TWT Newsletter, Issue #066 – Do you need to upgrade to Windows 8? Upgrading pitfalls and more
Welcome to our November 2012 TWT Newsletter. Windows 8 has finally landed and of course the Microsoft related news is still very much focused on the new operating system. Once again, we apologise to our readers who aren’t planning on a Windows 8 machine or upgrade any time soon, as this newsletter is very much Windows 8 focused!
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In this months issue:-
1) Windows 8 Superguide now launched!
2) ESET Smart Security – Recommendation withdrawn
3) Do you need to upgrade to Windows 8?
4) Tip of the Month – Use tabs when shopping on-line.
5) Free Utility of the Month – Classic Shell (and an apology!)
6) Windows 8 upgrades, great price, terrible implementation!
Windows 8 Superguide now launched!
We apologise for new content being somewhat thin on the ground last month, the reason being that we were working frantically behind the scenes to get our newest Superguide ready. The Windows 8 Superguide is now available to buy on our website as a physical DVD-ROM or as a digital download here.
The Windows 8 Superguide contains a colossal 65 lessons and 63 video tutorials. The guide covers all elements of the new operating system, from the touch friendly tiles to the productivity powerhouse of the desktop. No matter what kind of computer you are planning to buy or build, Windows 8 is adaptable and versatile, now with our guide you can take the frustration out of learning the new operating system and unleash the true potential of your new Windows 8 PC.
Special introductory price, 25% off, MUST end December 10th
For the first month of sales, were giving all our readers the chance to purchase the Windows 8 Superguide at an amazing 25% off. Get the full Superguide for just $15 instead of $20. An incredible full e-book, training course and video tutorial set for just $15 is an offer that cannot be missed, so order yours now! The guide makes an excellent stocking filler for any friend or family member lucky enough to be getting a new Windows 8 PC this festive season. Get your copy here!
Stop press! The Windows 8 Superguide e-book is now also available for Kindle and Kindle compatible devices. Get access to this content from the convenience of your Kindle e-reader. Click here to find out more.
ESET Smart Security – Recommendation withdrawn
Regrettably we’ve had to withdraw our recommendation for what was one of our favourite security suites. ESET Smart Security was, until recently, protecting most of the PC’s we use here for producing and running Top-Windows-Tutorials.com. However, after unreliable performance on our XP test machines and more shockingly, compatibility conflicts with all of our Superguide products, we decided enough was enough. For anyone that needs to use our Superguides, we recommend Microsoft Security Essentials as a replacement for ESET and we will be investigating several other alternatives in the near future.
Do you need to upgrade to Windows 8?
Traditionally, when a new version of Windows is launched, we run an article which discusses the benefits of upgrading for various demographic groups. The decision to upgrade to Windows 8 is a little more complex however. While it still hinges around what you want to get from your PC, it also depends a lot on what version of Windows you already have. Don’t forget that if you upgrade now, you can get Windows 8 for just $39.99 or £24.99 by digital download, but more on that offer later in the newsletter. Remember, for an in-depth look at what’s new in Windows 8, check our September newsletter. Here’s what to consider based on what version of Windows you are already running:-
Windows XP users:- Windows XP is due to be retired entirely after April 8, 2014. After this time you will not receive any security or other updates for the operating system at all. Continuing to use the OS after this date is not advised, unless you take your XP PC off the internet entirely. Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8 is highly recommended for all users. Windows 8 brings a huge amount of benefits, including vastly improved security, user account controls (ideal for managing and restricting children’s accounts), a slicker, much improved desktop, better search facilities, access to a fully supported 64-bit version that can support more than 4GB of system RAM, better gaming and graphics card support, improved Windows Explorer and much more.
We advise anyone still using Windows XP to strongly consider upgrading to Windows 8. If you are concerned that your PC might not be up to spec, the Upgrade Advisor tool (which we cover in our final article this month) will tell you of any problems or incompatibilities.
Windows Vista users:- Poor Windows Vista, despite bringing some really important security improvements to Windows, consumers were more focused on performance and compatibility and at least initially, Vista fell short. Despite the bad press it got, Vista was and still is a much better operating system than Windows XP. If you’re still using a Vista PC, by upgrading to Windows 8 you can get access to a faster, more memory efficient version of Windows that is likely to run more smoothly. This is especially true on older hardware where Vista really struggled to perform. You will also notice improvements on the desktop, such as desktop snap and peek, that make working with windows easier. You will enjoy improved start-up and shut down times as well as improved battery life on laptops and portable machines.
For Windows Vista users there are lots of benefits to upgrading. A Vista to Windows 8 upgrade gets our strong recommendation, especially while Microsoft’s special upgrade offer is on.
Windows 7 users:- Windows 7’s popularity is well deserved. Taking the good things in Vista, fixing the bad and adding more improvements, Windows 7 was a return to form for the desktop OS, both in the eyes of end users and IT professionals. Upgrading to Windows 8 for Windows 7 users brings less benefits, but there are still a significant number. Windows 8 has better startup and shut-down times, an improved Windows Explorer (now called “File Explorer”), better support for multi-monitors and an improved Task Manager, as well as some security and memory and CPU usage improvements under the hood that also result in improved battery life for portable machines.
The benefits of upgrading for Windows 7 users aren’t as pronounced as they are for Windows XP and Vista users. For desktop PC users in particular (who aren’t overly concerned with startup times and don’t care at all about battery life) the upgrade is much more difficult to justify. There are still some benefits of course, the improved multi-monitor support is going down well with many power users.
Do I lose any features by upgrading?
There are a few features that Microsoft have removed that some users may miss. Of course, the big one is the removal of the Start button and Start Menu. This can be restored fully by using Stardock Software’s Start8, or for free by using Classic Shell.
Aero, the transparent, cool looking desktop theme that users have been used to since Windows Vista has also gone, replaced with a more neutral, non-transparent theme, though the window management tools like Aero Snap and Shake are still present.
Desktop gadgets are gone, though you can replace them with a third party solution such as the stunning looking but complex to configure Rainmeter. Widget engines seem to have gone out of fashion significantly in recent years, with many of the major widget engines such as those offered by Google and Yahoo having ceased development completely.
A small number of the more popular advanced system and customization tools are not yet compatible, but this is likely to be fixed soon. Tools like Daemon Tools, that allows CD and DVD images to be mounted and used just like they were physical discs, does not currently work (though Windows 8 includes a feature similar to this built in). There are some problems with the popular security tool Truecrypt when using full disk encryption. Popular Windows customization tool Windowblinds does not currently work. Finally and most bizarrely, we were not able to get the popular social networking tool Tweetdeck to connect under Windows 8.
Do I really have to have the tiles?
No, using a utility such as Start 8, you barely ever need to see the new interface at all. Occasionally you may need to dip back into them to configure things like Homegroups or add a new user, but many operations can also be done on the desktop and a typical computing session wont require you to use them at all. Do not let Microsoft’s controversial new touch optimised interface and/or the infernal hot corners put you off from an upgrade if you believe you’d otherwise benefit from one.
In summary then, Windows 8 is a very worthwhile upgrade for users still on Windows XP or Windows Vista. Windows 7 users should perhaps think a little harder before taking the plunge, but there are still benefits to upgrading even for those of you on Windows 7.
Tip of the Month – Use tabs when shopping on-line
As Christmas gets closer, lots of us will be shopping for presents online. We all love to get a good deal and that means comparing prices on lots of websites. To make this easier, make sure you learn how to use tabs. All modern browsers include tabs, yet many users still don’t use them. In Internet Explorer and Firefox, you can open a new tab by pressing the control and T keys together or clicking on the space next to the last tab you opened (in Firefox, this area is marked with a + symbol). Each tab you open can contain a different web page, while shopping, browse for the product or service you want in the first tab, then open up another tab and go to another store, you can then flick through your tabs and compare prices quickly and easily!
You can find out more about tabbed browsing by visiting our Power Surfing tutorials page here.
Free Utility of the Month – Classic Shell
Firstly, we apologise for featuring Stardock Software’s Start 8 program as our Free Utility of the Month in our last newsletter. Although we stand by our recommendation of this program, it is not free. We were led to believe that there would be a basic, free version of the program but this is not the case.
Fortunately, however, you can replace the Start button for free on Windows 8 by using Classic Shell. Classic Shell gives you a fully customizable Start Menu for Windows 8 (and earlier versions of Windows if you like) that can compliment the new Start screen when you are working on the desktop or even replace it entirely. The newest version supports jump lists and can send you directly to the desktop after logging into your Windows 8 machine. While not as fully featured as Start8, Classic Shell will suit the needs of many users struggling with the more controversial design decisions in Windows 8. Download Classic Shell or find out more about the program by visiting this page.
Windows 8 upgrades, great price, terrible implementation!
Microsoft is keen for those early adopters to embrace Windows 8, for those of you on the fence about upgrading, there’s a tempting upgrade offer currently running. If you upgrade Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 via digital download, using Microsoft’s website and upgrade advisor tool, you can get the new operating system for $39.99/£24.99. This is certainly a tempting offer, however the upgrade process has not been implemented very smoothly. If you are considering this offer, here are a few pitfalls you might encounter.
There’s no option to create or upgrade a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version:- Although the upgrade license allows you to do this, Microsoft’s Upgrade Advisor tool will never give you the option of creating and installing a 64-bit version of the OS if you start it on a machine with the 32-bit operating system installed. The only workaround for this is to borrow a friends 64-bit machine and use that to run the tool and create yourself a 64-bit installation disc. Remember that when upgrading from 32-bit windows to 64-bit, you will have to reinstall all your programs and data.
Create media option not always appearing:– On some systems, the option to create installation media simply does not appear. We’re not sure why. If you need to create a bootable USB or DVD to install Windows from and the upgrade advisor does not offer you the option, you may need to contact Microsoft for assistance, or find a friend who’s already created installation media and use that (of course, don’t attempt to share serial numbers/activation keys).
If the installer does not detect an existing copy of Windows on your hard drive, it will fail after it has been installed:– Eager to get using your new PC, we don’t blame you. However, if you installed your upgrade to a fresh hard drive, or Windows simply didn’t detect that there was an installation already present, instead of failing during installation, it will merrily allow you to install Windows and only then, as you are setting up your new PC, does it tell you it cannot be activated. Rather than allowing you to simply enter the activation key from your previous version of Windows to prove that you own one, the activation process is simply halted. You must then telephone Microsoft or, simply take a look at this article on Ghacks. Note we take no responsibility if you follow what this article suggests, but we can confirm it worked for us on one problematic machine.
Purchase is not tied to your Microsoft account:- Microsoft are keen for us to all subscribe to their cloud services, with purchases we make in the new Windows store, on our Xbox consoles and on our fancy new Windows tablets all tied to one account. Why then is the Windows 8 purchase not linked to a Microsoft account? It would make managing keys and installation media much easier. Sadly, the whole procedure makes no use of this new infrastructure. Make sure you backup your keys and media when taking advantage of the upgrade offer.
We did ask for comment from Microsoft on their official forums as to the upgrade process but received no official comments. It’s a shame that such an attractive offer is blighted by such a poorly implemented upgrade tool. If you are considering taking this offer up, keep the above in mind before you part with your cash. This is still an excellent opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8, but it’s not without its problems!
That rounds off our newsletter for November. On behalf of everyone here at Top-Windows-Tutorials, I’d like to thank you all for your continuing support. The TWT Newsletter will return on the 10th December 2012 and will bring you more tips, tricks and techniques to help you get the best out of your PC, be it Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8! We hope that you found this newsletter informative and useful. If you did not then please let us know why, you can contact us by visiting this page or by leaving us feedback in our forum. If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends and family, or better still encourage them to sign up for their own copy. Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com, and enjoy happy, safe and stress-free computing!