Windows 8 review: My thoughts as I install Windows 8 on my PC for the first time

PHOENIX - I'm a bleeding edge geek. I tried Windows 95 when it was still in beta, I download software when it's still in the alpha phase and I unlock my phone so I can install early versions of Google Android. I love this stuff and I simply can't wait to get the latest and greatest.

With Windows 8 , I was a bit hesitant. I knew it was going to be a radical change from what  we are used to and I just wasn't ready to invest the time on an early build. Friday, the first official version of Windows 8 went on sale and I jumped in, head first.

Installation

I'm a perfect candidate for Windows 8. I have a three-year old computer that was one of the first few touch screen all-in-one models. It's an HP TouchSmart. It's not the latest and greatest hardware but it has a touch screen, which is perfect for the new Windows 8 touch interface.

My first step is ALWAYS to back-up anything important. As a Windows Desktop hoarder, it took about 20 minutes to dump my desktop files off to a external drive (seriously, 20GB on my desktop!!!!  I have a problem!) I bought my copy of Windows 8 online and used the software to download the file. It was large but only took about 40 minutes or so on my DSL connection. I followed the prompts and burned it to a DVD. It was fairly easy.

With the newly minted Windows 8 DVD in my drive I rebooted my computer and off I went. There were very few options. I selected a fresh install, instead of saving existing apps and data. I always prefer this method. I think it provides the best fresh start, especially for a new version of the operating system. I recommend you do the same if you are willing to reinstall all of your applications.

After that, I left the computer alone for about 30 minutes while it performed the install.

That was it! Windows 8 was installed and ready to go. Most of my hardware was recognized and everything seemed to be working.

Wow, this IS different

I was warned, I watched videos and looked at plenty of screenshots but until you use it, it's hard to understand how dramatically different Windows 8 is. This will take some serious "getting used to. There is no "Start" button anywhere and there is no way to get around using the new tile interface. Even jumping to what Microsoft calls "Desktop mode" won't take you back to the Windows of yesteryear. Desktop mode is a temporary solution for running older applications and giving some users a quick way to go back and do things they "used to know how to do. "

What I didn't like

I don't mind new. In fact, I embrace change especially when it moves things in the right direction. Windows 8 does that. None-the-less, new shouldn't get in the way of me doing what I've always been able to do. For example, everything seems to be working just fine on my PC except my microphone. For the life of me, I can't find the settings to re-install the microphone drivers or even check on them for that matter. I've been tinkering, fixing and troubleshooting PCs since my first MS-DOS 8088 back in the 80's and I've never felt so lost trying to fix a problem. Windows 8 hides many complicated settings much like modern day tablets and smartphones do. Problem is, this is a PC and not a tablet or smartphone. My PC has different hardware then your PC and so on and so on. There are bound to be problems and it shouldn't be difficult to fix those problems. So far, it is.

There are also some minor omissions that I think make a huge difference. For example, where is the clock? I'm working in a web browser right now and my trusty Windows clock in the bottom right corner is nowhere to be found! That clock is my rock. Ok, that's a bit dramatic but you get what I'm saying? You take my start button, you take my task bar, couldn't you at least leave my clock alone?  Microsoft, I think you're just messing with me at this point!

Bottom line, this is different and there is a huge learning curve, even for the geekiest of geeks .

What I love

Now that I've aired my initial gripes let me say that there is a lot to love about Windows 8. It is fast... super fast! Even on my 3 year old hardware, Windows 8 is silky smooth. Menus fly in and out and apps run as fast as they ran on Windows 7 if not faster.

While the new interface is a HUGE departure from previous versions of Windows, it's fun. It simple and once you figure it out, it's pretty easy to get around. It feels very tablet-like. Which makes sense since Microsoft designed Windows 8 to work on both desktop computers and tablets.

Windows 8 feels personal. Everyone uses their own Microsoft login and your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook) are deeply integrated into the operating system. Your Facebook contacts and Twitter friends populate your "Contacts" app. Notifications pop up to let you know when friends are tweeting or Facebooking about you. I don't think the social integration is perfect but it's nice to see it baked into Windows like this.

Conclusion

Microsoft blew up the ship and started from scratch.

It was needed, necessary and a big bold move by a company that makes billions (with a b) on Windows every year. It's smooth, innovative and perfect for touch screen devices of the future.

Problem is, you might hate it! A lot of people might hate it. It's so different that you feel like you are converting to an entirely different operating system. I would say going from Windows XP/Vista/7 to Windows 8 is more drastic than going from Windows to Mac. It's THAT different. Be prepared and be ready to spend a few hours understanding how the new version of Windows works.

If you hate change and are perfectly happy with your computer the way it is right now, sit tight. After all, change is easier on all of us if it comes at a slow pace.

If you're ready for something fresh, clean and new and are willing to accept that you're basically re-learning an entirely new operating system, join the Windows 8 club! It marks the beginning of a world where desktop operating systems and tablet operating systems are one in the same. I do believe this is the future of computering. Nobody ever said the future was going to be easy.

P.S. I still haven't figured out how to get my built-in microphone working. If you have any ideas, hit me up on Facebook

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