The World of Windows 8

Windows 8 graphic

2012 saw the debut of the latest version of Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 8.  Windows 8 debuted in an unusually tense atmosphere for a Windows device, as “Wintel” (Windows PCs powered by Intel processors) faced unprecedented threats from tablets and smartphones in the marketplace.  Windows 8 PCs faced sales declines over the 2012 holiday period, and the changes in the interface of Windows 8 from Windows 7 have been a major cause of concern for many consumers. Questions such as, “How can I find my old files if I upgrade to Windows 8?” and “Will Steam run in Windows 8?” are extremely common. Another common topic for questions is the difference between Windows 8—the operating system for conventional Windows desktop and laptop PCs, and Windows RT—the operating system for Windows tablets.  In this article, let’s take a look at how compatibility in Windows 8 works and what the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT mean.

Windows 8 versus Windows RT

Newer operating system on a tabletWindows 8 for PCs and Windows RT for tablets were designed to look very similar, both utilizing a “Metro” interface that resembles the tile-based Windows Phone interface.   Beyond the similarity of the Metro user interface, the two operating systems are very different. Windows RT is specifically designed to run on tablets with ARM processors, the same as those used by most mobile phones and tablets.  Tablets running it will typically have a longer battery life, but can only run apps specifically designed for Windows RT.  Windows 8, however, can run all legacy apps and programs from earlier versions of Windows, due to its ability to shift to the classic Windows desktop for backwards compatibility. 

CRRL librarian and tech expert Chuck Gray praises Windows 8’s ability to run game software through Steam, saying that “Steam runs beautifully on Windows 8, and actually a few games that crashed under Windows 7 now work for me in 8!” Windows RT, on the other hand, faces serious issues with its app volume when compared with the comparable tablet operating systems iOS and Android. Windows RT has very few apps in comparison to any other tablet OS, lacking even official Twitter and Facebook apps!  Even worse, the Windows RT version of Microsoft Office, marketed as one of the main reasons for the Microsoft Surface’s keyboard/cover, lacks the functionality of Microsoft Office for Windows 8. Microsoft Office RT doesn’t support add-ins or documents and templates that include macros.  In short, if you are considering buying a Windows device, it would be strongly advisable to buy a full Windows 8 PC, rather than any device running Windows RT.

Customizing Windows 8 for Familiarity

If you’ve just bought a Windows 8 PC, you may find the extreme difference between the traditional look of Microsoft Windows and that of Windows 8 disconcerting.  A major frustration for Windows 8 users is the lack of the Start menu that Windows has typically featured.  This can be rectified by downloading Start 8 from Stardock, which creates a Windows 7-style Start menu in Windows 8. A free demo of Start 8 can be downloaded here.  Another source of frustration for some users is the lack of a pin for Steam in the starting Metro interface. Steam does not provide its own Metro pin, but a third party pin for Steam can be downloaded here.  As time goes on, more customization and services will become available for Windows 8, particularly in regards to the Metro interface, but as Windows 8 was introduced in the fourth quarter of 2012, much software development is yet to take place.

Learning More about Windows 8 at CRRL

If you’ve just bought a Windows 8 PC or are looking to upgrade an existing PC to Windows 8, the library can be a great source of information for you! Contact us about Windows 8, and our tech expert Chuck Gray will be happy to guide you through the ins and outs of it so you can make the best use of this new operating system.  One word of advice: if you are looking to upgrade an existing PC to Windows 8, upgrade prices will dramatically increase on January 31.  We at CRRL are always open to new technology and would like to help you explore and realize the potential of your devices to the fullest!