Switching to Windows 8 Made Easier

Category: Windows-8

A reader asks: 'I really need a new laptop computer, but all of them come with Windows 8 now. I've heard many negative things about Windows 8, but my friend says it's not so bad once you get used to it. Are there any tips or tricks you can share to ease the transition to Windows 8?' Actually yes! Read on for my tips on restoring sanity to Windows 8, and some surprising things you'll actually LIKE in Windows 8...

What's the Problem With Windows 8?

It's true that Windows 8 has been greeted by both pundits and consumers with generally negative reactions. Although there are some good things in the Windows 8 package, the radical change to the familiar desktop interface is what has so many people bothered.

Microsoft is clearly pushing the new "tiles and apps" interface that was first called "Metro", and is now the "Modern UI". This type of interface seems to make perfect sense on a smartphone, a tablet, and to some degree on touch-enabled laptops. It's understandable that Microsoft was aiming for a common experience across all types of screens, but forcing this brave new world on desktop PC users was not a popular decision.

Yes the tried and true Desktop is still there, but it takes an extra click to get there from the new "Modern UI" Start screen. And adding insult to injury, the Start button was eliminated from the Desktop interface. For users who are accustomed to using the Start button to launch programs, open files, and navigate to other Windows functions, this is a big deal. Maybe even a deal breaker.
Windows 8 Laptop

Other gripes commonly heard from Windows 8 adopters include the confusion that arises when they have to deal with apps that only run in either the new or the old interface, and the hassle of switching between the two. One example is that there are now two versions of Internet Explorer, and they're slightly different in how they look and work. And then there's the fact that the tiled apps on the Modern UI screen will only run full-screen. Switching between them requires learning when and where to click (or swipe) and it's not never clear if you're closing or just hiding an app. Yes, it's Windows, but without the windows. Why, Microsoft, why?

An Easier Transition to Windows 8

The bottom line is that people who are forced into the Windows 8 world -- either by virtue of buying a new PC, or by heeding the warnings to upgrade from the soon-to-be-obsolete Windows XP -- don't want to learn a whole new interface. They want the familiar Desktop which has served them well for many years. Fortunately, there are some simple tweaks to make Windows 8 look and feel a lot more like what you're accustomed to, if you're a user of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7.

By installing the free Win8 StartButton software, you can eliminate most of the Windows 8 annoyances in one step. Win8 StartButton will make the familiar Desktop your default Windows startup screen, bypassing the Modern UI. And as the name suggests, it also restores the missing Windows Start button, the Start menu, and other familiar menus and options. Win8 StartButton also comes with Media Player Classic, which has the ability to play DVDs, a feature that Microsoft removed from their Media Player.

Other options for restoring sanity to Windows 8 include Classic Shell (also free), and Stardocks's Start8 app, which costs $4.99. I'm not sure why you'd want to pay for Start8, when Win8 StartButton seems to do the job equally well. But Stardock also offers ModernMix, which will force those "modern" apps to run in a window on your desktop (instead of fullscreen) and graces them with a "close" button so you can actually close them.

Is Windows 8 Actually a Better Windows?

Once you get past the learning curve, or use one of the recommended apps above to make Windows 8 seem normal again, you'll discover something nice... Windows 8 actually has some compelling new features!

For starters, it boots faster than Windows 7. New tech that uses a combination of the traditional cold boot plus the hibernation feature found on laptops will get you up and running in as little as 7 seconds. And once you get to the Desktop, you should notice that Internet Explorer 10 and other built-in Windows apps are noticeably faster, too, thanks to more efficient memory usage under the hood.

The new Refresh and Reset features can be used to restore your computer to your ideal configuration, or return your system to its "factory fresh" state. You should also see longer laptop battery life with Windows 8.

There are quite a few security enhancements baked into the Windows 8 core, and you can also say goodbye to expensive third-party internet security suites like Norton and McAfee. Windows Defender, a repackaging of Microsoft Security Essentials, comes pre-installed on Windows 8. Just don't confuse this "Windows Defender" with another Microsoft product having exactly the same name. On XP and Windows 7 systems, Windows Defender was an anti-spyware tool that could be used in addition to your existing anti-virus protection. Why didn't they just keep the Microsoft Security Essentials name? Who knows.

Finally, Windows 8 has integrated SkyDrive (Microsoft's cloud storage service) into Windows apps, so it works just like a local hard drive. That's handy if you need to have access to files from multiple devices, or share files with other users.

So... now that you know that Windows 8 can be tamed, and is faster and more secure than Windows 7, will you make the leap? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Switching to Windows 8 Made Easier"

(See all 45 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

16 Apr 2013

I tried several "Start" buttons for Win 8, and my favorite is "StartIsBack"

http://startisback.com .

It is not free, costing $3 for use on two separate computers, which is very reasonable.

Using it is just like using Windows 7 with the benefits of Windows 8. I am not affiliated with the software or it's creator in any way and have no stake in it's success or lack of success.

Of course, with the announcement by Microsoft that the start button will be back in Win 8.1, due to arrive in September (?), the software will no longer be need at that time. I assume by this that Microsoft will allow present users of Win 8 to upgrade to 8.1 at no cost, treating 8.1 as a service pack.

Posted by:

Michael B
16 Apr 2013

Apart from the absolutely useless mail app, Windows 8 is the next best thing to sliced bread. I cannot understand why some people are so negative about it. It is faster, more secure and far more stable than anything that's come before it.

Posted by:

Ralph C.
17 Apr 2013

I had no choice to upgrade to W8. Kicking and screaming, I had to buy a new laptop as my W7 Asus died and the extended warranty bought it out rather than fixing it. At first I hated the switch to W8, but after reading a lot, and following a few work arounds, I can at least use it. It does boot faster though. Too true about the 2 versions of IE 10. Why?? I downloaded Fire Fox and all is well. Someone talked about not being able to close apps. MS thinks that a computer never needs to be shut down, and all apps can remain open. Are they willing to contribute to my electrical bill? To close any app, simply press ALT + F4. Somewhere, I found a way to make a shortcut on the desktop for shutting down the computer by simply double clicking it. I wish I knew where I saw it, or what it contains to help others, but alas, I don't. I am sure if one Googled "shortcut to shut down Win 8", one could find it. After a few days, and these 2 simple work arounds, I am OK with W8

Posted by:

Mary S.
17 Apr 2013

The hard drive in my old laptop crashed at the same time the video display developed a problem. It was only 2 years old, but decided it would be easier to replace than to fix.

After a month of fighting with Windows 8, I returned that computer and had the old laptop fixed. I'm hoping it lasts until Windows 9 is out, and that Windows 9 is easier to use!

Posted by:

17 Apr 2013

I have been working with 2 elderly ladies with new Windows 8 notebooks. Windows 8 is not intuitive, requires understanding two access systems (start screen & desktop) and gives us only basic functions in some of the more used apps. Now I'm finding that these apps have even stopped working correctly or a particular advised shortcut doesn't work on a particular system. So I'm starting to think it is unreliable. Otherwise, speed etc is great.

Posted by:

17 Apr 2013

Just got a new Dell laptop to replace a faltering Dell laptop. The new machine came with Windows 8. I've done pretty well in the past making the transition to new versions of Windows, but this may be more work than I want to do. I was delighted to hear that I can get my start button back and appreciate your posting that news. We'll see....
Thanks, Bob.

Posted by:

19 Apr 2013

Very happy to read this posting. I had no idea that I could get a start button or a close button for my apps. Many of the other postings were also very helpful. Thanks, Rick

Posted by:

Old Man
20 Apr 2013

After reading all the negative reports about Windows 8, I almost passed on it. But I don't like Win 7. It can't be personalized as well as XP could. Then, I began reading How To articles about personalizing the Start Page and even adding a Shutdown shortcut. Since I knew the new UI was going to be the norm not too far in the future, I decided to go for the low price and give Win 8 a test drive.

The first thing I did was get rid of all the default apps that I wouldn't use; uninstalling those I would never use, and unpinning those I may want some time later. Then I pinned the programs I do use to the Start Page, and rearranged everything the way I wanted it. That made the Start Page a glorified Start Menu that was actually easier to use than the old one. Then I added a Shutdown shortcut to both the Desktop and new Start Menu. Using the free app Tile A File (found in the Store) I can even pin documents to the Start Menu - something I had to use a workaround to accomplish with Win 7. Now my computer boots to the Start Menu where I can, with one click, open whatever program I want to use first. Frequently, I just start typing the name of the program or document I want and select it from the resulting search. Much more efficient than what I had to do with either XP or Win 7.

Right-clicking anywhere on my Start Menu (Page) and selecting All Apps, I have access to all the programs loaded on my computer plus all the Administrative Tools and utilities. I used to have to try and remember which folder contained each of various tools and utilities I sometimes use.

My Win 8 UI now works for me the way I want to use the computer - and without any third party add-ons. All it took was a little research and about 15 minutes work.

I will agree, though, that most of the default apps (and some from the Store) are not suited for desktops. But we need to recognize they are first-generation. Microsoft (and some of their app suppliers) are working hard to make them more desktop friendly. Consider them a work-in-progress.

Why did MS go the route the did? The answer is simple. They wanted to provide a common across-all-device UI. That's where the other players are headed. Microsoft made the mistake of going too far too fast to get ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, they also got ahead of most OEMs, software developers, and (most importantly) their PC users.

As I've posted elsewhere, Microsoft provides backwards compatibility with hardware and software. Maybe the next version of Windows will also provide backwards compatibility with the users.

Posted by:

21 Apr 2013

Im stayin with 7 for the long haul.windows 8 offers nothing compelling for me to upgrade.

Posted by:

Neil Richardet
21 Apr 2013

Microsoft has forgotten the Golden Rule of software developement - The software must be easy to use, easy to learn and provide a useful function at a reasonable price. They have decided this is what you need and you'll get used to it with time. Bad buisness decisions will result in unnecessary resistance for Win8 and the laptops that have it installed. I and many others will wait for a better offering.

Posted by:

Linda Weitz
21 Apr 2013

I got a new HP PC, Win 8. Still having problems,
(1) Can't set clock and date, it stays 1 day ahead and time incorrect.
(2) Got a new HP deskjet printer scanner, can't open the link for a download so can't see the scanned item.

Posted by:

Mark Miller
22 Apr 2013

I am very interested in the various comments on Windows 8. Having XP and used it for a long tme I find very little reason to change as I am retired and don't use a laptop, Iphone, cell phone (emergency only)only my desktop. "Swiping" the screen is not an option I will put up with. I know that I will need to replace my system in the next 2 years and will absorb all the information that I can on products and systems. Your views and readears comments are very helpful in this endevor. Hopefully Microsoft will realise their "faux pas" and come out with a revised system that will accomadate the needs of older users.

Posted by:

22 Apr 2013

I was forced to switch to windows 8 when I bought a new laptop. At first it was really hard but now I am used to it. I tried classic shell for a while and I kept getting messages that "my libraries were no longer working". That stunk. What the heck is a "library"? I had to go online and figure that whole mess out. Easy fix when you know what it is. Anyway, I got rid of classic shell because the whole libraries thing started after I downloaded it. I don't really know if it had anything to do with the problem, but it hasn't happened again since. I don't think it was classics fault, it probably would have happened on some other download according to what others have said. That seems to be a common problem to have the "libraries" quit working. I was not able to access any documents or save any new ones. It was pretty scary till I found the fix. Microsoft reeeeeally needs to fix that train wreck. They need to fix the "recovery disk full" problem also. Maybe you could put in a good word Bob!

Posted by:

Old Man
22 Apr 2013

Add Shutdown Sleep Hibernate and Restart Shortcuts To Windows 8


Posted by:

David W
23 Apr 2013

It's an interesting read and perspective.

A couple reader feedback comments about how Windows 8 is more stable and secure than other versions - that's not true. Windows 8 is Windows 7 under the hood with slight improvements, the same as Windows 7 is Windows Vista with improvements. The service packs for Vista have basically added most of the features and efficiency upgrades of Windows 7. The file structure that was promised and supposed to be delivered with Vista, never happened. It's still good old NTFS. Windows 8 is no more secure than Windows 7 or Vista - or Windows XP/2000 on NTFS. The user interface has changed drastically, but under the hood the improvements are much more subtle.

That's the big disappointment for system builders and enthusiasts such as myself - each new offering from Microsoft is 90% eye candy and only 10% improvements. Until the file structure is revamped from top to bottom, all Microsoft operating systems will be vulnerable to an extent. Nothing that they've provided in Windows 7 or Windows 8 couldn't have been done with service packs on Vista. Nothing!

I don't believe claims that it "only" takes them 15 minutes and a bit of research to setup Windows 8 similarly to Windows 7. I spent a couple weeks researching and setting up Windows 8 the first time (I don't use a smart phone and immediately found it difficult to navigate). It was months before I was satisfied with it. It still felt "clunky" and required constant awareness of the new OS to do anything. It would still take me weeks to do again. Old habits die hard. Windows 8 slows me down.

People under 40 usually have enough interaction with technology to find new technology simple to understand. Most people over 40 have avoided the digital technology age, as much as possible. The majority of people don't care to learn computers. They want to use them for what they have to do and forget about them. What's interesting and easy for techies is unjustified work for others.

Microsoft force feeds OS's to us on new systems for 1 reason, and 1 reason only: Profit.

Consider that the sales for Windows 8 are currently worse than Vista was at the same time after release. Add the fact that many vendors (more Dell systems and brick and mortar retailers every day) have changed to offer a choice between Windows 7 and Windows 8. Then there's the success of all these 3rd party applications to change Windows 8 to Windows 7 appearance. It all speaks volumes about what people think of Windows 8 and the modern UI. (The every other operating system theory seems to hold true again - google it) :)

Our PCs are never shut down, making the boot times of Win 8 irrelevant for our use. Windows 8 doesn't play nicely with dual boot systems, which is a must in our line of work. We're used to diving deep into our PCs to troubleshoot problems for others, and Windows 8 makes that a chore.

Windows 7 just works for us. We don't have to think about what operating system we're running. We won't upgrade until once again forced to do so by those who care more about a profit margin than choices that their customers want.

One last thing that I feel is important: We test anti-virus and anti-malware applications every 6 months or so. Microsoft Security Essentials has been appealing because of it's simple interface and low resource usage. When we tested a few months ago, literally malware after malware was installed and went unnoticed. AV can't remove what it can't see. I feel that MS Security Essentials is comparable to having no protection at all. We still recommend Avast (free) and Malwarebytes Pro for security. I know there's been mention of problems with the new Avast 8 version (system restore causes blue screen or changes from free to unregistered Pro license -essentially turning off all protection), but we have not seen any of them (knock on wood). :)

Posted by:

24 Apr 2013

Has hell frozen over yet? 'Cuz if not, I'm not switching to Win 8. I saw this coming from all the info on the net and bought 2 new Win 7 Desktops last year. And I have a new copy of Win 7 still in the box, just in case. I understand that Win 7 will be supported till (at least) 2020, so I'm all set till then.
And then, if MS doesn't come to their senses or even better, go bancrupt and have to reorganize, it's off to Mac-land for me (which I swore I'd never do either, but things change and you go with the lesser of two evils).
I know all the info you have given is a great help to anyone who is stuck with Win 8, but really, a brand new operation system and you have to install outside programs just to make it work? That's gotta be real efficient and not have any potential problems for sure!
My 2 new boxes have flash C drives, and they both boot in 30 seconds and fly! Good enough for me. If fast boot time is the only good thing in Win 8, why did they bother?

Posted by:

Byron Miller
09 Jun 2013

I got a new laptop preloaded with windows 8. My nightmare started when I Loaded OpenOffice.org and then I tried to load Linux Ubuntu on a separate partition. The boot mode did not even recognize the load disc. When I rebooted the computer it locked me out of windows, totally. With no reinstall disc, which does not come with a new computer now for Windows 8 because of the Secure Boot program MS installed with it, I called Dell. After trying several ways to get the computer to unlock the Dell tech said he would send me Windows 8 reinstall discs. He told me that they weren't included so they couldn't be copied and bootleg copies distributed. I got the discs withing two days. I reinstalled the Win8 programs. After several updates downloaded and installed, I tried to load the Linux Unbuntu along side Windows 8. It loaded and when the computer rebooted and I tried to log into Linux an error message came up that Windows could not load because there were some files missing. I rebooted again and chose the Windows 8 to log in and it worked fine. But, I still can't get Linux Ubuntu to work. It won't boot and run from the disc because Windows 8 does not recognize it as a MS program. So, going totally to Linux as an operating system is looking better all the time. I have it on my old computer with Windows 7 in a separate partition and it works fine. MS Windows 8 may have some neat features, one of which spies on you and keeps track of your computer use, but I don't like it.

Posted by:

03 Oct 2013

Bob I thoroughly enjoy your inputs and pundits ... you are a light in the sea of disinformation out there. Keep up the great work.

Posted by:

12 Feb 2014

I like the touch screen, but not much else. I have had to reinstall it three times. I am about to call Dell again because I can't open Word again. I think it came out before it was ready. It is not user friendly for someone used to XP. I have gone beyond the start screen problem, but the rest is bleep.

Posted by:

14 Jul 2014

Windows 8 is just an app-store.

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