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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last three or four decades, you know what Microsoft Windows is. That said, every few years Microsoft comes out with a new version of their Operation System (OS), and we all have to decide if we’re going to upgrade or not.
Sometimes the “upgrade” isn’t much of an actual upgrade; you know, with real advantages and stuff. So how do you determine whether you should switch your OS? Over the years, upgrading hasn’t been that big of a deal because the changes have usually been pretty minor when it comes to the user interface; not so much with Windows 8.
Some people (lots of people) hate the Windows 8 version of the OS. It is so wholly different than what Microsoft users had come to expect. Add to that scenario the fact that the new interface wasn’t very user-friendly, and you can bet that Microsoft was going to rethink their product.
The Windows 8 Debacle
In 2012, Microsoft decided it was going to jump on the app bandwagon. Users of smartphones and tablets love apps. Apps are convenient and user-friendly; you can easily organize them and find them when you want to.
But Microsoft made a big mistake in thinking that this interface was right for every device. The first version of Windows 8 was great for tablets but was a massive flop for a regular desktop computer.
The reason for this: It wasn’t user-friendly at all, especially if you didn’t have a touchscreen device. Also, users had come to expect that the basic operation of their Windows OS wasn’t going to change. Each iteration of the software was so like its predecessors that we never worried about learning to use a new version. And frankly, we weren’t complaining.
Eventually, Microsoft realized that they’d made a mistake. So, they came out with Windows 8.1, in which you can decide to use the tile interface or go back to the tried-and-true desktop screen. This version is the one we will concentrate on in the Windows 10 vs Windows 8 debate.
Moving On From Windows 8
In 2015, Microsoft moved on from Windows 8. Even though they tried to fix it and get people on board with the 8.1 version a year after it’s original release, users never fell in love with it. So Microsoft decided to go with a hybrid version of their platforms.
Windows 10 is a combination of the tile interface merged with the iconic desktop we all know and love. The desktop looks mostly how it always did in legacy versions before Windows 8, but the tiles are still featured when you click the Start button.
If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet, you’re going to want to do so quickly. Support is limited for the Windows 8 version OS. Mainstream support ended back in January 2018, and extended support is only slated to last until January 2023. In the meantime, more and more applications will fail to be compatible with Windows 8, and security updates are scarce.
Windows 10 VS Windows 8
We’ve compiled a list of the key distinctions between these iterations of the operating system so you can prepare for the switch. Below, you will find the information you should know when considering Windows 10 vs Windows 8.
If you’ve been using the original version of Windows 8, then you know that your PC main screen is the Metro version – the one with all the tiles.
You can shift these tiles around to different pages, place them in different layouts, and even change their sizes. Some tiles are “live,” which means they feature photo slideshows, excerpts, headlines, etc. depending on what application it is.
With version 8.1, you can choose to use the original style desktop rather than the Metro mode. Metro mode is pretty convenient for tablets, touchscreen laptops, and hybrid model devices like the Microsoft Surface.
Are the tiles user-friendly for the regular desktop PCs? Not so much.
In Windows 10 your main screen is simply the regular desktop interface we’re used to seeing. Tiles are a part of it, but you don’t have access them right away. To get to your tiles, you click on the Start button or press the Windows key on your keyboard.
When the menu pops up, you’ll see tiles in a section off to the right of the main list of applications. This section is essentially the same as the Metro interface on Windows 8. You can move the tiles, and some are live, etc.
You can see that Microsoft decided to go with a mashup of their old interface and the new app-based interfaces dominating Androids and other smart devices.
I don’t ever use the tiles to be perfectly honest, and I think many longtime Windows users are probably with me – it doesn’t even occur to me to look at them. But if you liked the tiles in Windows 8 then you might consider using tablet mode since this is the biggest difference in Windows 10 vs Windows 8.
Windows 10 has a new login feature that allows you to unlock your computer by merely looking at it. While Windows 8 needed a password, pin, or swipe pattern, Windows 10 will enable you to set up facial recognition.
You’ll need a specialized camera compatible with Windows Hello, Microsoft’s Biometric Facial Recognition software, but other than that it’s simple to use. Once you’ve set it up, you only need to look into the camera to quickly unlock your device for use.
In Windows 10 the File Explorer GUI (Graphical User Interface), changed a little. The Favorites section from Windows 8.1 was replaced with a Quick Access section.
The Favorites section of File Explorer allowed you to pin your favorite folders and locations to it. In Windows 10, the Quick Access section enables you to do this too but it also automatically features the most often and most recent locations and folders.
This feature makes it easier to pick up where you left off the last time you used the PC. For example, if you were working on a document in your Winter Expenses folder, this folder will show up in the Quick Access list.
You’ll find the Quick Access List at the top of the column to the left side of the File Explorer. It is shown above the list of other locations like OneDrive, Homepage, and This PC.
Another key difference within File Explorer is the start page. In Windows 8.1, when you opened File Explorer, the main start page was This PC. In Windows 10, the application opens to the Quick Access folder.
If you prefer the File Explorer default page to be This PC, you can switch it. Go to View>Options>Folder Options>General>Open File Explorer to, then select from the dropdown menu.
Lastly, there were some menu changes within File Explorer in both the dropdowns and the ribbon. There is also a new share button which allows you to share information with other people via a compatible app. The application icons themselves were tweaked but essentially look the same.
Cortana is the name of the Microsoft personalized digital assistant, and she can be used for a variety of different functions.
Cortana is in the taskbar. If your taskbar is hidden, hover your mouse over the bottom of your screen to make it appear. In the bottom left corner, next to the Windows icon, there is a search bar featuring a circle to the left and a microphone symbol to the right.
Click in the box to start typing or click on the Windows key and do the same. If you click the microphone icon (and have a compatible microphone installed), you’ll be able to speak directly to Cortana.
Cortana uses plain English (or whatever language you speak). You don’t have to use keywords or phrases to get what you want. Simply say it as you would to another person.
You can search with Cortana for applications, folders, files, and more, but you can also use her for other things. Tell her to set a reminder or use her to manage your calendar. You can ask a question like, “What day does Christmas fall on?” or “What’s the weather like today?”
You can also tell her to do things like play music, track your flight, perform calculations, or send emails. To get a list of everything Cortana can do type or say, “Help me.” This feature is really impressive and is the feature most like a smart device. I find it more useful than the tiles ever were.
Windows 10 Tablet Mode
In Windows 10, you have the option of setting it to tablet mode. Tablet mode makes the device go back into the full-screen Windows 8 interface. You’ll have a full screen of tiles (apps), and each one will open to be a full screen when you use it.
This feature is super convenient and useful if you’re actually using a tablet or a hybrid device. A hybrid device is one where you can detach or flip the keyboard out of the way to use it as a tablet and vice versa. Likewise, you can switch the device out of tablet mode if you want to use it like a regular desktop or laptop computer.
Windows Store Apps
All the Windows Store apps (although there aren’t as many as we’d like) are still available. Unlike the apps in Windows 8, however, the apps available are now more supportive of the regular desktop interface. Many of the full-screen apps can open more like a traditional window app when the device is not in tablet mode.
Windows 10 finally brings virtual desktops to their system. Previously, only machines that ran operation systems such as Linux had this. Now, Windows users can enjoy the same features and benefits of having multiple virtual desktops.
A virtual desktop is actually being able to access more than one desktop from a single PC. Much the way you might have different users login to their own account and see different desktops, now you can seamlessly jump between your desktops on one screen.
One instance this might be useful is if you want to keep your personal stuff separate from your business information. With virtual desktops, you don’t have to make separate logins, and you can easily share data across them because they are physically located in the same space on the computer.
To make a new desktop hover over the taskbar, click the task view icon (or hit Alt+Tab) and then click + New Desktop.
The Action Center
In Windows 8, notifications would pop up on your screen. If you missed them though or didn’t click on them, they were gone. There was no place that these notifications were stored so that you could refer back to them. It defeated the purpose.
In Windows 10, you have what’s called an Action Center. This area is where all your notifications are stored and managed. You’ll still get notifications that pop up on your screen, but now if you miss one, it will be accessible from the Action Center.
To open the Action Center hover over your taskbar and click on the message icon on the far right. If the notification icon is blank, you have no new messages. If it has horizontal lines that indicate writing, it means you have new notifications. There will also be a number on the icon showing you how many notices you have.
Clicking on the icon will bring up your messages in a semi-transparent menu on the right side of the screen. There are also other menu items within this area, such as turning on/off tablet mode, airplane mode, and getting to network settings.
You can customize the Action Center in the Systems app under Notifications and Actions.
One feature of Windows 10 that you’ll particularly enjoy if you’re a gamer is the ability to play your Xbox (Microsoft’s game console) on your PC. You can stream video games from the Xbox console to your PC.
There is also cross-platform gaming support, meaning you can play an Xbox game from your PC against someone who is playing on a regular console and TV. This is an entirely new concept for Microsoft and gamers in general who have long had to choose between PC and Video Console games.
Microsoft also incorporated an Xbox app. The app allows you to chat with friends, look at and track your gaming stats, and view your activity. Again, this is an integration of PCs with gaming consoles that many gamers are going to enjoy. Rather than having to switch from one platform to another, you can simply do everything from one device.
Lastly, Windows 10 offers one more perk for gamers. PCs with Windows 10 have built-in game recording. Best of all, you can record yourself playing any game at all on the PC, whether it is a PC game or an Xbox game. Pretty cool for when you want to show off your mad skills to your gamer buddies in the Xbox app.
There you have it. These are the key distinctions in the faceoff with Windows 10 vs Windows 8. Windows 10 seems to be much more user-friendly than Windows 8 was, especially for traditional desktop users. That said, if you own a tablet or convertible laptop, Windows 10 still has everything you need to use your device comfortably.
Check out some of our other articles to learn more about laptops, tablets, PCs, software, and more.