Embracing the Windows 8 Change

November 8, 2012   //   Virtualization, , , ,

This week I decided to upgrade my desktop from Microsoft Windows 7 to Windows 8 and thought I would share my experience with everyone, since Windows 8 is a new product and I’ve heard that some may be skeptical about upgrading. As part of the process, I performed a fresh install into a VHD (Virtual Hard Drive), which allowed me to install Windows 8 on my desktop and still preserve my Windows 7 installation, just in case I wanted to go back. The end result was great and I have decided that I don’t ever want to go back! Here are some pointers to help make adopting Windows 8 much easier. Enjoy!

Do Not Be Scared of the Windows 8 User Interface

A lot of people are concerned about the Windows 8 User Interface (W8UI), but you only really see it when you press the start button. This hasn’t changed much in concept from the start menu. There was a lot of fuss over Windows 95 when it came out because it was different and 17 years later, people don’t want to get rid of the start menu. Don’t think of it that way; think of it as a start page instead. The start page is nothing more than a really big start menu with your installed applications, including the ones that are not optimized for the W8UI.
Microsoftstyle= Windows 8 User InterfaceMicrosoft Windows 8 Start Button On Desktop
The best way to navigate the start page is to press the Windows button and then start typing what you’re looking for. This will bring up your applications that have those characters within the name, making it very easy to locate your applications faster. Get to know where the desktop button is on the start page. This will allow you to get into Desktop mode, which is what you’re used to. You have your icons on the desktop; you have your icons on the taskbar at the bottom, which includes some minor aesthetic changes. The start orb is gone from the taskbar, however you can still access it without pressing the Windows key on your keyboard, go to the bottom left corner and you will see a little picture of the W8UI come up, then click, it’s that simple!
You have a taskbar on every screen if you use multiple monitors; this is helpful when working on something in a different monitor, the ability to pull up all of your applications quickly. You can also click on the charms bar of each screen to bring up the clock on that screen, normally it is hidden by the Start page when it is up.

Everything Still Works the Same Way

I upgraded my desktop with a fresh install of Windows 8 Pro and installed every one of my applications without any issues including an old 2008 application probably written for Windows XP, if not older based on the dialog boxes. The application is for my Dymo 330 Turbo label printer which is old, but still works. I can use the old application, as expected in Windows 8.

Microsoft Windows 8

Be Open to Change

As with anything new there will be some time to adjust. Embrace change and understand that the changes in Windows 8 were not made for the sake of change; Microsoft puts a lot of time and research into their interfaces and if you really try to learn the way things are done, the transition will be simple.

You Don’t Need a Microsoft Live Account…But

One thing you will notice with Windows 8 is that it is very mobile centric. With that comes the ability to use your Microsoft Live account to sync your settings to the cloud. This is nice, as you will have the same experience on any Windows 8 machine you log into. You are not required to have a Microsoft Live account to log into Windows 8; however you may not be able to use some of the applications that require it without one. and you will not be able to download applications from the Windows Store.

Apps in the Windows Store

This is probably my favorite part of Windows 8. Since it is mobile centric you now have access to the Windows Store which is the same store for Windows Mobile, which means you have access to the same cool and free applications, such as Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, as well as productivity apps. The best part is they are kept up-to-date, just like the phones on your mobile device, so no more going around and searching in different places for all the applications you need.

Some Quick Shortcuts with Windows 8

Microsoft Windows 8 Settings Shut DownStart Button – Opens up the Start page. When you are in a W8UI application there is not always a clear way to get back, so press the Start Button and it will bring you back. Remember that the W8UI was designed for tablets and smart phones, the behavior is similar.
ESC Button – This will either back you out of a W8UI application or close the Start page. When in doubt press the ESC button or the Start Button.

Start Typing – When you press the Start button or are in the Start page then just start typing whatever application or setting you want. The Start page will start showing you applications that match what you’re typing. If you want to choose a particular setting, there are classifications on the right side of the screen which allow you to choose what type you are looking for.

Right Click Still Works – When you are on the Start page you can right click on any of the tiles and instead of getting a popup context menu like you are used to. This gives you options on the bottom of the screen. You can also right click tiles without having to hold down the CTRL button, you will see a check mark on the tile showing you it is selected. The option at the bottom of the screen will apply to all the tiles you clicked on.

Desktop is Still There – Remember that the Desktop is still there and still functions the same way. There is a Desktop tile on bottom left of the screen to bring up the desktop. You will also go into Desktop mode if you open an application that is not designed for the W8UI. You can also open applications from the Desktop mode that you see on the Start page and if you are in Desktop mode then it will open up like a normal application, which may look different than if you opened it from the Start page.

The Four Corners – No matter where you are there is the ability to do different things with the four corners of your screen.

  • The bottom left is the Start page
  • The bottom right and top right is the Sidebar menu
  • The top left will bring up other open applications

The Settings Menu – To get to the Settings menu pull up the Charms Bar, then click on Settings. This brings up options for the following:

  • Network – Your network connections
  • Sound – Volume
  • Brightness – This is actually labeled “Unavailable” if you are on a desktop and can’t change your brightness.
  • Notifications – Hide for one, three or eight hours
  • Power – Sleep, Shut Down or Restart
  • Keyboard – Brings up the software keyboard if you don’t have one physically connected

Logging Off – When on the Start page, click on your account icon on the top right and you will have options to Change Account Picture, Lock Your Computer or Sign Out (Log off).
Microsoft Windows 8 Sign Out


I’ll admit I was very skeptical at first about Microsoft Windows 8 and the new interface. But, now I am glad I was forced to use the new interface with Server 2012, which mimics the Start page. I embraced the change and haven’t looked back. Once you get comfortable with the new interface you’ll notice that you can do things more quickly. Worst case scenario, you can install Windows 8 into a VHD and not overwrite your existing Windows 7 or XP installation to play with Windows 8 on your hardware. There are many great posts out there on how to do this. If you aren’t 100% sold on the W8UI, then do a search for “Windows 8 Classic Shell” and you can install an application that emulates the old Start menu. I don’t recommend this as you are delaying the inevitable, do you still run Peachtree in DOS? I didn’t think so, you’ll eventually come around.

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