Windows 8

You may have noticed that there have not been many updates to the blog recently and there are a number of reasons for this (new puppies, family visits and a nasty stomach bug to name a few).

The other reason is that I have installed Windows 8 onto my main PC and I have to say that this was the easiest, quickest and most enjoyable Windows upgrade that I have ever performed; the actual installation (note not upgrade) took only 9 minutes!

I went to the UK Microsoft web site and purchased the Windows 8 Pro upgrade as I already have a licenced version of Windows 7 Ultimate, I urge anyone thinking of upgrading to Windows 8 Pro to do this before the offer price increases from the £24.99 price.

When you click the “Download Pro for £24.99” button, the process starts by asking you to download the “Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant”. Once this is downloaded you can start the installation process when you run the program (late if needed).

The process starts with a scan of your PC as follows:

After a few minutes the process completes:

If you click the purple “See compatibility details” text a full list of what is and what is not compatible is shown:

as I have run this on my PC that already has Windows 8 installed it shows a different list of device from the first time I installed Windows 8:

  • The Install an application to play DVD’s results from the fact that Windows 8 no longer has DVD support. This isn’t really an issue at the moment as I can use VLC Media Player to do this.
  • The “Secure Boot isn’t compatible with your PC” is incorrect as I instslled the latest UEFI update for my motherboard and switched this feature on so thi is probably resulting from the fact that the assistant is running on a machine that laredy has Windows 8 installed.
  • “The touchscreen on this PC wasn’t designed for Windows 8”; interesting as I don’t have a touchscreen monitor? I suspect that this has picked up my Wacom Intous 4 tablet and/or the Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad t650. The t650 was designed for Windows 8 and has full gesture support, as good as this device is the Apple touchpad with OSX Mountain Lion is far superior and just works better.
  • I have no idea what the “Dual-Core Optimzer” (AMD) is as the computer is running a Sandy Bridge Core i7 CPU.
  • The “iTunes” warning is a nice touch to remind you to de-authorise the computer before upgrading the computer

Once you have dealt with the issues (if relevant), you click the Next Button to proceed.

At this point I was going to go through a step-by-step process that I took which is difficult when you have already upgraded to Windows 8 😦

However Paul Thurrott has already documented the process so you can read his post about this by clicking on the link: Although Paul discusses a number of options that the Windows Upgrade assistant offers, I chose to copy the media to an 8GB USB flash drive that I acquired for this purpose. I also chose to wipe the boot disk (a 512GB Corsair SSD).

I booted from the USB Flash drive a feature that was finally available on my computer (the previous motherboard would not allow you to boot from one drive an install on another). During the set-up I deleted the Windows 7 partition and asked Windows 8 to use all of the available space on the SSD. I should point out that nearly all of my data is on a 2TB hard-disk or on SkyDrive so there was very little that needed to backed up from the SSD, a full backup of all of the drives was taken however.

As stated earlier the installation took only around 9 minutes to complete from booting the USB drive to logging into Windows 8 for the first time. Although this was partly due to the use of USB Media installing onto an SSD this is pretty amazing.

When the computer starts you are required to sign-in with a Microsoft Account (formally know by many names such as Passport, Live, Hotmail, etc). This is then used as the default account going forward. I have spent the last few months moving from my dot-mac account ; this was for many reasons the main being that the browser version of the Apple email system was and still is truly awful, it is very slow, buggy and sometimes I just cannot get in (or get specific items) whilst hotmail/outlook and even Gmail are much better web-based systems. I didn’t like the fact that Apple cannot make its mind up what the name after the at sign is going to be, we now have three: dot.mac, dot-me and dot-icloud and I was also tired of the fact that Apple is determined to make the Calendar and the Address book look like their paper based ancestor systems; why?.

I also have an X-box account (formally Windows Game) that is tied to any Microsoft game that I have played. Finally after many years of “not getting it” Microsoft has linked all of these things together into one account – the Microsoft Account. Microsoft also allows you to link various online systems so I have linked Twitter and Facebook and although at first I wasn’t sure of the approach, in Windows 8 this makes total sense.


Back to the installation: So Windows 8 was installed and I was logged in so I switched the desktop (you still need to use the desktop for certain tasks – in this case file management) and after installing the Windows 8 Desktop version of SkyDrive I then proceeded to point the various libraries to specific locations:

  • Documents: 100% switched to SkyDriveDocuments*
  • Pictures: All files are on my 2TB drive, except the Lightroom library which is on the SSD Pictures folder and the most recent Pictures are on SkyDrivePictures
  • Videos: 100% on the 2TB drive
  • Music: the iTunes Library is on the SSD Music folder whilst the actual music and video files are on the 2TB drive.

*Apart for the conscious choice to install the Lightroom library on the SSD I wanted to use a combination of the 2TB drive as well as the SSD for all of my files; however, some applications are just not happy with this or just continue to use the default “Documents” folder. I use Splash ID for all of my password and web account details and this is only happy with my existing (GMail) email account if it is installed on the SSD Documents folder, the same is true of the iTunes library which only works if using the SSD Music folder (it does work on the 2TB drive but all of my data and more importantly my iTunes purchases are missing).

The worst culprits are the games that install local files onto the SSD documents folder though, these being games do not give you any control in where they save their files to.


Once I had the data sorted out I proceed to work out which drivers would be needed for the various hardware that I have installed. This went mostly OK but I was left with one unknown piece of hardware in Device Manager that required some detective work to work out what it was and then locate an appropriate driver, as expected it was a device on the ASUS Motherboard. The final task was to install the applications that I use. This includes the Adobe Cloud software which in turn allows Lightroom and any Adobe application that I wish to use (mostly Photoshop) and the demo version of Office 2013 – I saw no point in installing the current version of Office as it would be obsolete soon and it would almost certainly require ringing Microsoft to “authorise” it for use.

I also had to install a few of my favourite utilities but these came later as I need to see what Windows 8 includes and therefore if I could retire any of them. For example there isn’t much Adobe software on the machine (Adobe Creative Suite excepted) as Windows 8 also includes a built-in (Metro) PDF reader and Flash is now part of both the Desktop and Metro versions of Windows 8.

The built-in nature of flash did cause some problems with the fact that Flash was built-in that I couldn’t get past initially. I use Steam for a lot of my games and the Steam client has the ability to show video previews for some of the games that it sells. These require a standalone version of flash; it is (was?) a relatively simple procedure to go to the Adobe Flash site and install this. Adobe in their wisdom detects that you have Windows 8 and did not allow the download. After a week or two this restriction was removed and the standalone version could be downloaded – I now have Steam with a working video capability.

The only other problem that I have had was the Music Streaming from Xbox Music which simply stopped working for no apparent reason – it took a lot of browsing to find a solution. This required changing a 1 to a 0 somewhere in the registry; there was a guy in Germany who had the same issue and after it worked for me I passed this on and it worked for him too.

So I have been using Windows 8 since its release and I really like it, I don’t understand why some people hate it and why they insist that the “Start button” is replaced. Some people don’t like the Metro interface – I do. And once you learn the shortcuts and how and where to move the mouse cursor to I find it quicker to use than Windows 7. I guess that some people don’t like change and we have had some form if a Start button since Windows 95 (so this is 18 years+).

But there is one ting that we all agree on, the desktop (for now at least) must stay as there are some things that just don’t work well in the Metro interface. I also like the ribbon interface in the Windows 8 Explorer Windows by the way (again some people don’t like this too).

Is Windows 8 perfect? – NO! There are still lots of holes and inconsistencies and some of the Metro applications require some major work to make them useful – I hope that we don’t have to wait too long for these improvements to come along. There is talk of a major update (Windows Blue) coming early in 2013, I think that if Microsoft want Windows 8 to truly take off that some of the things are fixed in this update and I also want MS to keep releasing updates as soon as they are ready rather than waiting for big all-in-one updates going forward. I also want one place to do updates not three that we have at the moment (Windows Desktop update, Windows Metro Update and the Windows Store update), if Apple can do this so can Microsoft.