Posey's Tips & Tricks

Windows 8 Impressions: Some Minor Bugs in a Solid OS

Brien throws caution to the wind and fully installs Windows 8 on a hard drive to see if Microsoft's latest OS can stand up to the day-to-day tasks for a techie.

With the public release of Windows 8 fast approaching, I thought that it might be nice to write about what you can expect from the new operating system in the real world. As a freelance technical writer, I have had access to various prerelease builds for the better part of the year. That being the case, I more or less knew what to expect from the RTM version. Even so, I decided that it was time to take the final build for a serious test drive.

Normally when I am trying out a new software version, I set up a virtual machine, install the software and then experiment with all the various new features. The problem is that I have been doing that with Windows 8 for quite some time now. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to see how Windows 8 would work in the real world.

To accomplish this goal I did something crazy that I would normally never do (nor what I recommend anyone else do it). I decided to temporarily install Windows 8 on a production desktop that I use every single day. Of course I couldn't risk being reckless in my approach. That being the case I started out by making a full system backup of the desktop. After doing so, I shut down the machine and removed the hard drive.

 I installed a brand-new hard drive and restored my backup. That way, the desktop was running an exact copy of my production operating system and applications, but my original configuration with safely stored on a separate hard drive that had been physically removed from the system. My plan was to upgrade the system to Windows 8, spend a couple of weeks using Windows 8 on a daily basis, and then remove the hard drive (replacing it with my computer's original hard drive containing the unaltered Windows 7 operating system).

The Windows 8 upgrade process went smoothly, but there were a few things that really surprised me about Windows 8 as I worked with it on a daily basis for the duration of my two weeks test.

The first thing that surprised me was that I honestly kept forgetting that the desktop had been upgraded to Windows 8. I found that I spent all of my time working in desktop mode and that all of my desktop icons were arranged exactly as they were prior to the upgrade. Aside from the absence of the Start menu, the experience was identical to working in Windows 7.

In case you are wondering, I did encounter a couple of glitches during my tests. The only real bug that I encountered involved Windows Media Player. For whatever reason, Windows Media Player refuses to play video files. Every time that I tried to play a video file, Windows Media Player would play the audio portion, but not the video. This held true for everything except for DVD movies, which Windows Media Player would not play at all. I tried using both the Metro version of Windows Media Player as well as the classic version, but the bug seems to be consistent across both versions. The only way that I was able to circumvent the problem was to install a third-party media player.

Another issue that I encountered was that although it violates Microsoft's best practices I have gotten into the bad habit of logging into that workstation using the domain administrator account. I work out of my home instead of working in an office environment, and the domain admin account is something that I have used for many years. Even though Windows 8 will allow you to login using a domain admin account, many of the Metro apps will not work if you are logged in as a domain administrator.

Another thing that I discovered was that there were certain applications that appeared on the Windows 7 start menu, but that were not added to the Windows 8 desktop or start screen (although I was able to access these applications through the All Apps function). It wasn't a big deal to go in and create desktop shortcuts for the apps that I needed, but it was an extra step that I had to take to make certain applications more easily accessible.

All in all I found my Windows 8 upgrade experiment to be a very worthwhile experience. As I mentioned before, I found that I spent most of my time working in desktop mode and often times forgot that I was using Windows 8. In my opinion that is a sign of a good upgrade. Sure, there were a few things that didn't work in quite the way that I thought that they should, but that is to be expected with any operating system upgrade. I have no doubts that when the retail version of Windows 8 becomes available I will be doing a permanent upgrade.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a seven time Microsoft MVP with over two decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written many thousands of articles and written or contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. When He isn't busy writing, Brien Posey enjoys exotic travel, scuba diving, and racing his Cigarette boat. You can visit his personal Web site at: www.brienposey.com.

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Reader Comments:

Thu, Oct 11, 2012 Mark Walters

I wish they'd just have left an option to boot to the desktop and bypass Metro. I find that 100% of the time, I want to be in the desktop mode. When I go into the Start screen I see nothing new - as I could already create shortcuts on my Windows 7 desktop to do exactly the same thing. Searching through the "all apps" list is a much bigger pain than going to a start menu. Searching for things via the charm is a mixed bag. First, I have to shift my view to the right. Then type in the name of something (if I can remember it). Then shift my eyes to the left. If it's not in the list, then I have to shift back to the right and go into a subfolder. Sometimes the thing I'm looking for isn't even listed. My biggest issue, however, is with the Metro apps. They won't run on multiple monitors, won't window (except for a crippled split-screen mode, won't share the desktop task bar, and mostly appear to be far less capable than desktop equivalents. The most damning thing though is the forced content from Microsoft that we can't get rid of in the Video and Music apps (you can only slide half the content to the right, screensaver shows music you've never purchased, etc). Also, when I go to the "Games" app - I am shown all the Xbox games. Funny, I thought this was Windows 8 - not xbox.

Wed, Oct 3, 2012 Heff San Jose, CA

I carved up my laptop's drive and have been dual-booting between W7 and 8 for a few months now, here are a few observations: - Like Brien mentions, I was using desktop mode almost exclusively for the first several months and was irritated by having to use the Metro start screen. Now that content is finally starting to populate the store which is written to work well in Metro mode, I'm starting to shift my time to be mostly in the new mode. - Meanwhile, back in desktop mode; the lads in Redmond have been very busy enhancing the Explorer. The integration of display of media types has been expanded greatly; my .mp3 files show lots of id3 meta-data including album art in the explorer. The photo viewer is very nicely expanded. - Another really useful extension (for me anyway) is the ability of the Explorer to operate on .iso disk images. Drilling down on one will cause Win to mount the image as a drive code, allowing you to access the contents without any added 3rd party extensions. Nice! - Someone mentioned that video wouldn't play, it appears that updates to my image have been applied which now allow me to play my videos on my media server. Also: the integration of DLNA/UPnP services has been greatly expanded in the latest updates; my media servers all show up with no extra configurations. My only gripe is the Metro video player only likes to see videos in my 'My Videos' folder by default. It seems to need expansion to allow you to add local network locations like the Win Media software.

Mon, Oct 1, 2012 Tom

As Andy said below. TO get Media Player working in Win8, it required a separate license install for me. Don't know if that was JUST for the Release Preview, or a permanent method. Worth looking into before you disregard it though.

Sat, Sep 29, 2012

One bug that I noticed that made its way into the RTM version is that when you do a clean install of WIndows 8, it does not ask for your time zone when you're setting up Windows. It defaults to Pacific Time for some reason. Not everybody lives in Washington state, Microsoft.

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 Andy

Sometime last year I read that Win 8 would not ship with the video codecs and we would not be able to play dvds. At that time I read I would need to purchase a player to get the codecs. I thought someone mentioned we would be available to download from Microsoft, but I don't remember that part too clearly. I thought that was really dumb.

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 Scott New Jersey

Please tell me there is more to Windows 8 than simply a new startup screen and the Metro App tiles. If we find ourselves using the desktop and it's hard to tell there was an upgrade, why upgrade? I use a tablet for Apps and Tiles I dont need them getting in the way of the desktop on my pc. I use desktop applications for full functionality which Apps are not. I suggest anyone that does not know the difference between Apps and Applications find out before you upgrade. Windows RT is actually the new Windows OS not 8.

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 Jason San Rafael CA

I have been using W8 since the 1st beta. I am currently using Release Preview. It is my only computer, a desktop. Two bugs I have encountered: if I use a flash drive in the USB, I cannot shut it down normally. Even with a brand new flash drive. Also, Office 10 seemed to corrupt it. Although I haven't tried it lately. Office 15 works great. I have refreshed it and reset it several times. I am looking forward to the final release.

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