The Windows 8 upgrade experience

Tony McSherry details his experience of upgrading one of his Windows 7 PCs to Windows 8.

I ordered two Surface tablets last week and am anxiously awaiting their arrival. I purchased a 32G with Touch Cover, and another with the Type cover. In the meantime, I decided to update one of my home PCs to Windows 8.

The days of optical media are fading, and a 2G download now seems acceptable, so I popped "buy Windows 8" into Bing and went to the Microsoft Australia site.

However, Microsoft is not in a hurry to grab your money as, sensibly, it first runs a compatibility check with your installed OS and software. After a few minutes, it presented me with a list of programs that would fare well in Win 8 and a few that might require updates. Nothing really serious, as all my major tools, even my video-editing suite, were fine. I was then asked what type of upgrade I wanted and elected to preserve all my documents, settings and applications, and then finally I gave them $39.99 — a great price for a full OS upgrade.

The download took around 2 hours, a lot longer than I expected, but I was on my Wi-Fi and I suspect that the download servers may have quite a large load on them. Once it was downloaded, the installation took around an hour on my computer, but I'm sure that this will vary from computer to computer. I used my Windows account for sign-in, and when Windows finally came to the new Start screen, it was reassuring to see the same tiles that I'm used to on my phone, populated with the same data and pictures.

The only minor problem in the installation was Windows believing that I had a European keyboard, and I had to find the @ symbol on the double quote key when putting in my email address.

I've had the Windows 8 preview for some time, but I still had the momentary confusion when I went to the desktop and didn't have a Start button. However, moving the mouse to the upper right corner brought up the Charms menu and I was back at the now familiar Start screen.

Desktop habits die hard, and I was still trying to figure out how to close the new RT apps since they lack a close button. There are of course multiple methods, but the real answer is that you don't have to. indows 8 will suspend apps and remove them later, if needed. However, if you really need to, you can swipe from the top edge to the bottom with mouse or finger, or use the upper left corner to display all apps and right click to get the Close menu. You can also use Task Manager as well.

I had a quick tour of the installed apps, and everything looked clean and wonderful. The typography and the use of large photos presents a new standard in desktop OS design, and one can only hope that Apple and Google take note.

It was now quite late, so I decided to shut the computer down, only to realise that I had no Shut Down button available. I knew it would be somewhere in the Charms menu, but since I was tired, I just used the other method of pressing the power button on the PC and everything closed down normally. Next morning, I did a quick look up on the internet and I was right; Charms Menu –> Settings –> Power –> Shut down.

I haven't run any definitive benchmarks, but my computer does shut down, boot up, and return from sleep faster, and I'll examine my main applications and games next week.

All in all, this was one of the smoothest OS upgrades I've ever done and, in my opinion, well worth the price.

You will have the occasional confusion, as you need to unlearn some old desktop habits. Your apps will still work and your desktop is still there, but everything is a little faster and slicker.


Tony is the owner and managing director of Microcraft eLearning and is one of the creators of the AUTHOR eLearning Development System.

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