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How to migrate off XP and make a Microsoft Windows 8 upgrade

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Ease Windows 8 frustration by focusing on what the OS actually does

Four commonly cited sources of Windows 8 frustration aren't as important as the new OS's security and other features, writes our columnist.

The past year has been a long one for Microsoft. Windows 8 is the operating system that everyone loves to hate, arguably almost as much as the dreadful Windows ME and Windows Vista. I've already shared some of my Windows 8 frustrations. Yet I've discovered that many people who dislike the OS or suffer Windows 8 confusion haven't really used it. They merely rely on headlines and sound bites to draw their conclusions.

But Windows 8 is more than the boxy, touch-enabled Modern UI still often referred to as Metro. Way more. I've been using Windows 8 for over a year in traditional desktop mode with Stardock's Start8 start menu replacement tool, and I absolutely love it. It's extremely fast. Not just at boot time but all the time.

Windows 8 desktops also have numerous enhancements that help me work more productively and securely. Examples include provisions for file copying and multiple monitors. I simply don't understand the Windows 8 myths -- especially among those who haven't yet given it a chance.

Here are some top Windows 8 misconceptions that should be corrected as enterprises consider the OS, or at least its successor Windows 8.1:

  1. Users will have to relearn Windows, and we don't have time for that.
    If the Modern UI is your default user interface, it will no doubt be cumbersome and frustrating to learn. I do believe that Microsoft blew it when they tried forcing a new way of interacting with Windows and cutesy "apps" down our throats. The good news is that you don't have to use them. Windows 8.1 restores the Start button. Just use the good old-fashioned desktop and programs like everyone has always used Windows.
  2. The OS and applications will be difficult to use without a touchscreen.
    Not true. Slinging tiles around in the Modern UI is neat if you have a touchscreen, but again, it's not needed. I know touchscreens have a certain novelty, but I suspect that most business users of Windows will continue with the keyboard and mouse.
  3. Its security is unproven.
    I heard an IT professional say this recently. Again, hearsay without research. Windows 8 is the most secure desktop OS that Microsoft has ever released. Malware protection is much improved. BitLocker is much improved. When used with Windows Server 2012, Group Policies are much better. What's not to like?
  4. The Windows Store is missing important apps, such as Firefox, Facebook and other niche programs used in business.
    I don't foresee Windows 8 being used as an iOS or Android-like OS in the enterprise. Sure, maybe on the handful of Windows-based phones and tablets in use but not on traditional desktops. Although Microsoft is trying to modernize all desktop applications -- something that's evident even in Office 2013 -- I suspect that it'll be business as usual with traditional applications for the foreseeable future.

Perhaps the greatest argument against Windows 8 is that Windows 7 is just fine for enterprise desktops. It's hard to argue with that. Windows XP and Windows 7 are the perfect examples of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Despite Windows 8 frustration arising from the unfamiliar interface and features, the improved security, speed and usability make it a no-brainer for the enterprise when the time does come to upgrade. Windows 8 is enterprise-worthy. With the enhancements in Windows 8.1, perhaps this next generation of Windows will be taken seriously in business settings.

This was first published in August 2013

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Essential Guide

How to migrate off XP and make a Microsoft Windows 8 upgrade

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