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Oh My Tech!: Upgrade to Windows 8, other OS isn't always upgrade

Published June 21, 2013 10:54 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I would like to see a column devoted to Windows 8 and why it is such a nightmare for many of us just to use. I deleted all those useless (to me) apps. Also, there are software compatibility issues, like with software from Brother. Brother has made only minimal attempts to solve this issue. It appears to me that there was no reason for Windows 8 except for Microsoft to make money. Maybe it is a fine OS, but its wonderfulness remains a total mystery to me. It appears that Microsoft needs some competition in the home PC software arena. — Bob Mindell, Heber.

It's difficult for me to write about how well Windows 8 performs because I haven't installed it on my PC, and I don't plan to in the near future. I've played with one of the beta versions extensively before it was released, but I haven't really gotten into the final version much yet. So don't consider this a review.

However, it does bring up an important question about upgrading your operating system or buying a new computer that has a new operating system: Do you really need to upgrade your OS when a new one comes out?

A friend also recently asked me about whether he should upgrade his Mac to the new OSX Mavericks when it comes out later this year. I simply responded, "Why do you want to upgrade in the first place?"

Don't get seduced by the marketing from companies such as Apple and Microsoft when they introduce an operating system. You don't need to upgrade your OS right away. Windows 8 and its initial reception from users illustrates why this is so.

Windows 8, which was released last fall, is Microsoft's newest version of its operating system for personal computers and also its biggest. That's because it's basically two operating systems in one — one for desktop computers and another for touchscreen computers and tablets. Microsoft believes that touchscreen computers are the wave of the future and wants Windows to make that transition. Unfortunately, it looks like it made too much of a shift in that direction.

When you boot up Windows 8, you're greeted with a completely new interface called Metro that has big colored tiles instead of folders and icons. It looks very much like the interface for Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console or its Windows Phone OS for mobile phones and tablets. It also can display the regular Windows interface from Windows 7 and prior, but you have to change the desktop manually. It won't boot up to the older style by default.

Regular Windows users were so upset with the new design changes and the fact that the OS wouldn't boot up to the older Windows interface by default, that sales of Windows 8 have been poor. Others believe that it also negatively affected the sales of PCs.

I have been on Windows 7 for the past few years, and I love it. I'm not upgrading to Windows 8 anytime soon, or until I no other choice. Fact is, I don't run any programs that require Windows 8, and if I did upgrade, it probably would make some of my software buggy.

When a new OS comes out, software developers have to go back and make tweaks to their existing programs to make sure their software is 100 percent compatible with the new operating system. Yet, some developers will not do that because it costs money.

Also, a new operating system probably is going to be buggy itself the first six months or so after release despite months and months of being worked on by beta testers.

So as a general rule, I tell friends always wait at least that long before getting an operating system upgrade to give Microsoft time to work out all the bugs and for developers to update their software to be more compatible. For the most part, there is never a compelling reason to upgrade the OS until you get a new must-have program that requires it.

On the other hand, if you purchase any new PC, Windows 8 will be installed with it. So you have a couple of choices: Learn to love it or you can purchase a copy of Windows 7 and wipe the hard drive clean and install that instead. I recommend only the second option if you have the technical know-how.

From what I've read, Windows 8 is not an especially buggy upgrade or a necessarily bad OS, just radically different in design. Yet, the only real advantage to getting Windows 8 is better security features. Unless you think you're ripe for hacker attacks, I don't know if those additional security measures are necessary.

The criticisms of Windows 8 were so loud that Microsoft has decided to put out a big update later this year that allows users to boot up to the older desktop interface instead of Metro, a sign that Microsoft has made too big of a transition to its new version of Windows.

With both Windows 8 and the upcoming OSX Mavericks, there just aren't enough new gotta-have features to recommend them. Because making that leap too early could lead to disastrous results.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to http://www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.