How To Make The Move To Windows 8

Windows 8 is coming (official debut is October 26). In fact, you can install the “Release Preview” version now from Microsoft’s website if you want to get the jump early.

Why Upgrade To Windows 8?

Why would you want to upgrade when you’re still perfectly happy with Windows 7? For the most part, because Windows 8 is possibly the most radical change in the history of the platform, rivaled only by the transition from Windows 3.0 to Windows 95. We’re not just talking about the touchscreen UI either, since even the desktop mode feels supercharged with new features and optimized functions.

More importantly, it’s easily the most exciting OS we’ve seen — and that includes not just desktop platforms, but mobile ones, too. Windows 8 literally gets how we work in the present, from the very useful Start Screen (where everything funnels through) to the way it interfaces with the internet (the web feels literally part of the OS) to the amazing integration of the things people do in their mobile devices to the familiar experience for those who worked desktops all their lives. Seriously, if you thought iOS changed computing half a decade ago, then Windows 8 is changing the same thing now.

Do You Need To Buy New Hardware?

Granted, part of what makes Windows 8 so exciting is the touchscreen UI. The integration of the now ubiquitous control makes it perfectly tuned to how people want to use computers in 2012, so it only makes sense that you’ll want a new computer to get the most out of it.

Do note, though, that it isn’t necessary. In fact, Windows 8 has exactly the same system requirements as Windows 7, so your older hardware doesn’t need to be put to pasture yet. More importantly, I’ve seen no loss in performance whatsoever after upgrading on an older machine, so even if you don’t intend to buy new hardware, Windows 8 still makes sense as an upgrade.

Upgrading From Windows XP

If you have XP Service Pack 3 installed, you can upgrade directly without having to do a clean installation. Do note that only personal files will be kept — the rest of the software you installed and settings you’ve made will disappear. Chances are, if you’re still running XP, you’ll just want to backup all your files and do a clean install anyway so your system starts from scratch (less chances anything will go wrong).

Oh yeah, if you’re still using XP, really do consider upgrading now. The joys of Windows 7, even more so with Windows 8, should be worth the slight learning curve.

Upgrading from Windows VIsta

If you have Vista Service Pack 1 installed, Windows 8 will retail all your personal files and system settings. Without it, a clean install still isn’t necessary, but only personal files will stay (system settings will be gone).

Upgrading from Windows 7

If you’re now on Windows 7, congratulations — you can do an in-place upgrade to Windows 8 that will let you keep nearly everything. That includes personal files, system settings, compatible programs and application settings. Basically, it’s upgrading with zero hassles.

How To Install

1. Insert the disc (or USB) and let it auto-run. The prompt to “update Windows” will appear. Click on it.
2. On the next screen, it will prompt you to “Go online to install updates now.” Just click “next” and let it proceed.
3. Enter your product key, agree to the terms and all that jazz. Once that legal stuff is done, you will prompted to choose which of your existing content you want to keep. Pick the appropriate radio button and click “Next.” The installer will then search your computer to find incompatible hardware and software, prompting you if it finds anything.
4. Once it settles incompatibilities and everything is fine, you will then be taken to the “Ready to Install” screen. Just hit “Install” and let the program take over.
5. That’s it. From there, just wait for the installation to finish and get acquainted with your new UI.

The New Windows 8 Screen

Truth be told, the new UI is designed with touchscreens in mind, but don’t be discouraged –just hit the shortcut “Windows key + D” to switch to the more traditional Windows desktop. That, and opening the Charms bar (Windows key + C) are all you really need to get started on the right track.

Your Old Software

If you’re like most folks, you’ve made some amount of investment in software for your work (like accounting programs, CAD and similar applications) and personal use (like hobby programs and home budgeting). Naturally, you’ll be losing out if those titles end up not working on Windows 8.

The good news is, Microsoft has optimized Windows 8 to be compatible with majority of software that works on Windows 7. And even if a particular software doesn’t work, Windows 8’s hypervisor software can run a full instance of Windows 7 where you can then run the incompatible applications. Heck, you can even run Windows 7 and Windows 8 on the same computer on separate monitors so there’s no loss of productivity either way. Basically, if you worry about not being able to use your favorite scrapbooking or security program, don’t be — I’m certain you’ll still be using it after you upgrade.

Sounds Too Perfect?

Of course, it does. But that’s because we haven’t discussed potential issues. While Windows 8 has looked really stable in tests (not just by me, but tons of people online), every new OS always brings new issues and we doubt this will be an exception. Then again, whatever OS you’re currently using now has its own problems, too, which is why you’re told to regularly back up and run systems checks to ensure your machine is working in tip-top condition.

Chances are, you’ll encounter a few bugs here and there, some difficulties doing a few things, and similar problems. Those are to be expected. From what I’ve seen, though, Windows 8 is flexible enough to give you a workaround on most issues. Plus, Microsoft is, pretty much, putting all their eggs here, so you can bet any problems that come to light will get patched and updated shortly.