Windows 9 Leaked Screens Revealing Known Unknowns


Windows 9 is dropping its veil. Most recently, two German computing sites, ComputerBase and WinFuture, released what looked like a leaked build of a Windows Threshold Enterprise Tech Preview – or Windows 9 to you and I. If confirmed, the screenshots give an unprecedented insight into what we might expect from the latest iteration of Windows before its official 30th September preview date. Here’s the long awaited new operating system smell we are all so fond of.

The New Start Menu Looks Great

We heard way back in April that the much beloved Start menu would be returning, now updated as fully Windows ecosystem integrated search feature, serving results from your personal indexed locations and the Windows App store, offering comprehensive search functionality in a familiar location – more on this later.

The new look Start menu appears to be fully interactive, allowing for resizing, relocation and reconfiguration of each tile as part of a fully customisable experience, porting the sometimes frustrating and seemingly endlessly scrolling Windows 8 Start menu interface into a bite size, functional work tool.

New Icons Are Nice, Too.

The leaked screens indicate a smattering of new icons across both the traditional desktop and the modern interface experience formerly known as ‘Metro,’ providing updates on the UI style established with the release of Windows 8 and now found across the Windows digital and mobile spectrum. This is part of a wider shift in the focus of Windows toward expansion of their mobile and tablet sales through desktop and mobile integration, similar to the continued merging of all Apple products: one UI, one cloud, a united vision for integration.

1 m1   Windows 9 Leaked Screens Revealing Known Unknowns

Cortana Meets Your Desktop

Two of the most exciting aspects of Windows 9 will be virtual desktop support and the introduction of the brilliant Cortana to our home screens. Given Windows previous commitments to its virtual assistant Cortana, it seems likely she will appear in some format (Paperclip, anyone?!), most likely as a wholly unified aspect of the search function whose icon you will note nestled next to the Start menu, essentially making the taskbar her domicile.

Virtual Desktops Look Promising

The second interesting leak development has been virtual desktops. Windows 9 offers the chance to create distinct workspaces on the fly that will presumably – as part of the wider networking and integration efforts being undertaken throughout the company – come with or work well with a wider network sharing tool for community/office/social online workspaces. On a more basic level, simply having a desktop configuration for home, work and play could prove handy for those looking for more.

Particularly interesting and of massive productivity potential is the popup overlays for each desktop, allowing an interactive insight into each virtual workspace. No more endless scrolling through open windows via ALT+TAB, only to miss your scheduled stop. A potential nightmare for employers, however, with employees cycling through from Excel to their office game of OpenTTD and back again.

How, What and Why: Microsoft Are Evolving

Productivity and integration seem to be central to the ‘new’ Windows ethos. The introduction of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO has promoted a company-wide unification message, clearly enacting a vision of a merged, integrated future for all Windows desktop, mobile and Xbox devices. Productivity is key to the success of Nadella’s future and indeed, the continued future of Windows 9. Shifting quickly between screens, integrated desk applications and wider Windows device support all point to a serious Microsoft, pushing to and beginning to truly understand their role in the contemporary digital market.

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It seems that Windows 9 will be provided to officially licensed users as a free upgrade (or for $20, where applicable) and potentially to new users also. In recognition of our social mobile concentrated society and the shifting demographics of desktop users, updates are likely to come in smaller, more frequent packages to enable continued development – though according to Microsoft coverage savant, Mary Jo Foley, there is another, more consumer focused preview (see Windows 9 running on ARM processors) on its way to establish what has been built with tablet and mobile users in mind.
So, was Windows 8 the new Vista? Probably. Will Windows 9 be the new 7? Hopefully!
Oh, and did we mention the charms bar might be gone? Let us know what you think!



Sneak peak: An early look at the next Windows

Woody Leonhard
By Woody Leonhard
After months of speculation, we're now seeing some credible leaks showing parts of the next Windows.
Invitations are going out now for Microsoft's Windows Technical Preview debut, scheduled for Sept. 30 in San Francisco; here's what the current tea leaves portend.
Will a rose by any other name smell sweeter?
There's one fundamental problem with talking about the next version of Windows. It seems, at this time, that no one knows what it'll be called. Inside Microsoft, some developers refer to the next Windows as "Threshold." But that label might apply to an entire wave of Microsoft product changes — not all of which are specific to Windows. Most of us call it Windows 9 simply because it's a reasonable name that everyone understands. To keep things simple, I'll stick with "Windows 9" for the rest of this discussion.
You can bet your last shekel that Microsoft won't burden the next Windows with any reference to Version 8. In other words, the chances of a "Windows 8.2" run less than zero. I'm confident Microsoft wants to distance itself from the Windows 8 disaster as quickly and cleanly as possible. Who could blame them?
Also unlikely to reappear is any version of Windows with "RT" attached (just the label; the platform will remain and prosper). It's a name I've hated and railed against since day one.
There's one other Windows-naming camp I tend to side with. It predicts the successor to Win8 will be called simply Windows. That doesn't mean version numbers will go away — we'll always need some way to refer to the precise release. But it does mean that "Windows" on a phone, "Windows" on a tablet, "Windows" on a PC, and "Windows" on a server can be thought of as the same operating system — though with some necessary differences both to the interface and under the hood. Or at least the versions will be marketed that way, regardless of the technical sleight-of-hand involved.
With a single "Windows" label, Microsoft might also give up its archaic attempts to wring more money out of customers by releasing different editions of a particular Windows version — i.e., Windows Home, Windows Pro, Windows Enterprise, etc. I hope that comes to pass. Who knows, we might even see the end of 32-bit versions of the OS.
Microsoft has had success selling its subscription-based version of Office. So it's not inconceivable that the company will release a "rented" edition of Windows — call it Windows 365. (If there is a Win365 in the works, it probably won't be in place when Microsoft releases Windows Technical Preview, which should ship around the end of September.
Windows build 9834 sources — and their reticence
During development of a new Windows version, Microsoft normally sends out early builds to its partners — companies that need parts of the new OS to make their own products work. Those early releases are supposed to be kept secret, but leaks inevitably happen.
The leaked information below is based on some early Win9 builds, which means you must keep the following in mind. Leading up to Windows Technical Preview, early Windows builds are often branches of the mainstream Windows development. In other words, they're key parts of the new OS but not the entire final product — not by a country mile. And the builds can be months old by the time they're leaked.
Right now, the latest credible leaks of Win9 are based on build 9834 of the Windows Technical Preview branch. ("Credible" means I'm convinced they're legitimate.) If you want to catch up on what's been posted about Win9, here's the short list:
  • On Sept. 11, two German sites, ComputerBase and WinFuture, simultaneously released the same 21 screen shots of what appears to be build 9834. Someone then anonymously reposted those shots on the English-language Imgur site. If you want to read about each slide individually, Paul Thurrott posted a two-part review on his WinSuperSite — see Part 1. And I published some additional notes in my Sept. 11 InfoWorld Tech Watch story. (Remember, at this stage, there's no guarantee that any new feature shown in the leaked screen shots will make it into the final Win9.)
  • WinFuture followed up on that leak with a sponsored (though obviously not by Microsoft) video showing the new Start menu "in Aktion."
  • Next, WinFuture posted a YouTube video that shows a possible multiple-desktop feature in Windows 9. That's not a leap in technology; Windows has supported multiple desktops since Windows XP, and there are dozens of third-party apps that implement multiple desktops in Windows 7 and 8. In fact, Microsoft publishes Sysinternals Desktops (site), which looks a lot like the "new" virtual desktops in Windows 9.
  • On Sept. 13, WinFuture released yet another video (again, apparently of build 9834) that shows how an updated notification center might work.
WinFuture might be leading the pack in published Win9 leaks and apparently made significant cash doing so, given the Peugeot ads, but it's certainly not the only source. For example, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley remains well connected, posting revelations that read a lot like Microsoft press releases. Paul Thurrott ( is similarly tied into "unofficial" leaks that sure sound "official."
There are numerous other rogue and semi-official sites discussing Win9. Russia-based WZorNET comes up with tidbits from time to time; venerable leaker FaiKee keeps up with all the news in Chinese; and Neowin's Brad Sams seems to have access to many of the latest builds — although he's cagey about releasing information. The Verge's Tom Warren seems similarly familiar with recent builds, but he, too, comments rarely.
Many potential sources are afraid of losing or outing their contacts inside the Windows development team. Microsoft is playing the can't-catch-me game, with threats of hellfire and brimstone rained down on any employee that speaks out of school. Of course, that doesn't include those "insider" leaks that sound suspiciously like stealth marketing releases.
What the photos reveal: The Start menu returns
Like a billion or so other mouse-wielding Windows users on the planet, I was immediately drawn to the return of the desktop-based Start menu (as opposed to the Win8 Start screen). It's bellwether evidence that Microsoft's new Windows team is listening to its customers.
The leaked screenshots and video show a Start menu that includes a Windows 7–style cascading menu on the left and Metro/Modern tiles pinned on the right. You can even remove all the Metro tiles from the Start menu by right-clicking and deleting them, one by one.
There are lots of options for pinning, deleting, and drag-and-dropping menu items — you can even turn the Start menu off. (After turning the Start menu on or off, you have to sign out of Windows and sign back in.)
Not shown: Live Metro tiles in the Start menu — for example, a Music tile that lets you fast-forward or change the volume. That capability will probably show up in a later build, no doubt touted as a revolutionary step forward. I've since learned that MS will call them "interactive" Metro tiles — I think.
Current Win8 users shouldn't forget that Windows honcho Terry Myerson promised in his Build 2014 conference keynote presentation that Microsoft "would be making those [Start menu] features available to all Windows 8.1 users as an update."
So far, we don't know whether the Start menu will appear automatically on machines with mice and trackpads — though I expect that will be the case. My assumption is that Windows will look at the system's hardware during boot. If it doesn't find a mouse or trackpad, it'll revert to the Win8-style Start screen. With some luck, it'll be easy to set a default and have Windows stick with it, even if you forgot to plug in your mouse.
In short, the new Start menu revealed in the leaked screenshots looks great. I have a problem with all the Metro apps dumped alphabetically into the Start menu's All Apps list, plus a few other minor quibbles. I predict that the final Win9 Start menu — if it's at all close to what's been leaked — will convince 80 percent of all Win8 users to upgrade. Maybe more!
A new, long-overdue notification center
If you've ever used a reasonably modern mobile phone, you know all about notification centers, a place where those fleeting alerts are stored so you can actually look at them. I'm amazed a notification center was never included in Windows 8. As with earlier Windows versions, Win8 spits alerts up on the screen, where they sit for a few seconds and then disappear, never to be seen again.
In the new Win9 implementation, a window in the lower-right corner of the screen pops up notifications as they occur. To go back to a recent alert, you simply click the notification icon in the task bar and a list of recent events pops up. Golly, that's almost as good as the original 2007 iPhone — or every version of Android since 2008. Nice to see Windows catching up.
Bottom line: The Win9 notification center shown in the leaked video is hardly revolutionary, but it's at least usable.
Metro might become mainstream — or maybe not
Microsoft has never come up with a concise and descriptive name for its tile-based interface. The official "Modern" just doesn't cut it. Perhaps the company will come up with something better for Win9, but for now most of us stick with the officially abandoned "Metro" for clarity.
That said, based on the leaked videos, the support system for Metro apps will change enormously.
As widely predicted, Metro apps will run in resizable windows on the desktop — where they should've been in the first place. Heck, third-party products such as Stardock's ModernMix (site) already let you run Metro apps in a desktop window. (Speaking of start-menu replacements, they essentially saved Windows 8 in the minds of many Win8 users. I wonder whether Microsoft will crush those products with Win9?)
Those resizable windows will have maximize, minimize, and close icons in the upper-right corner, just where they've been since time immemorial. They'll also have right-click context menus that might include an anemic settings list plus functions such as Search, Sharing, Play, Print, Project on a projector, and/or Switch to full screen.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Microsoft seems to be toying with the idea of ditching the Charms bar. You remember the Charms bar: those slide-out icons on the right of the screen that mostly just get in the way?
Removing the Charms bar might make some Metro app developers unhappy — those who actually used the Charms bar for something useful such as for searches or for printing. (Almost nobody has made use of the Share function, but that's another story.)
It's a dilemma for Microsoft. If it completely kills the Charms bar, third-party developers who actually took advantage of it will have to retrain their customers to use the right-click context menu. That's actually a bigger change than it might seem, especially on a touch-screen device.
Expect the Charms bar debate to rage on, right up until Win9's release to manufacturing (RTM).
The screenshots and videos suggest that not much has changed on the Metro/Modern side of Windows. That's no doubt a temporary state of affairs; expect Windows 9's Modern interface to look a lot more like Windows …, Windows …, uh, the next version of Windows for phones. (Microsoft is dropping the name "Windows Phone.") On the mobile side, there are many changes coming down the road. But we probably won't see them until the new phone software and ARM-based software get a good shake-out.
Cortana and other worthwhile new features
The one feature everyone's expecting, Microsoft's voice-activated assistant Cortana, seems buried at this point. None of the screen shots or videos shows Cortana at all. But you can bet that Cortana will be a huge selling point for Windows 9. After all, Microsoft has to catch up to Siri and "OK, Google!" — even on the desktop.
There are lesser features floating in the shadows. For example, Storage Sense is a mobile-device feature that maps out your storage — how much is taken up by programs and how much by photos, music, videos, digital lint, and other user data. It will likely find its way into Windows 9. (Never mind that dozens of third-party apps already fill that gap.)
It's a near certainty that Win9 will ship with Internet Explorer 12, though nobody outside Microsoft has seen the new browser yet. IE 12 most likely won't show up in the forthcoming Win9 Technical Preview.
I've not heard about other new features, but Win9 will probably have stronger ties to OneDrive in an attempt to make Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and the like less attractive. And Microsoft will no doubt add more incentives for using a Microsoft Account. It's also likely that Win9 will have better support for higher-resolution screens and multiple monitors — and possibly better compatibility with docking stations, making for easier transitions from strictly mobile to slightly tethered.
What's the next development step for Windows 9?
There have been sightings of builds 9835 and 9836 detected on the Web but no screenshots or other leaks that I've seen. Given the information spilled by WinFuture and the past release history of new versions of Windows, you'd expect to see leaked builds from one of Microsoft's partners. That hasn't happened, but it probably will soon.
Keep in mind that even the official Windows Technical Preview is not completely representative of the final, shipping Windows. Some features will be added just before RTM, and others will be left on the cutting-room floor. We saw that with Windows 8's Developer Preview and RTM — the bits that shipped in the Developer Preview, particularly the user interface, had changed significantly by the time Windows 8 shipped.
This much I know for sure: I'm going to like Windows 9 — or whatever it's eventually called — one heck of a lot more than I liked Win8. I know that's faint praise, but Windows 9 has "winner" written all over it.


Five powerful free apps to play DVDs on Windows 8

Windows 8 no longer supports playback of DVDs natively, but there are a number of powerful free third-party apps to solve the problem
Image Gallery (13 images)
If you get a new Windows 8 computer, you might be surprised to find out that it won't play your DVDs as Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, omitted this feature in the new version of the OS. Although optical media is going the way of the VHS tape, there's a lot of content out there that's not available for streaming or in compatible video formats. Hare are five free apps to get around the lack of native Windows DVD playback and let you enjoy your DVD collection.

VLC Media Player

VLC for Windows allows you to play several video and audio formats including DVDs, which m...
Arguably the most popular free and open source utility for playing a plethora of video and music file formats on Windows and Mac (including DVDs of course) is VLC. After installing this free program, it will be added to the context menu in Windows 8, so you can right click any music or video file to play it. Or you can set up AutoPlay to launch your DVD in VLC when you insert the disc. VLC offers plenty of playback options for the basic user, advanced features for the power user who wants to stream the DVD over a home network, and more.

GOM Media Player

GOM Player will play your DVDs on Windows 8 as well as most of the audio and video formats...
Another popular free desktop program that will play DVDs on Windows 8, and virtually every media file that VLC can, is GOM Player. It works similarly to other media players, and some would argue it provides a more crisp picture when viewing DVDs. It too has an insane amount of features available to tweak so you can get the perfect playback experience. It also has an official remote control app for iOS and Android devices.
GOM isn't open source and I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up that during the install it tries to install bundled crapware. Usually it's either AVG or Ask toolbar. Just uncheck the option when installing as Windows 8 already has built-in antivirus protection via Windows Defender, and you definitely don't need a worthless toolbar like cluttering up your browsers.


KMPlayer was recently purchased by Pandora, and not only will it play your DVDs on Windows...
Like VLC, KMPlayer is a versatile open source multimedia application for playing DVDs on Windows 8. And like both VLC and GOM, it contains its own internal codecs and is able to play virtually any media file you throw at it. It's fast, and doesn't take up a lot of computer resources. It was recently purchased by Pandora and has new features to organize video, music, cover art, and an upcoming app store.

XBMC Media Center

XBMC is an awesome free Open Source alternative to Windows 8 Media Center that will play y...
If you're looking for a complete media center program, check out XBMC. It's free and open source and has a stack community of developers behind it. The latest version plays DVDs right out of the box from the main menu. Then you have plenty of options and settings for optimizing quality playback of DVDs.
XBMC is gaining a lot of popularity as it provides several ways to enjoy your local digital media collection, stream online video and music, and it's compatible on many platforms including Windows, iPad, Android, OS X, Raspberry Pi, the Ouya game console and several others.

Daum PotPlayer

Daum PotPlayer is a lot like KMPlayer, allowing for easy DVD playback on Windows 8 as well...
Daum PotPlayer is currently in beta and it feels a lot like KMPlayer, which is no big surprise considering it's from the same developer. As with the others in this list, it supports DVD playback as well as a large number of file video and audio file formats. It also supports Blu-ray playback, so if you're looking for a free program for Blu-ray, PotPlayer is a good choice.

Summing up

All five of these programs are fairly similar, and work great for playing DVDs on Windows 8. However, the main thing you need to look out for on a few of them is the extra bundled software they try to throw in. So definitely make sure you're paying attention during the installation process. If you like to customize your Windows experience, you should know that all of these players can be skinned with different custom themes.
One program I didn't mention here is Windows 8 Media Player. It's no longer included in Windows 8, and it isn't free anymore either. It was free for a short time when the new OS was initially released for US$39.99. But now it's an extra add-on which will only work on Windows 8 Pro and will cost you $9.99. The company is definitely phasing out Media Player and pushing its new Xbox video and music services. Because of this, the aforementioned alternatives end up being great free replacements.
Also, if your computer came with a bunch of extra bloatware from the manufacturer, chances are it has DVD playback software which you can always use. But if you're an experienced user, I recommend one or all of these five options because they have a lot more power user options packed into them.

Windows 8 Codec Pack
Windows 8 Codec Pack has been created to make installing major codec's, filters, plug-ins and splitters a simpler task
Package Overview:The Windows 8 Codec Pack supports almost every compression and file type used by modern video and audio files.
The package is easy to install, while also offering advanced settings to the high end user:
For simple installation select "Easy Installation".
For advanced installation options select "Detailed Installation". 

Codec's Explained:A codec is a piece of software on either a device or computer capable of encoding and/or decoding video and/or audio data from files, streams and broadcasts. The word Codec is a portmanteau of 'compressor-decompressor'

Compression types that you will be able to decode include:Hi10p/10bit x264 | x264| h264 | AVC | XviD | DivX | MP4 | MPEG4 | MPEG2 and many more.

File types you will be able to play include:.bdmv | .evo | .mkv | .avi | .flv | .mp4 | .ts | .webm | .m4v | .m4a | .ogm | .ac3 | .dts
.opus | .flac | .ape | .aac | .ogg | .ofr | .3gp and many more.

Resolutions supported include:All resolutions upto, and including SD (Standard Definition) 480i, 480p, 576i, 576p, + HD (High Definition) 720i, 720p, 1080i, 1080p and beyond.

By using SlySoft AnyDVD HD with this Codec Pack users can play:Protected Bluray, HD-DVD, AVCHD, DVD, CD discs.

Package Components:
● ffdshow DirectShow Video Codec x86 version 1.3.4532 by Cole.
● ffdshow DirectShow Video Codec x64 version 1.3.4532 by Cole.
● LAV Video decoder 0.62 x86 & x64.
● XviD Video (Encoder) Codec v1.3.3.
● X264 Video (Encoder) Codec v37.2200.
● Lagarith Video (Encoder) Codec v1.3.27 x86 & x64.
● LAV Audio Decoder 0.62 x86 & x64.
● DivX Audio Decoder 4.1
● Lame MP3 v3.99.5 ACM Encoder/Decoder Codec.
● DSP-worx Bass Source Mod Filter/Decoder v1.5.2.0.
● Haali Media Splitter/Decoder 16/09/11 x86 & x64 - For MP4, MKV, OGM and AVI files.
● LAV Splitter 0.62 x86 & x64.
● xy-VSFilter v3.0.0.211 x86 & x64 - Subtitle Readers.
● CDXA Reader v1.7.6 - Also known as Form 2 Mode 2 CD or XCD x86 & x64.


Windows 8.1 vs. Windows 7 – Which is best for you?

Analysis & Insight 15 Aug, 2014 Kyle Nazario, Caroline Preece

As Windows 9 draws nearer and Microsoft distances itself from older OS, we look at the best option for your PC

Support for Windows XP came to an end in April 2014, and Microsoft has set a date of January 2015 for the withdrawal of mainstream Windows 7 support. This doesn’t mean Windows 8’s predecessor is out of the game, however, and remains a popular option for consumers and business users alike.
In fact, recent market share statistics revealed that users choosing to move on from Windows XP are actually opting for Windows 7 rather than Windows 8 or 8.1, with Microsoft’s latest operating system not being welcomed as quickly as had been hoped. Until Microsoft stops support for Windows 7, people will continue to choose it over the alternative.
What, then, is the best option for your PC? Following XP’s demise, the upgrade candidates were Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, and we have broken down the key features to help you decide which is the better choice (fast forward to our verdict).



1. Boot time

Windows 8 machines only take 10-15 seconds to boot up, with some switching on even faster depending on the SSD. Gone are the days when you have to distract yourself by going to make a cup of tea while your system wakes up.

But how have we gotten to this point? Microsoft engineers combined the hibernation and shutdown modes into one for Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 uses a hybrid boot mode that allows the PC to start up much more quickly. The kernel lets it hibernate instead of shutting down completely, and the use of cores makes it possible to start-up in seconds.
Winner: Windows 8 – The faster the machine boots up, the more time you are able to spend on doing more productive things. By the end of the multiple year lifespan of your PC, this can add up to hours of reclaimed time.



2. Enterprise features

Windows 8.1 has more enterprise features than Windows 7, with Windows to Go featured on the Enterprise edition allowing users to start a personalised version of Windows from a USB or any other machine running Windows 7 or 8. It also means that the Windows Store is enabled by default, allowing users to access apps across multiple machines.
IT admins can virtually run Windows without any third-party software. Adding in the optional Hyper-V support for your copy of 8.1 allows you to connect to a server.
Windows 8.1 also has better support for managing mobile devices, with tap-to-print support via NFC and enhanced biometrics, malware resistance and encryption also included.
But IT departments around the world have given Windows 8.1 the cold shoulder in favour of its older siblings. In fact, HP told IT Pro that Windows 7 is the most popular choice for companies upgrading from XP.
“[Businesses] are ignoring Windows 8,” said HP project manager Jeff Wood.
What enterprise customers prize over everything is stability, and Windows 7 has time, familiarity, extensive testing and total peripheral compatibility on its side.
Those upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1 have also run into problems, with users complaining the update broke simple things such as the ability to print.
Winner: Draw – Although Windows 8 has more enterprise features as a default, Windows 7 has the benefit of being tried and tested. Then again, further updates for 8.1 have fixed many of the biggest problems inherent to previous iterations of the OS.



3. Performance

Microsoft used Windows 8 as a guise under which to revamp the engine, and the results is a much faster system that consumes fewer resources than before. This makes it a better choice than Windows 7 for low-end PCs.
The redesign opts for simple colours and fewer visual effects, also contributing to the increased speed due to resources saved compared to the Aero Glass effect of Windows 7.
Overall, Windows 8.1 is better for everyday use and benchmarks than Windows 7, and extensive testing has revealed improvements such as PCMark Vantage and Sunspider. The difference, however, are minimal.
Winner: Windows 8 – It’s faster and less resource intensive.



4. Interface

The front-facing user interface that characterises Windows 8 has been a huge talking point since it was revealed, and there are several reasons for that. For some, the radical redesign has always felt more like two operating systems meshed together, and it has become the most discussed element of Windows’ latest operating system.
When switching on the computer, users are greeted with the now-familiar Start screen – a page of apps and live tiles. This Metro interface includes everything in the form of apps, including the classic desktop mode that has proven to be the preferred view for so many. In addition, apps like IE 11 are great for touch screen web browsing, but not much else.
But even the desktop looks a little different on Windows 8, despite the fact that Windows 8.1 did feature the long-awaited return of the start button. This doesn’t, however, come with the return of the Start menu (thankfully confirmed for Windows 9 in 2015), instead simply switching users between screens.

To say the revised interface has had a polarising effect is an understatement, and there is no shortage of people who have complained about Metro since it was released. Among their arguments – an interface designed for touch doesn’t make sense on a desktop computer.
Windows 8.1 has gone some way towards fixing the problem, however, as users can now choose to avoid Metro entirely and boot directly to desktop. Spend a little time setting up the OS, and you can get a comparable, if not slightly better, experience.
There are real UI improvements with 8.1. You can add Start bars to dual monitors with separate wallpapers on each. There’s also a fast universal search tight there on the Start screen, which you can access by hitting the Windows key and typing to search local files, OneDrive files, apps, settings and the internet. You can even browse OneDrive files through File Explorer (aka Windows Explorer).
Winner: Windows 7 – The classic, familiar desktop remains popular for a reason, and thus wins the day. Windows 8 simply tries to do too much too quickly and, even though the 8.1 update allows users the option of booting straight to desktop, Metro still has a nasty habit of popping up when it’s not welcome.



5. Security

Security is a massive issue for both individual users and businesses and, as the most popular desktop operating system, Windows is sadly the primary target for malware and viruses.
Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 share many security features, both of them using BitLocker Drive encryption, but 8.1 goes one step further by enabling them by default. You can always download Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7, and it’s free, but its younger brother has it already built into the system.
Secure booting on UEFI systems is also included with 8.1, making it much harder for rogue malware to infect the bootloader. PCs running Windows 8.1 can also automatically connect to VPNs.
Winner: Windows 8 – The latest version of Windows smartly has more security features set as default.


6. Task Manager

The Task Manager for Windows 8 displays more information in a visual form, with coloured charts for heat, CPU, memory, disk, Ethernet and wireless consumption. There’s even a breakdown of how each program effects boot time.
Winner: Windows 8 – Who doesn’t want more informative graphs and charts?


7. USB 3.0 support

Windows 8.1 sports OS-level support for USB 3 devices. Instead of relying on manufacturers or updates to add support for devices, any Windows 8-enabled device can now enjoy faster speeds of up to 5 Gbit/s.

Winner: Windows 8 – Getting faster transfer speeds is always a positive thing.


8. Data transfers done right

Copying and moving data on Windows 7 was handled in the wrong way. When encountering a name collision between two files, for example, the transfer was interrupted with a prompt asking how to proceed, stacking individual windows for each transfer.

This has thankfully been cleaned up with Windows 8, putting all transfers into one window and pushing name collision dialogues to the end of the process. Windows even tried to make the time estimations on transfer more accurate.
Winner: Windows 8 – Not only does it transfer data faster, but Windows 8 ensures less interruptions and more accurate time estimations.


9. Daemon Tools is obsolete

Windows 8 finally added support for native mounting of ISO, IMG and VHD disk images. We can now access the content of virtual disk files and write them to physical CDs without any third-party programs like the now-obsolete Daemon Tools.
Winner: Windows 8 - Finally helps to put the nail in the coffin of physical media.


10. 3D printing support

Microsoft added native support for 3D printing in Windows 8.1, allowing you send files to a MakerBot Printer straight from the Charms bar.

Winner: Windows 8 - It’s not a necessity yet but, in the future, the ability to print 3D prototypes could be invaluable to businesses.

Verdict - Which version of Windows is right for you?

Windows 8 has received a lot of flack for the Metro interface, but this shouldn’t overshadow the number of improvements Microsoft has made to the OS since.
In this way, think of Windows 8.1 as just Windows 7 with four additional years of development. The downside is that updates can break the system simple because it isn’t as tried and tested as its predecessor, but this changes with time.
The latest OS has a faster boot time and better performance along with a superior task manager and security features. It also has native support for USB 3, 3D, ISO, IMG and VHD.
However, Windows 7 did manage to win in the interface category, also salvaging a draw when it came to judging enterprise features.

If you’re buying a Windows machine for personal use, then, it seems that Windows 8.1 is the way to go – as long as you ignore Metro for productivity and use it only for web browsing.
Businesses looking to deploy machines will most likely want the familiarity and stability of Windows 7, however, and this is something OEMs such as Dell and HP have recognised – now selling Windows 8 machines to enterprises with the option to downgrade to Windows 7 if they desire.

This article was first published on 26/03/14 and has been updated multiple times (most recently on 15/08/14) to reflect new information that has become available since its original publication.