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.
Brien Posey is a 20-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and 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 health care 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. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.