Essential Guide

This Essential Guide is a collection of articles, videos and other content selected by our editors to give you a comprehensive view of this topic.

Post-XPalypse: Surviving a world changed by Windows 8.1 features

Windows XP is dying, so which Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 features do you care about -- or want to ignore? Take another look at our coverage of the operating system's interface, security, management tools and more.

Windows XP support is soon to expire, so many organizations will be upgrading their desktops to Windows 8. Microsoft's latest operating system has raised almost as many questions for enterprise desktop administrators as it addressed prior problems or needs. Windows 8.1 features include tighter security, biometrics support and more, but IT shops and users were initially wary of its touchcentric user interface.

Now that Windows 8 has been out for a while, it's a good time to review what the OS can and can't do. We collect expert advice on Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 features, including security, workarounds and even Windows 8 alternatives. User retraining and application compatibility are other considerations.

Whether you've already migrated from Windows XP to Windows 8, are weighing it against Windows 7 or another OS, or are waiting for the rumored Windows 9, these articles should help you decide how to survive in this brave new world.

Know what Windows 8 can do

1. Windows 8 features roundup

Once you get past the user interface, there's still a lot to learn about Windows 8 for the enterprise. Weigh the pros and cons for your organization, see how Windows 8.1 features improve on those of Windows 8, and get some guidance on how to find utilities in the new OS.

If you're in a bring your own device (BYOD) environment, see how Windows 8 supports mobile computing and what the app store can do for you.

Controlling Windows 8 desktops

2. Windows 8 features for security

Better security is usually sufficient cause to migrate to a newer OS, especially if the move is combined with a hardware refresh. However, the rise of mobile and cloud technologies makes ensuring control over enterprise apps and data more urgent.

Maintaining security might be easier with Windows 8 features, but you still need to know where potential vulnerabilities are and how to address them. Fortunately, IT admins have several tools for at their disposal, including Group Policy settings, BitLocker and Work Folders.

Options beyond Windows 8

3. Windows 8 alternatives and workarounds

If you've moved to Windows 8 but still find Windows 8.1 features lacking, or if you're looking at Windows 8 alternatives, you have options. There are additional Microsoft and third-party tools, alternative OSes, and Windows 8 workarounds that can make life a little easier.

In addition, some businesses are considering virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and BYOD, not as uses for Windows 8 but as ways to avoid having to migrate. Just be aware that mixed or non-Windows 8 setups come with their own security risks.

Reader questions answered

4. Experts weigh in on Windows 8 features

IT and users have asked lots of questions about Windows 8 workarounds, Windows 8.1 features and whether the OS is worth migrating to. Our experts have answered some of your questions, and if you have more, send them to

Terms to remember

5. Windows 8 definitions

Most of Microsoft's terminology around Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 features should be familiar to users of Windows XP through Windows 7. There are a few, however, that can still cause confusion, specifically those around the controversial interface and apps. If you're praising, questioning or criticizing Windows 8, make sure you're using the correct language.