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Why did Microsoft not provide the option of Windows 8 without Metro?


I know that desktops are most likely dying, but they’re not dead yet. What
didn’t Microsoft make two version of Windows 8? Touch and No Touch, or towers
and tablets, or at least allow manufacturers to install Windows 7 on ordinary
towers without touch and give its customers a choice of killing Metro without
hacking? Someone just got a desktop computer with Windows 8 and lots of
features are harder to find or have been stripped out. The Start menu file
search was either hidden or removed for no reason whatsoever. I had less than
10 minutes before I ran out of time. She does not want Linux or Mac, she just
wants what she’s been using for the last 10 years. The old OS was Windows XP.
Maybe 8 also has an XP mode?

In this excerpt from
Answercast #82
, I look at some of the issues around adjusting to Windows 8
and options for returning to a familiar desktop.


Windows 8 without Metro

Unfortunately, no, Windows 8 does not have an XP mode like Windows 7 did.

So let me start by answering the first question. Why? Microsoft is only attempting to move forward.

When they put something out for various and sundry valid business reasons, their intent is to only move forward; to move the industry forward – and that means that Windows 7 is not necessarily an option if you’re only moving forward.

Windows 7 downgrade

Now, with that having been said, many manufacturers have been allowed (and will be allowed for some time) to offer what they call a Windows 7 downgrade.

So it is very possible that what you are looking for is in fact available today… that when you buy a new computer, the manufacturer may give you the option of installing Windows 7 instead of Windows 8.

That being said:

  1. It’s not gonna last forever and;

  2. In my opinion, it’s not necessary.

Windows 8 is different

Yes, Windows 8, when you fire it up the first time, is strikingly different. There’s this whole Metro-tiled user interface.

You know what? You don’t have to use that. If you click on the Desktop tile, you will find something that looks amazingly like a Windows 7 desktop.

Yes, there’s no Start button. If you move the mouse into the lower left-hand corner, you’ll get something that may take you to a Start menu – and there are several third-party applications that will provide you with a Start button and a Start menu once again.

One of the ones that I see referred to frequently is called You’ll find a link to it in the notes for this audio transcript. The bottom line is that you can get a Start menu back.

Configuring Windows 8

The desktop that you’re used to is still there under the hood. Windows 8 really is, for the most part, Windows 7 with some window dressing. It’s some tablet-based window dressing, I will totally admit that, but fundamentally, the innards of Windows 8 is Windows 7.

My guess is you will find that people who are used to Windows XP are going to have a much harder time of it.

There we have even less of an answer because Windows XP is 12 years old; it’s long past its prime. I know many people continue to use it and will try to use it for as long as they can, but it’s no longer a viable long-term solution as hardware support goes away and eventually support will also die off.

Progress to Windows 8

So, my strong recommendation is to continue with Windows 8.

Look into “Classic Shell” to provide people with a start menu if they react really negatively to the tile interface. Realize that the tiled interface is one click away from a traditional desktop if that’s what you want to run.

It’s really not… I want to say “that bad.”

I say that with some hesitation because I know many people are reacting extremely negatively to some aspects of Windows 8: most notably the tiled interface.

But, like Windows 7 before it, give it a chance. Give it some time. You will find, I strongly believe, that Windows 8 is a fine operating system that you can get used to – and get used to quickly – probably more quickly than the Windows XP to Windows 7 transition.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

End of Answercast #82 Back to – Audio Segment

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25 comments on “Why did Microsoft not provide the option of Windows 8 without Metro?”

  1. Microsoft provided an awesome alternative to the start menu and desktop search. It’s a unified search. Use the Windows key + Q to search in any application. You can search installed programs, settings, files, or elements within other programs like the Windows 8 app store. I type Win+Q and then the first couple of letters of the application I want to open.

    But your older-style start menu is actually still there. They just don’t give you a button and the interface you’re used to. Type Win+R to open the run dialog and enter: %appdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu

    There’s your start menu. I found this because I wanted to put an item in my “startup” folder.

    And last, if you want the old file search you’re used to, open Windows Explorer on the desktop (Win+E or click the folder icon in the taskbar at the bottom of the desktop screen) then hit the F3 key and you’re searching in Explorer instead of the Modern UI interface.

  2. It is arguable whether one should at this point jump through the hoops with W8 or not. So it happened that “the Windows XP to Windows 7 transition” was called Vista, and that transition took nearly three years. For a number of reasons, Vista proved so unpopular that its final improvement was to be called not Vista but W7 in order to make a clean break. Who is to say the same fate does not await W8?

    This from a fairly happy owner of Vista, purchased in 2009 as a mature OS, and just before W7 supplanted it.

  3. To all Windows 8 haters, like myself, be patient.
    Microsoft realizes the huge mistakes they made with the irritating and abysmal new OS, and they are working hard and fast to fix it, and they will release a new Windows 9 this coming summer. I hope 9 will be better than 8, cause if 9 fails too it will be the end of Microsoft.

    Unless you have some kind of inside information, I’d be absolutely shocked if Windows 9 were released any sooner than 2014. Now, that’s not to say that it won’t address many of the complaints about Windows 8 (just as Windows 7 “fixed” a lot that was wrong with Vista), and it’s even possible that some of the more impactful issues might be resolved by a service pack to Windows 8, but Windows 9? No. Not for quite some time.

  4. I installed the Windows 8 preview in a vm months ago. I also bought my upgrade as soon as it was out. It is definitely faster than Windows 7 and with a bit of patience and googling you can soon be up to speed. One issue still remains though – drivers. I upgraded my laptop to an SSD a few days ago and also went to Windows 8. But I’m going to reinstall my Windows 7 image, because of several missing drivers. HP hasn’t bothered to upgrade the drivers for this laptop, and the Windows 7 drivers don’t all work. I’ll give it a few months to mature, then come back. At least I’ve got my Windows 8 number for it.

  5. Why should anyone give Windows 8 time?
    Why should a human being be forced to adapt to the computer?
    Why should non-techies be forced to do what Microsoft dictates?
    That’s not the way the world should work.
    It don’t think its the way the world does work, as sales of Windows 8 will show in the near future.

    Microsoft, like other companies, should give their customers what they want.
    The non-techie in question here is used to Windows XP, so Microsoft should provide a user interface that mimics XP for them.

    Leo, you are correct 99.9% of the time. Not here though.
    You may be bringing your techie perspective to this.
    Microsoft makes that mistake *all* the time.
    Try and think of the non-techies in your life.
    Those that are not able to deal well with computers for a whole host of reasons.
    Techies are few. Non-techies are many.

    Windows 8 is as if Ford came out with cars where the driver sits on the right side. Don’t be the Ford engineer urging people to give it time, that they will adjust. Be the customer that buys from GM instead.

    I actually don’t disagree with your statements – in an ideal world. Sadly, this is not an ideal world and the reality of the situation is that Microsoft is not about to change how they operate in any reasonable time frame. The way the world should work is not the way it does work. My position is more one of practicality and realizing what is and is not in our control. Staying with Windows XP, or Vista or 7 is in our control (caveat hardware support). Learning to accept Windows 8 is in our control. Getting Microsoft to provide a Windows XP-like interface on top of Windows 8 just ain’t gonna happen. Given the number of people that start out hating Windows 8 and the moving on to accept and even occasionally LIKING it tells me that resisting something merely on principal or first impressions just isn’t practical and doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests. For many reasons in the real world giving Windows 8 a chance really is the most practical, long term approach, in my opinion. I’m not saying you shouldn’t eventually “vote with your feet”, as I say on many topics, but to do without properly and objectively evaluating what it is you’re walking away from is, in mu opinion, a mistake.

    And I do have to say that Windows 8 is nowhere near as radical a change as driver’s side in automobiles (which, by the way, we do have two planetary standards on as it is). Get past the opening tiled screen and it’s a very familiar vehicle underneath.


  6. Like your 8 comments Leo, except for we need to move forward. Eating has been determined to waste time, so food producers now put it in a pill, like it or not??? Come on, who is this idiotic product for? Gates? Ballmer? Tablets ok, the rest should be up to the user. %$#@^ microoutlived their time.

  7. Leo, concerning the comment about Windows 9, you are wrong about the release date. Microsoft is moving to a one year release schedule for their OS. The fact that ‘modern UI’ (not metro, Microsoft can’t use that term without getting sued) is here to stay. Just hack on the start menu, check the option to boot directly into desktop mode in Windock’s Start8, where you can even disable the bottom left corner for the new start screen.

  8. Hi Leo. Excellent comments about Windows 8. I went the whole hog recently. I really wanted to take advantage of the incredibly cheap upgrade option while it is available, so first I did it with my laptop which was running 64 bit Windows 7. A week later I was so pleased with the result I upgraded my faithful old desktop which was running XP. Both upgrades worked perfectly and my total cost for both was less than upgrading one machine in the past. I was determined to go with the new look and not take advantage of Classic Shell, excellent though it is. After several days of muttering, struggling, discovering a few new words in my vocabulary, and generally getting in a sweat over Windows 8, I have got it pretty well worked out. And you know what? I just love it. Been using Windows ever since 3.1 Windows for Workgroups (Ugh!), and I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a new version more. I will be gleaning every morsel of info about it from your newsletters, which are always well balanced and never fail to hit the spot for me. Great time to be a Windows user eh.

  9. There are several reasons I won’t be ‘upgrading’ to Windows 8 anytime soon.
    I like Win 7 and being a home user, I don’t need extra seconds of speed.
    I use a mouse 99% of the time, unless I’m sending email, and I do not want to have to type anything to get around on my computer.
    And Windows 8 is bloody ugly. So I’m frivolous. I love Aero and they dumped it, not so?
    Win 7 is terrific, my favorite OS so far, and at my age, I”m not worrying about the day they stop supporting it.

  10. The purpose of Windows 8 is to make all devices ( computers, notebooks, tablets, phones) look and work the same. Microsoft has correctly decided that people use more than one type of device for their computing. If all devices look and work the same, Microsoft can corral people into using Microsoft products on everything.
    If Apple had the same operating system on all it’s devices would anyone be complaining?

  11. Leo, Ilike another commentor stated, you are correct 99% of the time but I also think you got this one wrong. We (desktop users) should NOT be forced to adapt to a touch based OS, even if we all went out and purchased new Touchscreen Monitors, your arm gets tired reaching up to a screen all day, and what if the monitor is more than an arms length away?
    The mouse is here to stay for desktops and Win8 forcing a tablet OS onto laptops and desktops is a disaster that will show up in decreased sales.

    And only 5% of laptops sold have touchscreen capability according to a CNN report stating how low win8 laptop sales are so far because of people not liking the change.
    A tablet is different, you hold it in your arms, you look down on it, and your hands are comfortable resting onto it and using your fingers to swipe on big Metro style icons. BUT monitors for business and desktops in general, win 8 is NOT suited for comfort at all, didn’t anyone at Microsoft see that?
    I really tried to change, had win8 installed for 3 weeks but besides the driver issues with my scanner, video card and the Sandy bridge onboard graphics no longer being able to work together with the dedicated graphics drivers, besides all the normal problems when changing hardware drivers, I hated not having my windows any size I wanted easily, the Metro full size screens and difficulty multi-tasking more than 2 windows on the screen at once made it just feel backwards and very uncomfortable, not a step forward at all.
    So I restored back to the win7 image I had, and will use 7 happily until it’s no longer made.

    Honestly, as a long time windows user from version Win3.1, I’d rather have to get use to a Mac than Win8, that’s my honest opinion to Microsoft from the bottom of my heart. So PLEASE don’t force me to become an apple desktop user too Microsoft!
    Sincerely Andonios R.

  12. Microsoft is ignoring people who work with their computers. I use spreadsheets and word processors and a gazillion other applications – mostly at the same time. I need to see them. I don’t want them running full screen – how idiotic is that! – and I don’t want fingerprints smeared all over them.

  13. When I first saw Win8 not-Metro interface, I said: Yuck!!! Then I asked what advantage did it give standard monitor/mouse/keyboard users? The answer to that was: None.
    Now I have a copy installed and am using it. Most of my work is also with documents and spreadsheets. I don’t have any touch equipment (static electricity problem).
    There are literally hundreds of articles on the Internet regarding “Getting around in Windows 8.” Just using a couple of these, and experimenting some, I’ve made my not-Metro into an overgrown Start menu. I note that everything I choose from my new Start page goes to a Windows 7 type desktop. Also, I keep a large “button” at the lower left to make getting to the desktop easier.
    Everything that needs to be done can be so by using the mouse as a substitute for greasy fingers – and without having to stretch arm’s length.
    I don’t know how someone gets everything to open full screen. One of the complaints I’ve often read is that the default is “normal.” Since most of my work is in full screen, I have to keep clicking the “maximize” button to be able to see more of the document.
    Windows 8 is not for everyone. Neither was Windows 7, XP, Windows 98, Windows 95, or even Windows 3. (Remember all the quips and complaints about the new “Start” button in Windows 95? Now people complain about its being gone. Go figure!)
    If one would read a few of the other tech-net newsletters, it would be obvious that the current trend is “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) into the corporate workplace. Microsoft did several years research – even before the current trend – and found most (not all – maybe not you and me) wanted an OS that would work on multiple devices. The trend to BYOD just endorsed the demand. I’m not a Microsoft fan, but at least I know they don’t make changes just for the sake of change or to make people frustrated. (See Leo’s article about accepting change.)
    If you don’t like Windows 8, don’t use it. But don’t be calling Microsoft, or those who are learning to adapt, names. Personally, I like XP. I don’t care at all for Windows 7. Windows 8 is totally different, and I’m willing to give it a chance.
    There’s an old saying: If the shoe fits, wear it.
    The other side of that is: If the shoe doesn’t fit, it belongs to someone else.

  14. I don’t use Windows 8 and I don’t have any intention of switching as I’m quite happy with what I’ve got.

    However, my take on this is that Microsoft is right in trying to push us forward. If tech companies didn’t keep pushing us forward, we would still have carburetor engines and rotary dial telephones.

    However, I also think Microsoft did make a mistake. A lot of technology that is owned is not there yet, and I don’t think a lot of people are planning to spend the money for new hardware.

    What I think Microsoft should have done is just had Windows recognize whether the computer had any touch hardware attached. If there is no touch hardware, just start the computer in desktop mode. As users upgraded hardware to touch hardware, everything necessary would already be there “under the hood” and ready to go to make the user’s experience great.

  15. Hi Everyone, For people saying they prefer XP to Win7, well, XP is so much slower than win7 as far as performance goes and Win7 can access more memory beyond the 4gb limit xp (32bit mode)had. I mean, Win7 didn’t require much effort AT ALL to figure out if you already knew XP, and it improved usability tremendously when you right click you had so many more useful options that XP didn’t, so it was naturally an Improvement. Not to mention security was enhanced tremendously in Win7 over XP.

    But what does upgrading someone from Win7 to Win8 benefit that person if they don’t use a touchscreen? Nothing really, I think Win7 drivers are very mature now and both OS’s are 64bit.
    Besides adding Metro features for touchscreen use, all a non touchscreen user upgrading their existing desktop for $49 or $69 gets is a learning curve to deal with (which physically slows you down productivity wise even if the OS code is just as fast or maybe a tad faster).
    That’s my advise for people tempted to upgrade simply because it might be cheap, don’t do it!
    You’ll spend more time dazed and confused than actually getting any work done and in the end you”ll probably just end up going back to win7 like I did.
    Stuff changes when it is naturally better and people find it easier to use in someway, not when it’s forced on people for what some think is better for them in the long run. Right?

  16. I have been using Windows 8 for three weeks now. At first, I hated it. But now I can’t see what everyone is complaining about. I run a home daycare. I use excel for my books. I write a blog. And I make and sell homemade cards. I create and sell PDF on activities for preschoolers at an on line teacher store. So far, Windows 8 hasn’t interfered with any of this. So for the average user, no problem with Windows 8.

  17. Re-Posting a comment posted in another article, more appropriate, I think :
    Nope! Change is not the problem!!
    You got it right the last time … its communication!!
    Language … English really!!!

    I just bought a new laptop … Windows 8 … ahem … even while checking out I am thinking … wait a minute … maybe I should backoff … it was too good a deal to give up … so went thru with it … parking lot … call a buddy of mine … who incidentally was out for the same deal … he got the deal but with windows 7 … encourages me to return mine and go to a different store which will get me a windows 7 with same deal.

    Almost did it!!!

    Glad I did not!! I decided to fire it up and take a look-see … I had by then formed a prejudicial contempt for windows 8 … so all I was planning to do was diss M$ after finding out for myself that how badly Windows 8 S…ks”

    Instead … I was floored … I did NOT return my laptop … I was hooked from GAME ON to Windows 8 … now I have done my fair share of M$ bashing … but WOW … “they took My Breath Away” ….

    To clarify … I am a USER … Tech Savvy and all … I have 2 Android phones and an iPhone and I love them … but … but …

    ‘Neways … Try it before you diss it !!

    I was NOT expecting at all to Fall in Love ALL over again!!!!

    Its Deja Vu all over again … KISS … its Communication PERIOD!!

    Thanks Leo!

  18. but fundamentally, the innards of Windows 8 is Windows 7

    Even Microsoft, internally, agrees. Despite the names the marketing department gave them, XP is Windows version 6.0, “Windows 7” is really Windows 6.1, and “Windows 8” is really Windows 6.2, making them “minor” version upgrades.

  19. “Windows 8 is a fine operating system”

    So taking 7 and bolting a touch UI onto it makes it a fine OS…
    Built in Adware is also fine.
    Restricting users from turning features off is fine, oops sorry its moving forward with a strategy that’s as old as the hills, porting Windows to all devices simply compromises that device.
    No media player or center is fine, that’s progress a guess.
    Its such a fine OS that the guy in charge was fired, you don’t fire winners who have made a fine OS.
    If you don’t have a Microsoft email account then 8 is pretty much useless, but that’s fine a guess.
    8 tells Microsoft everything that you install,, some would say that’s a privacy issue,, but that’s fine.
    Some would say 1 code base for all devices may pose security risks which is fine.
    Surface isn’t Windows and won’t run legacy apps but is promoted as Windows, but that’s fine.
    Surface Pro needs a i5 to power old bloaty that kills battery life to 4hrs, but that’s fine.
    Cramming tens of millions of lines of code into a tablet is fine.
    A could go on and on as the fact is Windows 8 is far from fine, its a bloated mess playing catch up and lacks innovation that brings more questions than answers, to recommend it before its first service pack is risky as Windows doesn’t react well to change….

  20. “Move forward” into the swamp or follow the lemmings off the cliff… !!! You really drank the Koolaid on this one…

  21. I have to agree with Leo on this. As a very old saying goes: “If you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it.”

    Those of us old enough to remember, Windows 3 was just a shell over DOS. Windows 95 and 98 had some OS features, but still relied to a great extent on DOS. XP was the first full-fledged OS that did not rely on DOS, even though it had a link to it; Command Prompt. Windows 8 is somewhat like Windows 95/98. It is basically a shell over Windows 7 with a few programs (apps) moving to the general trend of cloud computing and software on demand (not loaded on the computer/device).

    For those who think Windows 8 is just for touch screens and not good for desktop/keyboard/mouse/monitor users, consider this.
    If I RIGHT-click on any Start page icon, I get a bar across the bottom of the screen where I can unpin/uninstall the app, resize the icon, or turn on/off animation. In the right corner is an icon where I can view all apps including programs I’ve loaded and many administrative tools.
    If I pull up an app, such as Weather, and RIGHT-click on it, I get special options associated with that app.
    When I’m through with the app, I can go to the lower left corner to get a pop-up for the Start page. Then move the cursor to the upper left corner to get a pop-up of the last app opened; if more apps are open, they are indicated along the left side and can be brought into view. RIGHT-clicking any of these will bring an overlay which can be clicked to close the app.
    If I RIGHT-click the lower left corner, I get a menu much like that of the Start button. It includes such things as Run, Search, Command Prompt, and other useful administrative commands. I had to try and remember which group included each of these in Windows 7.

    These are just a few of the things in Windows 8 that can be done with a RIGHT-click. Now, I ask you, how do you RIGHT-click a touch screen? Do you use a different hand? Or a different finger? Or maybe even two fingers instead of one? I’m sure someone will miss the whole point of this post and tell me how to accomplish the same things with fingers, but it is much easier with a mouse – and we are more used to right-clicking for certain tasks.

    As with anything new, there will be those who like it and those who don’t – after giving it a try. Then there will be a large number who don’t like it and put it down without ever having tried it.

    If you do decide to give Windows 8 a try, please read and follow the advice Leo gives under the heading “Reverting To Windows 7” BEFORE upgrading. Then, if you don’t like Windows 8, you have the means to revert to Windows 7 (or whichever version you had). Whether you like Windows 8 or not, at least you can say you gave it an honest try.

  22. Leo, no hurry on this question, whenever is good enough for me:: and a simple yes no is also sufficient for me::
    —the question is does not windows continually
    upgrade itself so that i can keep mine until windows says no more tinkering with the os i have in my Acer, thus since seems to me i am alwasy up to snuff as to windows os continuum
    is it wise to just stay as above?????

    n.b. i dont go to windows site for upgrades and they pretty quick download upgrades to my site and i never knew i was without them

    2) given the cheap price for p.c. nowadays, almost pays to get a new one everytime windows gives birth to a new os just so as to be upgrade max from the beginning, but then depends on
    how long the machine has been on the shelf, if not upgrade max os TODAY or thereabouts then
    the os is not up to snuff so would be back on square one….. i just throw this issue into your melting pot for your view on this, i keep my windows machine until windows says no more upgrades then i buy a new machine with the newest os and windows automatically downloads all the upgrades , some without telling me, some offering a screen that will not die until has downloaed the upgrades, and so i just let windows figute out what they want upgraded and when and thus i just sit tight and go along for the ride…..
    3) when you buy a table top and the manufacturer offers 3 models, e.g. at costco
    3 models with different power, price, os and different funny stuff like bigger screen, etc, but since my seeing eye dog died i get along with the small screen acer i bought for $750 , thus what is your view on this convoluted series of questions – simple yes no or forget it is sufficient

  23. Leo surely is aware that yahoo CEO stopped employees from working at home, now must come in to the shop….. hohoho

    but this gives me an idea for Leo, why dont you increase the time you are on vacaation, not one long one but a series of shorties,

    given your command of the p.c. workings surely you can op the site from anywhere

  24. i forgot to mention regarding me not upgrading my windows os but rather letting windows do the upgrading as they have been doing…. their upgrades yield all ops faster than speed of light


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