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Friday 09 November 2012

Windows 8 - Should You Upgrade

Windows is a computer operating system developed by Microsoft for use on home and business desktop, laptop and tablet computers. On 26th October 2012 Microsoft released a new version, Windows 8, to replace the already popular Windows 7. At the time of writing Microsoft is offering a downloadable upgrade version of Windows 8 at the very affordable price of £25. Despite it costing very little to upgrade, we decided to answer the question - should you upgrade?

To answer this question we decided to purchase and download the online upgrade and try it out. It should be noted that free pre-release versions of Windows 8 have been available online since September 2011 until August 2012, however the retail version is an improvement on the pre-release versions incorporating many bug fixes.

When you visit the Microsoft online store and select to purchase the Windows 8 upgrade you are asked to download an upgrade assistant. The upgrade assistant checks your computer is compatible with Windows 8 before allowing you to buy the upgrade. This is a great approach as it helps prevent users trying to upgrade incompatible computers and laptops. The computer we chose to upgrade was running Windows Vista Business Edition and passed the upgrade assistant checks with flying colours.

The computer being upgraded was a custom built machine comprising of a 3ghz quad core processor, 4gb ram, 80gb hard drive (small because it is only used for applications) and an nVidia Quadro FX4500 graphics card. All of these components exceed the minimum requirements for Windows 8 and the computer passed the upgrade assistants checks allowing us to purchase the upgrade.

The upgrade can be purchased using a variety of debit/credit cards or with a PayPal account, which we thought was a nice touch. The download of the Windows 8 upgrade took about an hour on a domestic broadband internet connection whose speed was about 5 megabits per second (so about average). Once the upgrade has downloaded you are presented with three options: install the upgrade immediately, save it to your computer to install later or create a file that will enable you create bootable DVD/USB stick. We opted for the bootable DVD option.

Being purists we decided to wipe the computer to install windows 8 from scratch (which the upgrade version allows you to do) rather than simply update the already installed version of Windows Vista. If you want to upgrade your existing copy of Windows then this is more than possible and all your existing files and settings will transfer to the upgraded Windows 8. So we wiped the computers hard drive, inserted the Windows 8 upgrade disc and restarted the computer.

The computer found the Windows 8 DVD we created with no problems and it proceeded to start the installation process. Then everything started to go wrong. The first screen we were supposed to be presented with was the language selection screen. However when this loaded the screen was completely distorted and almost unreadable. The computer was turned off and restarted but the same happened again. So we decided to try and decipher the garbled screen and proceed with the installation. We managed to muddle our way through and Windows proceeded to install itself on the computer. The installation process took around half an hour after which the computer restarted itself to load Windows for the first time.

The Windows logo appeared on the screen followed shortly afterwards by once again a completely garbled screen, however this time it was totally unreadable and resembled the static displayed when a TV channel goes off air at night. Something had gone terribly wrong. So we decided to wipe the computer and start again. The process was exactly the same with the same outcome. We decided it was time to contact Microsoft.

To our surprise the online help section on the Microsoft website guided us to a simple form where we filled in our name and telephone number and a few minutes later a representative from Microsoft telephone us. This is fantastic service as we had expected to be directed to a premium rate phone number for technical support.

The representative was very polite and took the time to understand the problem we were having, noting everything down in a support ticket. He tried to guide us through several solutions to the problem we were having but to avail. At this point he instructed us that he would need to consult with others member of the team and call us back.

Over the course of two and half days we communicated back and fourth with various members of the support team at Microsoft trying to resolve the issue. We tried both installing on a blank computer and upgrading from Windows Vista. On the third day we conceded defeat having come no closer to getting the computer to load. Our quest to try out Windows 8 came to and end.

The support we received from Microsoft was second to none and we could not fault the professionals who helped us. However our experience has taught us one thing - Windows 8 is not ready. So our advice is to wait for 12 months before you consider upgrading and for meantime stick with either Windows Vista or Windows 7 which will continue to be supported by Microsoft until 2017 and 2020 respectively.
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