Windows 8 review: Are you ready for new Windows? 2 questions to ask yourself first

I'm considering Windows 8 but don't know if my current computer is capable of the upgrade.  Any quick way to figure out if I need a new computer or not?

Microsoft's newest operating system is causing quite a bit of commotion (and rightly so), but before you decide to take the plunge, there are a couple of things to ask yourself:

Am I ready to learn a new set of interface tools?

Can I do the initial testing on a computer that isn't mission critical?

In an effort to unify mobile and desktop computing in a single interface, Windows 8 is a bold undertaking by Microsoft that will cause "change anxiety" in users that aren't open to change.

A lot of detractors are making a big deal out of the "missing" Start button, but the default screen is essentially what you used to see when you clicked on Start in older versions, so it's not quite as bad as it is being made out to be.

I've been using the various preview versions on a desktop computer for a while and recently began using the Surface Tablet and can see where Microsoft is trying to take us all.

If they're successful, they'll be hailed as visionaries; if they aren't, lots of people will be using Windows 7 for a long, long time (Windows XP is over 11 years old and still accounts for over 40% of global desktop market share).

Generally speaking, unless you are in the industry (developer, technician, analyst, etc.) or just love the challenge of the unknown, it's always safest to hold back on migrating so that the tech savvy community can discover all the inevitable quirks.

If you have an extra computer that you don't rely upon and you like to tinker, then the system requirements are pretty basic:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2 (more info)
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

If you want to do a more in-depth check of your computer and peripherals, make sure you have everything that you care about plugged in and turned on (printers, scanners, etc.) then download and run Microsoft's Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant .

The least problematic way to migrate to Windows 8 is certainly to buy a new computer that comes pre-loaded with the OS, but that's also the most expensive.

If you want to avoid the pain of re-installing all your programs (if you can even find the disks!), transferring your pictures, documents, music, network settings, printer drivers and everything else that makes your computer YOUR computer, you can perform an ‘in-place' upgrade.

The only operating system that will allow an in-place upgrade is Windows 7. If you have Windows XP or Vista, the upgrade will install without wiping out all your data, but you will have to reload all your applications (this scenario is generally the most problematic, so consulting a techie or professional that has done it before might be a good idea).

Microsoft has gotten very aggressive with pricing on the upgrade.  If you don't require the disk, you can download the Windows 8 Pro upgrade for $39.95 or buy the boxed version for $69.99 if you do want the installation media.

If you aren't quite ready to start using Windows 8, but need a new computer, you can buy a Windows 7 system now and qualify for an even cheaper upgrade ($14.99) to Windows 8 later.

Anyone buying a Windows 7 computer between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 can register for the special upgrade offer here .

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