windows7vswindows8There are several important differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8, and they are immediately noticeable.  Windows 8 is designed to work with touchscreens on mobile devices like phones and tablets, and probably comes as quite a shock to someone expecting a typical Windows desktop with a Start bar and icons.

Instead of this, a user finds herself looking at a tablet-style interface that is full of what are called tiles.  These tiles open individual apps, while programs are still executed from a standard desktop-mode.

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The release of Windows 8 in late 2012 has polarized the online community.  Some people recommend sticking with 7, while others love the new features and performance of 8.  Whether you are upgrading from 7 to 8 or thinking about buying one or the other, you will have to evaluate each product yourself to see which suits your needs.

There were some initial complaints about Windows 8, but Microsoft listened and has recently released Windows 8.1, which addresses many of these concerns.

Here are some of the key differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8, and what some users have said about how they compare.

User Interface, Features, and Apps

The new UI in Windows 8 is called Metro, and it is used to open the suite of apps available from the Windows Store.  Traditional programs can still be opened via the desktop.  Windows 8.1 included the return of the Start button in the task bar, which can be configured to open either the Metro Start screen or the Metro Apps view.

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The Metro Apps view is another new addition.  It displays a user’s entire collection of apps, files, and settings, alphabetically or by how often they are used. When you type the name of an app or file, the relevant search results begin arriving instantly.  The initial release of 8 did not have a menu or sorting system like this, making app navigation and addition/removal very clumsy.

The Start bar in 8.1 also includes an option to boot directly to desktop mode, something strangely lacking in the first release.  Many people running Windows 8 used the desktop primarily, and this option now lets them skip some unnecessary preliminary steps when logging in.

Skydrive, Microsoft’s cloud-based storage system, is comprehensively integrated into Windows 8.1.  This program lets you sync your entire system with the cloud, backing up every document, file, app, and settings as they are created.  It acts as a new Library within the Explorer window, giving users quick and easily access to Skydrive from any Explorer window.  It is available for mobile devices as well, providing access to the entire drive.

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Differences in Performance

PC has published a speed test of Windows 7 v.s. Windows 8, using a Toshiba Portege R835-P88 laptop with a 2.5GHz Core i5-2450M chip, an Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated graphics processor, a 500GB hard drive, and 6GB of RAM.  64-bit versions of Windows 7 and 8 were used, with all updates at the time installed.

They found that startup times for Windows 8 were vastly improved over 7 – about twice as fast.  Shutdown time was better as well, but not by as much.  Windows 8 saves the system and memory to a file and reloads it when booted up; Windows 7 needs to take the time to initiate all these processes again.

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To test file transfer speed, a USB 2.0 drive with 81 diverse files totaling 500MB was moved onto the computer, as well as a single file that was almost 1GB.  There was no noticeable difference in transfer speed, though this may simply be a hardware limitation.  Windows 8 did predict transfer time more accurately, and was able to move files from folder to folder within the system nearly instantly.

What else should people know about Windows 7 and Windows 8?  Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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