For Windows 8, the second time isn’t the charm.

Several months ago, Microsoft released a consumer preview of Windows 8. Curious, I decided to load it into a virtual machine using VMware Player. To say I wasn’t impressed would be putting it mildly. After a couple of days, I deleted the virtual machine and gave up on it. Now that Windows 8 has been officially released, I decided I should at least make myself somewhat familiar with it. I didn’t want to spend money on software I wasn’t sure I wanted, even if some places had the upgrade for $40. So, I grabbed the consumer preview ISO, loaded it into a new virtual, and loaded it with the software I normally use on a daily basis. The plan was to run Windows 8 as my primary OS for a few days and get used to it. Perhaps I had been too hard on it.

After a couple of days, I can safely say that I still don’t like it at all.

The thing I hate the most is Metro/Windows 8 UI. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Metro was designed with a touchscreen interface in mind. The problem is that while it works great on a touchscreen (as I’ve seen when using it on a phone running Windows Phone 7), it’s terrible to use on a keyboard/mouse interface. It’s not intuitive and awkward to use. Worse, there is no way to turn it off and return to a classic Start menu. Even if you want to use the classic desktop (which is still available, albeit without a Start menu), you still have to go through Metro to get to it. The only thing that’s made it tolerable has been installing a third-party utility called ClassicShell, which provides a Start menu for me to use.

The user/pass convention has been a right pain in the rear, too. When you set up your system for the first time, you’re asked to tie it to a Microsoft account/Windows Live ID, which would allow you to purchase apps off of the Windows Store and sync your settings between PCs. It also forces your account to authenticate using the Microsoft account’s password. Personally, I wouldn’t MIND having my local account linked to a Microsoft account, but I would also like to be able to give my account its own username and password. As it stood, I ended up having to look in Computer Management to see what username to use to log into the machine via Remote Desktop Connection. Disabling it as a whole apparently requires a copy of Windows 8 Professional or Ultimate, as the local security policy needs to be edited.

For everything else, though, the install isn’t very different from Windows 7 for what I use it for. There’s nothing in Metro that makes me want to use it, and the desktop is a downgrade from Windows 7 without the Start menu. In fact, the release version is even more of a downgrade than the consumer preview I’m running, because the consumer preview has the Windows Aero desktop while the release version does not. There is simply nothing that makes me want to use this version of Windows.

At the end of the day today, I’ll likely go ahead and delete the virtual running Windows 8, and go back to running Windows 7 full-time. I now have an idea of what to expect should the time come when I’m forced to purchase machines with Windows 8 for work and not be able to downgrade to Windows 7. Until then, I’ll be digging in my heels and sparing myself (and my coworkers) the annoyance of dealing with it.

4 thoughts on “For Windows 8, the second time isn’t the charm.”

  1. Start8, which cost $5, is a pretty nice replacement for the Start Screen. Also, you can change your account to a local account through the Users settings in the Metro Control Panel.

    1. ClassicShell is free and does the job pretty well. I forgot to mention the part about converting the account to a local account; I simply don’t know how that might break apps bought through the Windows Store. Still, in the end, there really isn’t anything there that makes me want to migrate to Windows 8.

      1. I like some of the things 8 has like the new Task Manager, improved multi-monitor support for wallpapers and the taskbar, the new file copy dialog. I can definitely see how it’d be useful as a tablet OS. Especially for those who want to be able to work on things on the go, but want to travel light. Consume and create? Count me in. I even love how my web site credentials, app settings, and wallpapers are kept between installs. That said, while the apps are improving by leaps since the RTM, MS still has a lot of work to do. Metro IE10 is oddly rather buggy, and oddly contains a feature the desktop version doesn’t have: Past-and-Go.

        1. Then for you, it sounds like it would work well. :-)

          For me, almost nothing you listed is applicable. For example, I haven’t used multiple monitors since my last job; my desk at home doesn’t have room for a second monitor and I don’t need it at work. In addition, Windows 8 tablets (especially the Surface) seem overpriced to me. Then again, so is the iPad (my ideal tablet), so I use an HP TouchPad running CyanogenMod. Having homogenous environments has never been a priority for me, as setting them up is fairly quick for me. I’m glad you’ve found reasons for Windows 8, but for me it just isn’t worth the hassle.

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