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Is Windows 8 a Disaster?


Hi everyone, I’m Leo Notenboom for Ask Leo!

I read someone calling Windows 8 a disaster the other day and to be completely honest, it just rubs me the wrong way. Windows 8, as an operating system, is not a disaster; it’s a fine, fine operating system. Like I’ve said many times, I use it myself; I use it regularly.

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Where Microsoft really, really blundered is with the tiled Start screen and the touch-type user interface. Now the tiled Start screen is not a technical blunder; it’s a fine software. Once you understand how it works, it works great; it really does. You don’t have to use it and I’ll get to that in a minute. The blunder here, and yes, I believe it really is a fairly big blunder on their part, was to make it the default and to remove any choice. The issue is that the Start screen was many people’s first experience with Windows 8.

And we all know how important first impressions are. Well, first impressions were awful. Microsoft really failed to realize just how jarring, and actually inexplicable in many ways, this first impression of Windows 8 would be to people. That’s the mistake they made. It’s not a technical one; it’s one of presentation, of PR, if you will. Windows 8, like I said, is a fine operating system; I do use it everyday and I use it in a way that makes it virtually indistinguishable from Windows 7, which is what everybody seems to want to go back to. Well, you can. I use Classic Shell.

I installed Classic Shell and it throws a [traditional] Start menu on there and it goes directly to the desktop without needing the tiled Start menu. It’s like I never left Windows 7. But people, for whatever reason, they just refuse to accept and understand that. What they do is they focus on the tiled Start screen and they say, “Oh, my gosh, this operating system’s all about touch screens”! I’ve had people even say that it requires a touch screen. It does not. It works just fine on a traditional desktop with a mouse. Like I said, that’s how I’m using it.

So, the other complaint that I often hear is that hardware isn’t being supported. Now, that’s almost, but not quite, a red herring. It’s a valid concern, but what most people don’t get is that it’s been a valid concern for every new version of the operating system since the day it was invented. Each new version of Windows has always dropped support for something. They have to. There’s just no way that they can cart along and actually support all of that old hardware that’s ever been developed.

So, yes, absolutely. There are hardware issues; there are things that aren’t going to be supported with Windows 8. And you bet, if that’s a problem you’re facing, that’s a very real problem and you’re going to want to deal with that. Whether that means not upgrading to 8, or getting new hardware or something else, that’s the nature of operating system upgrades. It was true of Windows XP, it was true of Windows Vista, it’s true of Windows 7 and sure enough, it’s true of Windows 8. It’s nothing that makes Windows 8 any worse than a predecessor; it’s just another version of Windows. So, like I said, if you have unsupported hardware, yes, that’s a very real issue – I get that; I’m not trying to say it’s not a problem for you, it is.

All I’m trying to say is that Windows 8 is simply behaving like pretty much every other version of Windows that came before. Hardware support of some sort was dropped. So, yea, ultimately, we shouldn’t have to turn to things like third-party software to get the user interface experience we want; we shouldn’t have to go back and say I want my Start menu and install either things like Classic Shell or many of the other alternatives that are out there right now to make those things come back.

And in fact, incrementally, it appears that Microsoft is begrudgingly returning to the [traditional] Start menu and allowing you to boot directly into the desktop. But ultimately, – I don’t want to say it’s “fluff”- but it’s not something that should get in the way of anybody’s acceptance of Windows 8, only because it’s so easily and so trivially solved with a little bit of third-party software. So, Windows 8, in my opinion: definitely not a disaster. I do look forward to what they’re going to do with 8.2 if that happens, and Windows 9.

There’s a lot of discussion and speculation they’re going to backtrack on a lot of what they’ve done with Windows 8. I understand why they did what they did with Windows 8; I think, like I said, it was the wrong presentation to people; the wrong default experience.

What they’re trying to do is unify all their user interfaces across their phones, their tablets and their PCs. I get that; that makes some amount of sense.

To make it the default though, on a desktop PC is not the right answer. But like I said, easily solved and once you’ve got that solved, you’ve actually got a pretty solid operating system that’s fast and secure and pretty much equivalent to Windows 7.

So, there you have it. I’m Leo Notenboom for

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27 comments on “Is Windows 8 a Disaster?”

  1. I totally agree Leo. When I first saw Windows 8 while shopping for a new desktop I had my concerns. However, after a very short and brief introduction to 8.0 from a salesman showing me how to use it on a display, I bought the pc, installed classic shell, and have no gripes at all with it. Now I’ve upgraded to 8.1 and don’t even use classic shell anymore.

  2. Just check on Microsoft’s on sales numbers, it is a disaster, I have worked on a lot of clients machines running it and yes it is a disaster.

  3. I’ve never liked the start menu (so fiddly to use with a mouse), so I consider that the start page is so much better, especially as you can modify it to suit your needs. I’ve turned off live tiles and minimised all the tiles, so I can get exactly what I want on the page (though I do boot into the desktop). When in the start page you can start typing (e.g. for a little used app) and there it is ready to be clicked . You can do that in W7 you say. Yes but it’s easier to hit with the mouse.
    My only gripe is that it’s so difficult to find anything useful in the Windows store (so much trivial stuff). But that’s the same as Google play for Android, and (I think) iTunes for Apple.

  4. Going from XP to 8 was a daunting experience for me (could be age related,lol) but now it’s the only way to fly.

  5. Leo,
    Thank you for the comments regarding Windows 8 – We need more people who stand up and give honest comments, rather then sit back and complain. I too reviewed Windows 8, and purchased it on my New Computer – at first thinking after using it for about 1 – 2 weeks, and found it doing strange things during the night ? I found by accident that the problem was cause by downloading Windows 8.1, each time about a week would pass, the problems started, and I found by returning to a prior installation, and only allow Windows 8. All problems stopped. I believe it is the best System (to learn for all Windows to learn) It is very fast, without the delays experienced with previous Windows Software. I have over the years, used “Windows 3.1”, “Windows 95”, “Windows XP”, and now “Windows 8”. I did stay away from “Windows Vista”
    What is needed are more people who are not afraid to make comments, which are not for the benefit of the majority of Software users. Another good one from Microsoft – learn and most will like the New System (Remember Nothing is always straight – complete out of the box – learn to make small changes and move forward)

  6. After finding Classic Shell for Windows 8, I found it much less frustrating to navigate; the cursing emanating from my office door is now at a much more acceptable level.

    And, I just wanted to comment on the video thumbnail. I don’t know if you chose this one, or if it is just a random frame you didn’t bother to change, but I find it hilarious in context. ;)

  7. Leo,

    I think you are a bit hypocritical. You put out a whole article about accepting change, but then keep telling people to use some third party software to make Win 8/8.1 look like the Win 95-7 UI.

    I agree with Malcolm. The first thing I did was modify the Start Page to make it an even more useful Start Menu. I like Win 8.1’s using smaller tiles – four in the space of one. Being able to just type the first few letters of a program’s name to access it is outstanding. I can open a password protected program/document without my hands having to leave the keyboard. A great time and effort saver.

    The first thing I did was uninstall all the apps I would never use. Then I unpinned those I might use infrequently. The next step was to rearrange everything into groups that made sense with the way I use them. Finally, I pinned the other programs and documents I frequently access and put them in the proper group. The short form: I made the Start Page work for me. And, it’s much quicker and easier than using the old Start Menu – hit the Windows key, click on one tile, and my program loads. Most of what I open goes to the Desktop, anyway. So, I have no need to boot directly to it.

    I do agree that the apps could be better, but I really don’t have that much problem with them. When I’m through with them – such as reading the news or checking my calendar – Alt+F4, and they’re gone. I just wish that key combination worked on the Desktop – much easier than having to reach for the mouse, navigate to a small “x” in the corner, and clicking on it.

    Use Win 8/8.1 native for a while. As the saying goes: Try it, you’ll like it.

  8. I delayed getting new computer since all I heard and read was how horrible windows 8 was. But, finally made the big move, Lenovo with win 8.1 about a month ago. This has taught me to be much more skeptical of various reviewers and opinions. It took me all of 10 minutes to master 8.1 and there are things I really like about it. When i don’t like it I am exactly one click from a screen that is nearly identical to Win7. So, if you have been delaying for the same reason I was, don’t fear, plan on a very short learning curve…and even if you hate it you’re just 1 click away from a windows7-like screen…where you can have a dozen open windows if you like…just like win7.

  9. I felt the same aversion to 8.1, coming from current XP use. My son recently said he had tried 8.1 and was amazed at how fast it was. I installed it on an old 1.7GHz 1Gig RAM laptop and it works faster than a friend’s Win7 on a newer machine. Having preferred keyboard shortcuts over the years, I have found many Win8 shortcuts that am fast getting used to for accessing various aspects of Win8 operation. My question: Is Win8 really faster? If so, why? Could it be that to cater for tablets the code has been re-written from the bottom up and is no longer bloatware?

    • It seems like Windows 8 dropped some of the bloat. One example, it got rid of the Aero graphics which was pretty, but it slowed the system down. It appears they actually did a lot of under the hood stuff to improve speed. These are things the Windows 8 haters don’t see. I’ve been using Classic Shell for years as I preferred the Win 98 Start Menu over the XP version, but I actually stopped using it with Win 8. With Win 8’s new improved search function, I just go to the tiles menu and type 3 or 4 letters of the program I wan to run and the proper program icon appears instantly. If you want to use a car analogy, I’d compare it to removing the clutch and putting in an automatic transmission. People complained. “Hey where’s the clutch?” I’ve actually heard Europeans say when they drive a car in the US that they miss the control of having a clutch and manual shift.

    • If I had to make an over-simplified guess: I’d say the removal of the Aero display option. It added a fair amount of complexity to what’s done when something is displayed on screen. But that’s just a guess.

  10. The first time I tried Win8.1 was on a friends laptop. When he would ask me how to do certain things I found I was lost and didn’t like it at all, but after getting a laptop of my own and playing around for a while I found it to be not much of a problem. Once you learn that things are done a little bit differently, it is a pretty easy OS to use. I really don’t see why there are so many complaints about it. First impressions are not good, but once you get past that and get into using it it may turn out to be better than Win7…

  11. I have to agree with Leo on the subject of Windows 8, I’ve found it to be completely stable and reliable – even though most of the software I have is quite old. I use a lot of freeware programs and scripts due to being low income, and so far the only thing I wanted to run and could not was Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.0 – it takes version 12 for Windows 8.

    I also teach computer classes and do the I.T. work for a school. In replacing some outdated office computers, first reactions to Windows 8 was “What is THAT??” by staff. Second reaction after showing them all they had to do was press the Logo-Key and D for Desktop? “Oh, just like XP.” As Leo mentioned, I did add classic shell. My recommendation to staff was to use the familiar interface for most work, and when they had time, go to the tiled interface and just experiment with it and become familiar in a non time-pressure way, which is the way I learned it myself. So far, staff is well versed on the system and there have been no complaints or failures. For an I.T. guy, this is a GOOD thing… :)

    • Agree. I recently bought a Toshiba laptop with Windows 8. As luck would have it Windows 8.1 was released the following day, so my experience has been with the latest version of Windows.
      Toshiba included a card with the laptop, listing a handful of instructions. One of them was for accessing the desktop: press the Windows logo key and D for desktop. Once you are on the desktop, windows 8.1 is for all practical purposes very similar to Windows 7. By the way, my laptop has a touch screen, which I believe I used less than five times in five months. The mouse does it all with the aide of the touch pad.

  12. Sorry Leo. I like 99% of you thoughts on everything else, but Windows 8 is a messy unfriendly OS. I like the way XP works, I like its simple click the start button and then go from there. I don’t want to hunt what seems like the end of the earth to find something. I often have to remote connect to my customers for which I use Teamviewer. The jog the right side of the screen I assume works on an in front of you machine but not Teamviewer. Loads of my hardware which I have paid hard earned cash for all of a sudden won’t work because Microsoft has yet again decided to mess things around so there no legacy ( and to say they couldn’t make it work just doesn’t wash).

    If Windows 8 was a car I wouldn’t buy it and I would go out and buy some other make. but because MS have the whole of the world in a stranglehold, we, the fee paying public, have to go along with it ?

    It would be nice to think we could run all of our business programmes on Linux, of which 6 of mine will not. So we are stuck with what the MS software designers decided is best for us. Windows 7 works perfectly OK although it to goes of in a hissy fit and won’t run some programmes or hardware.

    So, until MS come up with “Windows 10, designed with the rest of the worlds hardware in mind” then thanks but no thanks. Windows 8 can stay in the same box as Windows Vista.

    Angy ?, yup I am, come the next few months I will either have to stick with XP of pay out £2000 + to replace things that wont work with Windows 8. Impressed ?, not a bit.

    • Something I just cannot understand is that people keep blaming the OS developers for not updating hardware drivers and third-party software. That is not their responsibility. Consider all the thousands of items and programs involved (just consider for instance the number of makes/models of printers produced since XP was released). Trying to write the code to make all these work with the new OS would be an overwhelming task. That’s why segments of the code is made available to the hardware and software developers.

      Hardware and software makers had Windows 8 for about a year to update their products. If they did not provide MS with the updates, then MS could not include them in the release. MS does make generic drivers for those items that can use it. However, most items require special manufacture specific drivers or other code.

      You have items that won’t work with Linux, then why don’t you complain to those developers about it? It would be just as easy for them to modify their flavor of Linux so these items could work. But then, they’re not Microsoft.

      Hardware/software developers don’t want to update their products to work with a new or alternate OS because they – not the OS developer – want you to buy the latest version. After all, they only make money off new sales.

      If you have hardware/software that won’t work with the new OS, then take your anger out on that company. If enough people would put the blame where it belongs and request the hardware/software companies update their code, then maybe something will be done to correct the situation. But to continue to gripe about the OS developer not doing someone else’s work doesn’t accomplish anything.

  13. If for some reason I would say that Windows 8 was a bad system, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the start screen. I like Windows 8. I can complain about the built in flash player and task manager, and for Windows 8.1, the IE 11 bugs that IE 11 for Windows 7 doesn’t have.

    Although, here’s my point of view of where Microsoft messed up: they claim that it’s supposed to be for touch and mouse: the start screen with tiles is optimized for touch, check, but they threw away a perfectly good start menu that was good for mouse. Still, there’s nothing wrong with using the start screen with the mouse, and I would have problems if I tried to use Windows 8 with touch.

    By the way, one advantage of the screen is dragging and dropping…well, then again, you can’t drag and drop from the desktop to the start screen or vice versa, and the start screen happens to be the one metro app that can’t be, “snapped”, as they like to call it.

  14. I agree completely with you about W8. I can’t stand the tiled “metro” interface, and do not have and do not want a touch screen computer. I installed Stardock’s Start8 and ModernMix, and this revealed the “better Windows 7” that lies beneath the thin shell of the metro interface.

  15. When I started reading the reviews prior to Windows 8’s release, I said, Microsoft messed up – they should have made the Start screen the default, if touch technology was detected. If there was no touch technology detected, then it should have booted into desktop mode. It feels good to see that Leo essentially agrees with me.

    What I don’t get is the Windows 7 bashers and those who prefer the XP start menu. I’m quite the opposite, I use Windows 7 so much, that when I sit down at my XP machine, I’ve caught myself hitting the Windows key and starting to type the name of the program I want to run. Unfortunately, XP doesn’t work that way.

    Windows 7 and now Windows 8 has recognized that there is a better way to launch a program. Most people don’t sit down at the computer and start looking through their start menu wondering what program they should run. Most times, most people know exactly what they want to do on their computer and they know what program will let them do what it is they want to do. So it only makes sense to allow the user to type in what they are looking for instead of trying to remember what folder or subfolder the program is tucked away into in the start menu.

    When the time comes to upgrade to 8, the one thing I think I will have a hard time with is the tiled start screen. I hate a lot of icons on my desktop. To me, the desktop is a temporary storage spot. My desktop has very few icons. When I finally have to upgrade, I won’t want to see a lot of tiles on the screen. But then, I guess I’ll get used to it and perhaps enjoy it, like I did with the Windows 7 start menu.

  16. I absolutely LOVE Windows 8 (OK, actually 8.1). I have a Windows Phone (WP8), and generally use a Win 7 work laptop. But I decided to treat myself (being given a gift voucher) to a Windows 8 tablet. And guess what – the two user interfaces are really VERY similar. On the phone, I swipe left to see all my Apps. On my tablet, I swipe down. And both of the “main” screens (the “tiled” screens) behave in what I think is exactly the same way. I have all my favourite Apps (tiles) on the main screen and with Win 8, many of those show on-going updates – fabulous. If I want an app that’s not on the tiled screen, I swipe left or down according to the device – and there’s the list – not really a whole lot different to clicking the Start button if you really think about it.

    One key difference between the phone and the tablet is that on my tablet, I can easily group my tiles to make it easier to find things visually – which is actually something I’d love to see on my phone (maybe WP8.1?).

    And before readers challenge me with the argument – “Ah, yes, but the OS is optimised for tablets” – I agree it is. But let me assure you – I bought a non-touch laptop for my son, and he loves the Windows 8 platform. I’ve used it too, and I’d be very happy with a non-touch machine if that’s what was available.

    I agree with many of the comments already made – people judge far too quickly. I think Mark Magill’s approach for the staff he supports was great – get them to “play” when they have a little time. I suggest people do need to take the time and have a “play”, then work out what does and does not work for them. I believe the OS is flexible enough that you can readily work out how best to use it for yourself. And if an add-in makes it work better for you, then great – you have your solution.

  17. Hi Leo, I take your weekly offerings and whilst I don’t read them all through it is great to be able to archive them and see if you have comments about a particular problem I may be encountering.
    My current problem is changing from using Vista to 8.1 and it did seem rather daunting until I watched you video ” Is Windows 8.1 a disaster ? “. I do feel quite reasssured now and expect to be able to get to grips with it.I do have friends in their 80’s who will go to the lenghs of having a machine custom built with Windows 7 rather tha consider 8 or 8.1. but then many of the same friends ( actually some were playing with computers prior to their being any windws OS ) told me just how poor Vista was. I on the other han having no experience of anything but Vista, just got on with gradually learning the system. I very much agree with you tha it was a big blunder to make 8.1 look so radically different without an easy choice to use a more familiar Start screen but you have explained how this can be addressed and I understand that Microsoft themselves will be introducing updates to address this problem. I suppose what I miss most is not being able to use the route, Start>All Programs or to start typing the proram name in a search box but I think you said that there is a search box in a different place.
    Thanks Again from ageing ” Limey “,Tony.

  18. Will Windows 9 be made to look exactly like my classic shell version of Windows 8.1, without Classic Shell. Why are they removing the charms, A couple of times, I went back to the Start screen and used the charms bar. I may get it for FREE!
    While I have backups, it may take hours to install. I thought people hated tiles totally,
    So why this? I still think there should be a completely separate tablet version for Windows.

  19. It is mind blowing that it got so far. Didn’t anyone object along the way?
    First thing I did when purchasing a new PC was install the Shell app.
    Apparently they didn’t need 2 years to come up with the program.
    That also blows my mind. A freebie that turns a !@$$ experience into a decent one.
    My PC is not a toy. I am a professional cad designer. I am not 12 years old.
    I don’t care about apps. Most are useless. That’s a gimmick for phones.
    Not workstations. Just my 2 bits. Again- SO GLAD I classic shell was available !!!!

  20. I heard, online THAT Windows 9 will actually be called Windows 10.(10 may sound better than 9), Windows 9 was to be free to Windows 8.1 users, maybe Windows 10 will be free, too.

    • From what I’ve read, the next upgrade version of Windows will be free regardless of the version number they give it.

  21. Win 8 is a great operating system. The thing I dislike about it, you cannot delete apps that you have tried. I want to be able to delete apps in my account because I am not going to use them again.


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