Thinking Of Upgrading Your Computer System To Microsoft Windows 8.1

In 2012 Microsoft launched Windows 8. In some respects, the idea behind the new platform was to bridge the gap between Windows on PC’s / laptops and the new touchscreen devices such as tablets and mobile phones.

Sadly, Windows 8 was not the success Microsoft had hoped for, with many users complaining about the huge departure away from familiar layouts. This resulted in confusion and frustration about what can essentially be called an unfinished platform.

Moving on a year, Microsoft has launched version Windows 8.1. With the majority of existing Microsoft users deciding to reject the initial Windows 8 upgrade, is this the right time for them to consider 8.1? Also, what about existing Windows 8 users? Should they upgrade too?

Virtually all PC’s and laptops are now sold with either Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 operating system. Therefore, when investing in new hardware in the future, there is no escape and you will be forced to accept the latest platform over your preferred option.

Additionally, Microsoft have announced that they will cease supporting Windows 7 from January 2015, and therefore it’s inevitable that you will need to adopt this latest offering even if it’s later rather than sooner. However, for now we recommend that current users of Windows 7 or earlier talk to us first – but usually we advise you to continue using your existing system.

Should a Windows 8 user upgrade to Windows 8.1?

When Windows 8 launched in 2012, many of the touchscreen devices it was designed for were simply not available for purchase. Those that were available were considered too expensive against the price of the competition.

Moving on a year and there is now more choice for touchscreen laptops, tablets and all in one devices at considerably better pricing. The relative failure of Windows 8 meant that developers were hesitant to create apps for these devices although there is now a feeling Microsoft are getting it right and apps are being launched at a faster rate. That said, the competition with Android and Apple is so firmly established there is a feeling of too little too late. But, the one advantage for Microsoft is the integration with a Windows platform, which the competition is unable to offer. So, for users looking for a device that offers more, combining business and leisure capability, this could be Microsoft’s single competitive advantage.

For Windows 8 users the decision to upgrade to Windows 8.1 should be relatively easy given the many advantages listed below. This upgrade is FREE which will be welcome news and is available at Windows Store.

What are the advantages of Microsoft Windows 8.1?

1. Customisable

Windows 8.1 introduces Snap functionality to the Start Screen, which allows you to re-size different applications screens independently of one another, allowing the user to run multiple apps on the same screen. Live tiles can also be re-sized with 3 different sizes, Small, Regular and Large. The desktop background can also be matched to the start screen for a unified look.

In Windows 8, users were restricted to two apps open simultaneously on screen. This has doubled to four and each can be sized independently depending on which app you are working on at the time.

2. Automatic App Updates

All applications installed from the Windows Store will automatically update in the background while you are using your PC rather than ask you to update every app individually. This is a nice time saver and an admin function you never have to worry about.

3. It consumes less disk space

Windows 8.1 has offers some new functionality & features, however Microsoft says that’s it uses between 8-15% less space on your hard drive.

4. Smart Search

Search Charm on Windows 8 was pretty good, but the new search facility on Windows 8.1, called Smart Search is in a different league. It’s incredibly versatile searching all aspects of the device including apps to produce more comprehensive results. When searching on a topic such as a specific famous person, Windows 8.1 will produce what Microsoft have called a “Search Hero” which displays relevant information, such as Date of Birth, Death, photographs, discography etc.

This new search facility alone is worth updating for.

5. Greater External Display Support

Windows 8.1 Allows greater options, especially when running a tablet on external displays, it also supports DPI scaling, which essential allows you to set different scaling text and icon settings per monitor, especially useful with high resolution displays.

6. Live Lock Screen

Windows 8.1 brings the option to allow calendar appointments, email notifications etc all from the lock screen, before you login. You can also set the lock screen to display a slide show of your own pictures

7. Desktop

Windows 8.1 allows the user to boot straight to the desktop, instead of the Start screen. One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 was the removal of the Start button. It’s a welcome return to a familiar friend, although the start menu in windows 8.1 is not like previous versions, it’s a cut down version of the old start menu.

In Windows 8.1 the Start screen gets a major redesign to make it easier to customize, with a wider range of tile sizes to accommodate more items on the Start screen. And of course there’s a check box that lets you bypass the Start screen and go straight to the desktop.

In summary there are new features in just about every corner of this platform that are superior to Windows 8. Windows have also added an online tutorial which was sadly missing before and could have prevented some of the frustration. Whilst we wouldn’t say Windows 8.1 is now the finished item, it’s clearly head and shoulders better than its predecessor.

With any new system, there are invariably downsides which the manufacturer doesn’t wish to tell you…

1. No Option To Un-Install

There is no way to un-install windows 8.1 or revert to a system restore point prior to the update. This means that once you press the button, there is simply no turning back. You have to work with what you’ve got whether you like it or not. Overall, this shouldn’t be an issue for Windows 8 users and is not as relevant if you are considering upgrading from Windows 7 or earlier because if you have Windows 7 you will have recovery partition or media, so will be able to revert back quiet easily.

2. Software Reinstallation

Very often Windows 8.1 requires users to re-install software that was working fine, before the upgrade. As with any upgrade, it is advisable to ensure you have completed a full system back up and that you ensure you have installation media, user identification, licence keys and passwords for all of your other software.

As a precaution, it is worth checking whether your other software is updated to be compatible with Windows 8.1. Some software may not be compatible and therefore cease to function. It is so important you check this out before running an upgrade of this magnitude.

3.Drivers Issues

Many users have also reported that they need to re-install drivers for many devices, so external devices, peripherals; external monitors etc may stop working completely after this update. For any upgrade, there will always be one or two potential issues with drivers so this isn’t something new.

4. Start Menu

Windows 8.1 restores the Start Menu, however this is not the Start menu that users have become accustomed to over the last 13 or so years. The menu has limited functionality, with its primary function being to take the user back to the start screen.

5. Mouse Issue

Some computer mice stop working correctly, or start to act sporadically under windows 8.1, especially for Gamers, although Microsoft are currently working on a fix. Windows 8 or 8.1 is not the best for working with a keyboard and mouse – it is ideally suited to touch screen devices.

6. No Direct Download

Unlike other previous service packs on Windows 7 and XP, you cannot manually download and install the service pack, the installation must be carried out from the Microsoft Apps Store.

Summary

Whenever you are considering updating your system you should ideally talk to your IT support company and allow them to run checks on your systems first and point out the potential issues you may have. Some will be known, but there’s always the chance of a ghost in the closet due to the vast range of software that is available and used for business purposes with the age old chestnut of current compatibility.

Additionally, before any update, a full system back-up is advisable to protect you from a potential failure.

Our final words…

  • If you’re an existing Windows 8 user, the update is free and largely seamless, and adds some useful new tweaks and features. You should upgrade as soon as possible but follow our advice so that we can do our best to protect you.
  • If you’re a Windows 7 user consider keeping with it until it’s absolutely necessary to invest in a new PC; those touch-optimized Windows 8 and 8.1 elements won’t do much for you anyway, and Windows 7 still works well with most applications

Features in Windows Vista

Windows Vista, scheduled for release on January 30th, 2007 has something for everyone, from tight security and stunning new graphics to some new bundled applications. In fact, there is much that this new operating system has to offer, that it will be a real test for the hardware configuration of your PC. With its sleek new look and eye-catching interface, actually it’s what’s under the hood that impresses the most. Microsoft’s done a great job of improving security across the board as this was their priority when they were developing Vista in the first place. Features like Windows and spyware library updates are streamlined, and I definitely appreciate the more robust Backup software.

Internet Explorer is the new web browser that comes with Windows Vista, but as we all know you can download it for XP as well, so this article won’t focus on it. Windows Media Player 11 can also be installed to the XP system. A really intriguing stuff is the Windows Sidebar, which puts real-time weather info, stock quotes, system status, RSS feeds, and other information on the display.

This article puts the focus on the top new features in Window Vista, things that can’t find in the XP. Apart from this article, another really great site about Windows Vista full of information about the new features is vista-hq.com.

1. New User Experience, including Windows Aero

Windows Vista features four different levels of user experience–Basic, Windows Classic, Standard, and Windows Aero(TM). All controls are totally redesigned in Windows Vista and look even better now. The Aero user interface is the top of the line and takes advantage of the latest advances in computer hardware. On computers equipped with graphics hardware that supports the new Windows Driver Display Model (WDDM), the Aero provides more stability and smoother window handling. The main element of this interface is the transparent glass design, with subtle effects such as dynamic reflections and smooth animations. To checkout some screenshots, go to vista-hq.com/interface.html.

2. Windows Sidebar

The Windows Sidebar can be positioned on the right or on the left side of your screen and its associated with mini-applications called gadgets, that provide specific information. Like for example, the gadgets can give you info on the weather, show you the calendar, games, a calculator or all types of other tools. The Sidebar fits perfectly especially on widescreen monitors. It can be easily customized and you can add different types of gadgets. Gadgets are a new concept introduced in Windows Vista. They can connect to web services to deliver business data, weather information, news updates, traffic maps, Internet radio streams, and even slide shows of online photo albums. By default, the OS comes with a set number of gadgets to get you started, but you can always download more from an online gadget gallery.

3. The Instant Desktop Search

The Instant Search is a new feature that will help you find whatever you’re looking for. It is available almost everywhere in Windows Vista, in the Explorer Dialogs, in the Start Menu, pretty much in every system window. Using it, you can type a filename, a property, or even text contained within a file, and it returns pinpointed results. Besides that, the Instant Search also arranges the results depending on your current activity, whether it’s searching for music files in Media Player, or looking over all your files and applications on the Start Menu. You can check out some screenshots of that at vista-hq.com/interface.html.

On the Start Menu, the Instant Search box is located at the lower left corner, and instead of going through all the programs installed in order to find the one you are looking for, you can just type its name in the box and as you type, Windows Vista instantly searches file and application names, metadata, and the full text of all files, and it displays the search results. It searches through everything – Applications; Favorites/Internet History; Files, including documents and media; and Communications, including email, events, tasks, and contacts.

4. Windows Defender

Windows Defender is a features that protects your computer from pop-ups, slow performance, and security threats caused by spyware. It works by monitoring key system locations for changes that signal the presence of spyware. The autoupdate option will make sure that the Defender has all the latest spyware definitions from Microsoft. The interface is simple and easy to use, making daily tasks like as scanning, blocking, and removing unwanted software easier than ever. It has a built in Software Explorer that determines which software and services are running on your computer and stops or disables “rogue” software.

It works in co-operation with Internet Explorer with the “Scan on execute” feature. This feature provides an added layer of protection, by scanning all downloaded files before they are saved and executed, thus reducing the chance that spyware might be installed by accident. If you want to learn something more about the Windows Defender visit vista-hq.com/security.html.

5. Performance Center

The Performance Center is a brand new tool that gives information on the PC’s performance characteristics and can manage and troubleshoot performance issues. The very interesting thing here is the WinSPR, or Windows System Performance Rating. This rating is from 1 to 5, and depending on your rating, you can determine if a given application can run on your machine. For example, if you have some of the latest hardware, your rating can reach 4.2 and it that case, any software with 4.2 or lower WinSPR will run smoothly on your computer. To find out more about it, go to vista-hq.com/performance.html.

6. Backup and Restore

This new functionality makes it possible for you to keep your information safe from user error, hardware failure, and other issues that can result in data loss. There are several layers of protection to ensure maximum effectiveness. From the Backup and Restore control panel, you can enable the auto feature which automatically caches previous versions of your files to an image-based backup of your entire computer. Later, you can browse and search for files to restore from a backup.

Another great new feature allows you to access previous versions of files without even having a backup. This is possible through the Volume Shadow Copy technology. If you want to do that manually, then you will have to use the File Back Wizard in which you select the types of files you want to backup, specify a storage folder and start the process at any point you want. There is also an automatic scheduling function.

The system restore feature can reverse system changes, but still preserving your data in its current state.

7. Network Map

The Network Map is a new feature inside the Network Center that displays graphically your connectivity to the network and to the Internet. If a computer on the network loses Internet connectivity, you can graphically see which connection is down and then use Network Diagnostics to help determine the cause of the problem and find possible solutions.

This is especially useful if you have a network of wired and wireless PCs and devices. With the Network Map you can increase the performance of the network and easily spot problems.

8. Windows ReadyBoost

ReadyBoost is a brand new technology that comes with Windows Vista. It’s a whole new concept that will change they way people add memory to a system. With ReadyBoost, you can use USD flash as RAM to extend system memory and improve performance. So instead of buying RAM and opening your computer, you can just plug the Flash. Plus, most motherboards have just two RAM slots, which will be taken anyway.

Utilizing this technology is simple. Just plug the Flash in the USB slot and Windows Vista will check to determine if its performance is fast enough to work with Windows ReadyBoost. If that’s the case, then you’ll be asked if you want to use this device to speed up system performance. ReadyBoost is reliable as well as secure. You won’t loose any data, and the system will restore to its original level of performance when the Flash is removed. There is no wearing on the USB drive, because of the specifically optimized algorithms used.

9. Windows ReadyDrive

Windows ReadyDrive takes advantage of the latest hybrid hard drives to provide faster boot-up, hibernate, and resume. It works by writing data to the flash memory on the hybrid hard disk, which lessens the amount of spinning for the mechanical hard drive, thus saving battery power. And also increases the life of your hard drive. With a hybrid drive, Windows Vista can resume more quickly from Sleep because data can be restored from flash memory faster than from the spinning mechanical hard drive.

10. Windows Media Center

For a large number of users, the PC has become mostly a source of entertainment, that you can enjoy by sitting back with a remote control in hand. That’s not something strange considering the enormous amount of media files that you can download online. The Windows Media Center enables you to enjoy live and recorded TV, music, photos, videos, and online entertainment on a single device. It can also be connected to Xbox 360 allowing you to transfer this experience in other rooms of your home.

It’s integrated in the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista and also offers built-in support for archiving TV shows to DVD. It takes advantage of the very latest technologies including a support for widescreen and high-definition (HD) displays. There are three separate sections – music, digital photos, TV and movies. In the Music section, you can quickly browse your music by artist, song, or album title, as well as by genre, composer, or year. Regarding the photos, Windows Media Center can turn your simple photo collection into a cinematic slide show that can be shared on the television in the living room. On top of that, WMC provides seamless experience when watching your favorite television shows and movies.