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Posted: October 26, 2012

Three reasons you should steer clear of Windows 8--for now

By Rick.Broida

In case you missed the news, Microsoft officially launched Windows 8 today.

My thoughts? 8 ain't so great.

This is Microsoft's most dramatic Windows overhaul ever, as it effectively replaces the interface most of us know and love (or at least tolerate) with something completely new. Something futuristic. Something that would look right at home on a phone or tablet.

And there's the rub. Windows 8 was clearly built with phones and tablets in mind--a forward-thinking move on Microsoft's part, but not the right approach for PCs. Indeed, on a desktop or laptop PC, the Windows 8 experience is unintuitive and frustrating.

Consequently, my advice is to steer clear of the new OS, at least for now. Here are three reasons why:

1. You must unlearn what you have learned. The Windows 8 learning curve is so steep. (Together: "How steep is it?!") The Windows 8 learning curve is so steep, you'll need to hit up Google to figure out how to shut down your PC. Seriously. Because there's no longer a Start button, there's no longer an obvious way to shut down. 

Windows 8 forces you to relearn just about everything you know about using a PC. Sure, with time and effort, you'll figure it all out--but why bother?

2. Using your old software is a hassle. Windows 8 is decidedly app-centric, as evidenced by its tablet-style interface and the presence of Microsoft's new app store.

Okay, but your copies of Quicken, Photoshop Elements, and Plants vs. Zombies? Those aren't apps; they're programs (in this case "legacy" programs), meaning they'll run in Desktop mode. So, yeah, to run any non-app, you have to switch to a different interface (one that resembles Windows 7, except, jarringly, without a Start button). And you can't even boot to the Desktop if that's what you prefer; Microsoft insists you start with the new tile-driven Start screen.

3. What's in it for me? If you buy a new desktop or laptop that comes preloaded with Windows 8, chances are good it will start up and shut down faster than your old machine. Microsoft also promises stronger security, though that's been the promise of every new version of Windows since Vista.

Other than that, I see few real-world advantages to switching to Windows 8. Native apps are, for the moment, few and far between, and unless you spring for a touchscreen LCD or at least get a Windows 8-enhanced touchpad, navigating the OS with a mouse and keyboard is just plain unpleasant.

There's no question Microsoft wants to usher in a new era of desktop computing, and although Windows 8 definitely does it in style, the hard truth is that most users don't want such a dramatic change--especially if it means giving up the kind of computing they're already accustomed to.

Windows 8 may well be the future, but for now, I recommend living in the present.

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.


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