to ignore this, though, and use the new Tablet Mode. This simply makes everything full-screen again, making for an experience more in line with most other tablet interfaces that don’t have windows and desktops in the same way as Windows.

If the user does need to go to a more conventional desktop style interface, though, they can just turn Tablet Mode off – great if you have something complicated to do and want to plug in a mouse and/or keyboard to get it done.

Windows 10 17 The Tablet Mode on Windows 10

This also works especially well on hybrid laptops as it allows you pick the right mode for what you're doing, rather than stick to one or the other. Although, on hybrids, the basic desktop interface is arguably touch-friendly enough to not need the Tablet Mode much of the time.

For that reason, hybrids benefit more than pure tablets from Windows 10.

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Classic vs Universal Apps

In Windows 8, the fancy touchscreen-friendly Windows Store apps are all full-screen, again making them awkward for use on a normal desktop. With Windows 10, these can now be run in a windowed mode, making them easier to incorporate into your regular desktop working life.

Skype, for instance, has ditched its full-screen Windows 8 app to instead extend its desktop version to work with the new switchable fullscreen/desktop modes of Windows 10.

Windows 10 will still be able to run all the touch-friendly apps created for Windows 8, but they will be better for desktop apps too.

SEE ALSO: Best Windows Phone Round-up

Windows 10 Virtual Desktop

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Features for Power Users

Along with the reintroduction of the Start Menu and a general reintegration of desktop friendly looking features, Windows 10 also brings some outright new features for desktop and power users.

The first is virtual desktops. This allows users to pretend like they have multiple monitors and spread their windows across multiple different workspaces. It’s immensely useful if you work with many applications at once, but have limited screen space.

As part of this there’s a new view for when you hit Alt Tab. This now brings up the Task View, which integrates windows switching and management with the new virtual desktops. The overall implementation isn’t quite as slick as with Apple’s OS X, but at least the option’s there and for some it will prove indispensable.

There's also an improved Command Prompt. This power tool for typing commands directly into your PC has long lacked basic features like the ability to copy and paste. But now Microsoft has finally added these in. It also supports a host of new options and hot-keys, making it more powerful and easier to use.

Not only does Windows 10 make life easier for desktop users with the return of the Start Menu but it has added a bunch of extra features too.

SEE ALSO: Windows 10 Features: What's New?

Cortana Windows 10Cortana also doubles as a combined desktop and Bing search on the desktop

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Cortana

Now we’re getting to the new features that will benefit all users. Cortana is the powerful search and personal assistant that Microsoft first introduced on its phones, and now it’s available on PC.

Cortana can be used to search your PC for files and apps and launch web searches, but more importantly it also tracks your interests and monitors things like your calendar and regular places you visit. Combining all this information it can provide useful stuff like weather reports, alerts for meetings and directions for where you need to go.

Cortana is also in the Microsoft Edge (previously Project Spartan) web browser, where it provides relevant information for the site you’re looking at, such as reviews and directions for the restaurant you’re viewing.

It also supports natural language input, so you can talk to your device quite casually and it will understand what you mean. This is particularly useful for tablets and other touch devices where voice input can be that much quicker than typing on a touchscreen.

Some may not care too much about Cortana on desktop, though the addition of a big search bar on the desktop taskbar is useful. If you're not keen you can completely turn it off.

NotificationsYou swipe in from the right (on the screen or touchpad) to get notifcations

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Notifications

Another just downright useful addition to Windows 10 is a central notifications area, called Action Center. This will be where all your alerts for new emails, Windows updates or security flags will appear, just like on most phones these days.

Although inspired by phone interfaces, it’s another new feature that will be equally welcome for touch and desktop users as it’s just very useful and has a simple, intuitive implementation.

A really useful addition that helps organise all the info Windows throws at you.

Related: Windows 10 Phone features to look forward to

Windows 10 Xbox app

Windows 10 adds a dedicated app for Xbox users

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Xbox app, DirectX 12 and Gaming Features

Windows 8 added next to nothing to excite gamers, which is one of the reasons why so few PC gamers saw the need to upgrade from Windows 7. With Windows 10, though, there are several very interesting new additions.

The first is the Xbox app, which is the gaming hub of the operating system. It’s where the user can track their Xbox gaming stats, chat to friends, view their Xbox activity feed and more.

This also ties in with the other key new gaming features, the first of which is that gamers can stream their Xbox One games from the console to their PC. This means you can play Xbox-exclusive games on your PC as well as play Xbox games while someone else is using the TV.

There's also supposed to be support for cross-platform gaming, so that PC and Xbox gamers can play together. It remains to be seen how practical this will be, given how mouse and keyboard tends to be considered a big advantage in many games compared to a controller but it’s a very neat feature.

Related: Windows 10 will make the Xbox One even better

DirectX 12

DirectX 12 promises some useful performance improvements

The last key new gaming feature is that there's inbuilt game recording. You can record every single PC game you play, old or new. It works just like the game capture of the Xbox One, whereby it’ll record constantly and you can choose to grab the last 30 seconds to create a clip of that really cool move you just pulled off, or you can control it manually to record a longer section.

All this and it has minimal impact on performance - less than a couple of percent.

Related: DirectX 12 vs DirectX 11

Arguably none of these really make a difference for hardcore PC gamers, but they’re cool features nonetheless. What’s more, Windows 10 has exclusive access to the new gaming API DirectX 12, which brings improved performance and graphical features to new PC games for those with compatible graphics cards.

Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Web Browsing

Windows 8 features the latest updates to Microsoft’s long standing web browser, Internet Explorer, but Windows 10 brings a whole new browser with it too, called Microsoft Edge (previously Project Spartan).

This uses a whole new rendering engine and has a host of new features, too. These include a reading mode that will remove all the clutter from web pages to make them easier to read, a reading list for creating temporary ‘read later’ bookmarks and will integrate Cortana for adding context aware information while you browser the web.

A screen capture mode also makes it easy to capture an image of the whole web page. It also then has inbuilt drawing tools to make it easy to quickly annotate the image.

Of course, many people choose to simply use other browsers anyway, such as Chrome and Firefox, but Spartan is at least a big improvement over Internet Explorer.

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Windows 10 vs Windows 8 – Performance

One of the key improvements of Windows 8 over Windows 7 was actually performance. It booted quicker than Windows 7, went in and out of standby quicker and was often quicker in general use too.

Sadly, Windows 10 doesn't have any particularly big improvements in this area, but will instead build on the foundations already laid by Windows 8. It’s one of the few areas where Windows 8 can claim parity with the new OS.

Windows 10

Final Thoughts

It really wasn’t much of a competition. All the mistakes that Microsoft could make, it had already made with Windows 8 and Windows 10 has only improved things in our experience,

Is Windows 10 perfect? No. But is it the better choice if you’re thinking of buying a new version of Windows in the near future? Absolutely. Windows 10 has proved that it's a serious step forward from Windows 8 – read our in-depth Windows 10 review to understand why.

Which OS do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below

Brian

February 2, 2015, 12:53 pm

If you upgrade to Windows 10 within the first year, you get free OS updates for the life of Windows 10. Not just support, but feature updates as well. That doesn't sound like a subscription based model to me.

Stephen Middlehurst

February 2, 2015, 1:53 pm

Okay, this one has me confused. Should you upgrade to Windows 10 from 8 once it's released? Yes, just leave it a few weeks to make sure there's no showstopping bugs hiding away. Should you upgrade now? Not on anything remotely resembling a production system, no, at least not unless you've got a ready-to-go alternative waiting in the wings.

Oh and the 'after the first year you have to pay a subscription' isn't accurate either AFAIK. At this moment in time at least Windows 10 is still intended as a purchase service and Terry Myerson confirmed that to PC Gamer after the January event.

mothergoose85

February 2, 2015, 3:56 pm

So...the main thing that caused me issues with Windows 8 was driver support from the ancillery manufacturers like Elan and Killer - what are the thoughts of those in the blue fin building on the likelihood on better support on that front with the generic drivers?

Brandon Waldo

February 2, 2015, 4:01 pm

Copy and paste have been a function in the command prompt for more than a decade, albeit called mark and paste.

Jas Holden

February 2, 2015, 5:01 pm

Actually, as I understand it, the free Win10 will be supported and upgraded throughout the life of the hardware it is installed on at no cost to the non-Enterprise consumer.

Aren't they saying that Win10 is the "last" windows version and it's going to be updates from now on?

Daniel LeCompte

February 2, 2015, 5:12 pm

To me this article is backwards. To me the question is not about upgrading from 8 to 10, that's a no brainer, 10 is a big improvement over 8. To me the question should be do I want to upgrade from 7 to 10? Has 10 fixed all the problems with 8 to make me leave 7?

Paul

February 2, 2015, 5:18 pm

Adopted more Mac OSX features which is good

Brian

February 2, 2015, 5:30 pm

That's how I understand it as well.

Gary

February 3, 2015, 9:19 am

There was no mention of Windows Media Center in this article, which as a Home Theatre PC user is crucial to me. Will it still exist in Windows 10?

andyvan

February 3, 2015, 9:31 am

Thanks for your thoughts. We'll probably address that in a separate article, though we do touch a little on the topic in the gaming section. DirectX 12 certainly helps give something back to gamers, and it will be exclusive to Windows 10. Notwithstanding the fact it's more of a ruse on Microsoft's part than anything else, once DX12 games start rolling through.

andyvan

February 3, 2015, 11:05 am

I don't believe it existed in Windows 8, AFAIK.

Britney Bates

February 3, 2015, 9:08 pm

Windows will be losing customers daily with news like this. RIP Microsoft.

jdawgnoonan

February 4, 2015, 1:13 am

I have the preview on my Surface Pro 3. The desktop changes are good. Tablet mode is a huge dud.

Johnny Walker

February 4, 2015, 4:15 am

No thanks, I'll stick with Windows 7 Ultimate.

LeeTronix

February 4, 2015, 10:10 am

I think they should of changed the name completely maybe even called it windows spartan not 10, as it the number implies more of the same issues with a new look. There is nothing saying the benefit of upgrading or moving to 10 just another different look with some fanciful features. People want first reliability, consistency and ease of use then the gimmicks providing they actually work.

Phillip

February 4, 2015, 7:42 pm

I believe they said they brought it back in the windows 10 event in january

Phillip

February 4, 2015, 7:46 pm

So true

Phillip

February 4, 2015, 7:48 pm

This is what I've been wondering for awhile now

DomainStopSupport .

February 4, 2015, 10:23 pm

These are my personal thoughts on whether or not to upgrade.

Bottom line:
1. If you are are on Vista or Windows 7, stay there. Vista is easily the prettiest Windows ever made. When patched up to date, I like it better than Windows 7. Windows 7 is the new, 64 bit Windows standard just as XP is the 32 bit Windows standard. It is the solidest, and best supported 64 bit environment out there. I migrated to 8 when it first came out because we're in the IT support business. After 2 years, I want more than ever to return to Windows 7, but it is too much work.

2. Windows 8.0 users, do NOT update to 8.1. What we like about Windows 8.1 is it has all manner of driver and compatibility issues which makes it profitable for us as an IT support organization. Even after you get it working with apps, and even on machines that came with 8.1 pre-installed, bizarre things happen from Microsoft updates such as apps stop working and require a re-install, or all of the printers disappear, and you cannot get them back without registry edits. Microsoft has shipped "important" patches that will upgrade you from 8.0 to 8.1 automatically during the middle of the night. (KB3008273 and its prerequisite KB2871389) I get calls from people that need to rescued from partial upgrades. To avoid this, make sure you uninstall those patches and mark them hidden. These situations help us sell contracts. Of course if you are not in the IT business, you might not share my enthusiasm for Windows 8.1.

3. Windows 8.1 users probably won't have anything to lose by going to 10. Going from 8.0 to 8.1 crippled the Microsoft backup by removing its scheduling ability. If you think that perhaps Windows 10 added it back like they did the start menu, keep on dreaming. If you need a backup that doesn't drive you nuts, buy Rebit 6 standard and a couple USB drives to be able to rotate them off site.

What I learned:
1. "One operating system that runs across all platforms". That is true in name only. The technologies remain unchanged. Renaming Windows Phone 8 to Windows 8 would achieve the same result. Screens less than 8" don't have desktop environments, meaning they don't get Windows, and only get the RT/Metro operating system. The reality is that Windows 10 + RT/Metro operating systems spans from desktops to tablets with x86 processors, while everything else gets the RT/Metro operating system only, exactly as it is today.

2. "Universal apps" What it means is in the Microsoft development environment, if you write an app for the lowest common denominator, Metro, you can compile the same source code to runs across all platforms. It does not mean that Microsoft has made it so that you can run an x86 and .NET applications on your phone, thereby opening up a wealth of developer tools and applications for Windows phones.

3. The new start menu is similar to Windows 7's for programs. It mixes desktop apps in with the generally useless Metro apps into one menu. When you get a device that gets both the Windows 10 operating system, and the RT/Metro operating environment, you get utilities for both operating systems. The problem is the Metro apps support only functionality that is common across Windows and RT/Metro environments. These apps are distractions for desktop and laptop users, a few may be handy with an .86 tablet, the required for the RT/Metro operating system. The Metro apps launch in a Window, which makes them manageable without a 3rd party add-on. I'd rather not see the clutter from Metro apps in the menu in a desktop or laptop environment. The start screen menu that pops up along side of it might be used by a few, but more so in the tablet environment. With 8.x I don't have to see Metro at all. Both menus have scroll bars, but they are not always visible until you give one or the other focus, and even then, there is only so much you can do with a 16 color environment. From the hype, I was thinking that I wouldn't need Classic Shell anymore now that the start menu is back. That did not prove to be true. Classic Shell is still a wonderful productivity improvement over Windows 10 start menu in many ways. You can create folders and organize apps in the menu tree any way you wish, and its advantages don't end with the start menu as we will see next.

4. Explorer has very graphical icons that can indicate the type of content the folders were meant to hold. However, the icon for shared folders is still broken. Back with Windows 7 they said it was to save resources that they removed it. As anyone knows, that would amount to la fly on a camels back. Later they changed the story to "visual overload for the users", and "normally folders would be shared anyway." Huh? In Windows 10, Windows Explorer has massive visual overload, but no shared icon. Thus, it appears the truth will not be forthcoming. Classic Shell can give it back to you with the click of a check box so when you are in Explorer, you can easily see which directories are shared.

5. The start menu has a selection called Settings, however it is not what I expected. It is a composed of Metro apps. However, getting to something useful is not difficult. Simply <right-click> away on the start button, or Classic Shell puts them on the normal start menu, where they were they are in Windows 7 and earlier.

6. It has multiple desktops. It shows desktops as simple, flat pages, rather than the typical cube style you see with 3rd party add-ons. The behavior may not be what you expect. <alt-tab> moves between all apps on all of the desktops, instead of just the apps in the desktop you are on. That has some advantages actually.

7. Cortana (voice commands) on your PC like smart phones have. I use voice commands extensively with my Note 3, and voice-to-text responding to texts, and writing .doc files. Since I'm one of the 97.3% of the mobile phone users that haven't used a Windows phone, I have no experience with Cortana, but I wouldn't buy anything without a keyboard, without voice command and voice-to-text, so it is a necessary since it has to run in that environment.

Other:
There are many other changes mentioned, but they don't make sense to me. For instance:

"No more typos in Command Prompt. Power users rejoice as copy and paste will be enabled in Windows 10’s Command Prompt." When hasn't Windows had that functionality? What am I missing?

"Improved multitasking: Windows 10 will introduce a quadrant layout allowing up to four apps to be snapped on the same screen. The OS will even make smart suggestions to fill available screen space." I'm guessing they are talking about the RT/Metro operating system. Starting with Windows Phone 7, multitasking has been a problem. It cannot be Windows because users commonly have multiple monitors and way more than that open.

Summary:
In my opinion, the only noteworthy changes between 8.x and 10 are:
1. The Start menu has your apps on it
2. Windows Explorer looks nicer
3. Multiple desktops
4. Cortana (voice commands)

Comments:
Defenders of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7-8 strategy say that phones are different because their screens are so small, so there is no need to run desktop apps on them. Let's look at the facts. Phones two generations back had PC resolution screens, one generation back they had HD screens, and today they have quad HD, and even the cheap ones have PC resolution. The trend is toward larger high res screens, to eliminate the tablet as much as possible to get down to one device that goes with them everywhere. Proof is the sales of the hugely successful Samsung Note line, the Galaxy 4, iPhone 6 Plus, etc. When Windows phones used Windows Mobile, a pocket PC operating system, where you used .NET to develop apps, they had 26% of the market, and more and better apps than Apple or Android. Their market was always the business market. Windows Phone 7 debuted with a game operating system, had lousy multitasking, a few game-type apps, and unlike Apples IOS and Android, no Active Sync connectivity to Microsoft's Exchange. Who would have thought they would lose an order of magnitude in market share. (tic)

The reason I evaluated Windows 10 at this juncture is to know what to tell customers that are stuck on Windows 8, and want nothing to do with 8.1. From the advertising, Windows 10 sounded like the promised land, that Microsoft finally got it right, and I was about to put that out in our newsletter. From a developer's perspective, I breathed a sigh of relief, finally we can run Windows applications across all of their platforms, like they proved they could do with the Surface Pro 2. However, I decided I'd better make sure the claims were true first. They were not. Unlike the times when people would stand in line to get a copy of their newest operating system, I can't give them any compelling reason to move to Windows 10. I'm glad to see new leadership at Microsoft and Bill back as technical adviser because if things keep going like this, Bill is going to be able to pay cash to buy his company back. This turned out to be a waste of time for me, so I decided to share my findings with others as others have done for my benefit in the past. I'm going to have to fill that spot in the newsletter with something else for now.

DomainStopSupport .

February 4, 2015, 11:32 pm

You can only add it to Windows 8 Pro for some reason. It's called Windows Media Center Pack. If you upgrade from Windows 8 to Pro with the Pro Pack, it comes with it. If you have Pro already, it's an extra $10.00.

We put add it to every installation, but nobody has ever talked to me about their experiences with it one way or the other. I have it on my own also, but I use a Vulkano box for cable TV and DVR on my laptop, so I'm not the one to ask.

andyvan

February 5, 2015, 2:50 pm

Honestly, if Microsoft was going to support it I think it would have mentioned it by now. It's been dying a death for a while now.

DomainStopSupport .

February 5, 2015, 4:48 pm

Windows had a maze of versions, some with Media Center, and some without. By having it separate, you could buy it for the popular Pro version if you wanted it.

Windows 8 decided to drop MPEG-2 support because it was old and not as efficient as newer standards, such as H.264 and H.265/HEVC. The problem is, MPEG-2 is in widespread use, and people couldn't play training videos anymore after the upgrade. Thus, when someone upgrades from 7.x or lower to 8.x, they lose that capability. Windows Media Player can't do it. Thus, the choices are buying Windows Media Center Pack for $10, which is a known quantity, and can do many other things, or a 3rd party app, where we would have to waste time learning about a product that we don't use. $10 is cheap.

The most popular alternative to Windows Media Center Pack is XBMC/Kodi. (Xbox Media Center, for which it was originally written.) Today, XBMC/Kodi runs on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, and iOS. We have not played with it yet.

gatesofbabylon

February 5, 2015, 5:21 pm

What are your issues with it? I've been using it for 24 hours and don't have many issues so far, glad I installed.

486DX50

March 5, 2015, 6:21 pm

not gonna happen, Britney.

BrokenEye

June 1, 2015, 7:49 am

Okay, so now for the important questions:

1. Can all the useless, gimmicky bloatware (Tablet Mode, Live Tiles, Start Screen, Virtual Desktops, Cortana, Windows Store, apps, central notification area, web notifications, Xbox, Spartan, Task View, constant game recording, any and all cloud integration, whatever stupid crap added in Windows 8 that they've decided to keep, etc.) be completely uninstalled? And by "uninstalled" I mean uninstalled, not disabled or some such nonsense. If I really wanted my disk space, memory usage and bandwidth wasted by a ton of worthless crap nobody wants, I'd just re-install Origin.

2. The design is a huge improvement on Windows 8, but that really isn't saying much. It got rid of the ugly "nothing but solid colors and hard lines" aesthetic that looks like it was designed by obsessive compulsive preschoolers visiting a Mondrian exhibit while dropping acid but only to replace it with a naggingly similar ugly "nothing but solid colors and hard lines" aesthetic that looks like it was designed by obsessive compulsive elementary schoolers visiting a Mondrian exhibit while dropping slightly less acid, which is kinda too little, too late. Do the customization options allow one to completely remove that godawful crime against all that is good and holy in graphic design that the idiots in the tech industry can't seem to let go of no matter how many people hate it and replace it with something designed by someone with a functioning aesthetic sense? And I mean to fix it across the board, including Office and stuff, not just on Windows Explorer. That Metro crap is just as hard on the eyes in Office 2013 as it is in Windows 8.

If the answer to either of those questions is "no", then as much of a step up it might be from Windows 8 (which is, again, not saying much), it's still a massive step down from Windows 7 and not worth the downgrading to.

Also, which tried tried and trusted features from Windows 7 can I expect to be taken away (or replaced with some horribly ill-conceived gimmicky, "cloud based" and/or "smartphone-inspired" version, like the taskbar notifications seem to have been) for no goddamn reason? Media Player? Office? Notepad? Task Manager? Windowed browsing? Taskbar buttons that retain their full titles instead of obstructively and inconveniently being shrunken down to only an icon without reason? The only device of mine I want to be "smartphone-inspired" is my smartphone. You wouldn't waste money on a TV with toaster-inspired features, would you?

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