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I Installed Windows 8 and Lived to Tell the Tale...

ProductivityOperating Systems

I feel like I should upgrade to Windows 8. I hear it is faster, has better performance and those tiles look so pretty!  I also want the latest version of Microsoft Office. The ability to edit PDF’s in MS Word is exactly what I need. But... I don’t like change. I don’t want to learn a whole new operating system or interface. I am also not sure where to start with the upgrade process. And did I mention I don’t have time for this?!

Despite all that, I am going to give it a try and blog about the whole process. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and evaluate if upgrading to Windows 8 is the right move for you.

First... Why am I upgrading?

Here are my reasons for upgrading to Windows 8 - maybe some of them will resonate with you:

  • I have an old computer that is very slow. I have heard that Windows 8 can help older computers run faster because it is a smaller operating system and does not take up as much RAM and space on the computer. Since I can not afford to buy a new computer right now, this is a cheap option to boost productivity.  
  • I also really want to get the new version of Office and I am considering moving to SkyDrive - Microsoft’s cloud solution. The new version of Office has some great added features and SkyDrive extends Office applications to the cloud. Since Windows 8 is optimized to work with the latest version of Office and easily integrates with SkyDrive - it seemed like a move in the right direction.
  • Keeping up to date is a good thing, is it not? Why else would they work so hard on developing a new system if it was not better? Plus, I am curious and want to try it out. The tiles and sleek interface look fun to use.

Still wondering whether upgrading to Windows 8 is right for you? Check out this article: Should you upgrade to Windows 8: Four questions to consider.

*Note* - if you are a Windows Media Centre fan (available in Windows 7), this is not included in Windows 8. But, Windows 8 has a great video and audio platform focused on delivering access to online sources such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and other online and downloadable video services.

How do I upgrade?

Now that I decided upgrading was worth it, the next question is how? A little preparation and research goes a long way. Here is what I discovered:

Technical Requirements: My computer is six years old, so I had to make sure it could handle this new operating system. Is there enough RAM (at least 1-2 GB)? Is the processor fast enough (at least 1.1 GHZ)? Is there enough space on my drive (at least 16 GB)?

This chart shows you the basic requirements:

1 GHz or faster
1 GHz or faster
1 GB
2 GB
Hard disk space
16 GB
20 GB
Graphics card
Microsoft Direct X 9 graphics device with WDDM driver


Compatibility: Are there programs you use on a daily basis? If so, make sure Windows 8 is compatible with them. For instance, QuickBooks 2012 Pro is compatible, but QuickBooks 2011 is not. To find out what programs are compatible, you can either wait to run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (which I did) or you can be proactive and check Microsoft’s Windows 8 Compatibility Center. Based on my experience, I would suggest quickly going over the compatibility list to avoid uninstalling a bunch of programs during the installation process. This can take forever!

“Clean” vs “In- Place” Installations: The next thing you need to figure out is what kind of upgrade to do. For instance, you can do an “in-place upgrade” - this means all your files and programs will be preserved and there is minimal re-configuration. Or you can do a custom or clean install - this means your files, settings and applications are not moved to Windows. In other words, everything on that drive will be erased. If you choose the clean or custom install, make sure to make a back up of your data!

Since I have Windows 7 Pro on my computer already, I am going to do an “in-place” upgrade. And even though an in-place upgrade should save my current files, I am creating a back up of any important files - just in case.

Useful resources: to avoid any disasters, review this checklist - even though it is written for Windows 7, it is still applicable to Windows 8 and it will make the upgrade process go smoother.  Also, check out this article, "How to install Windows 8" for more details on technical and compatibility requirements.

The actual upgrade...

Now that I have decided upgrading is worth my time and my old computer meets the basic technical requirements - I am ready to rock and roll.

Also rockin’ is the fact I work at a registered nonprofit and have an up to date TechSoup Canada account. This means I can get Windows 8 without breaking the bank! Did I mention this was going to be a cheap fix or what!

Getting Windows 8 donation from TechSoup Canada

If you have an up to date TechSoup Canada account, place an order on TechSoup Canada’s site for Windows 8.

Once you get your product from TechSoup Canada, wait for your two fulfillment emails to come (usually 1 -2 days after your order). Note - the second email from TechSoup Canada is the one you want to pay attention to. But this email does not contain your product key . To get your Microsoft donation, you have to download it from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Centre. Don't worry - this handy step-by-step guide will walk you through how to download and install your donated software from the Volume Licensing Service Centre.


My Experience Installing Windows 8 from a Burned DVD

After downloading Windows 8 from the Volume Licensing Service Centre (note it downloads as an ISO file) and burning this file to a DVD, I was able to install Windows 8 like any other program - i.e., run the execution file on the DVD. 

When you install Windows 8 on your computer there are two phases.

  1. The first phase is called “collecting information”. Basically, the system is looking for programs that are not compatible with Windows 8. Warning: this could take a while. In my experience, I had to keep uninstalling programs, then go back and try to re-install Windows 8. This process kept repeating until finally everything was compatible. This was by far the most painful part of the process!
  2. The second phase is the actual installation of the program. Assuming you have made all the necessary uninstalls and everything else checks out, you will now start downloading. Your computer may restart several times during this process and it may take a while to install (anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour depending on your connection). If you made it this far - consider yourself very close to the finish line! 

What I learned from the installation process

  • Allow time: I started roughly around 1pm and Windows 8 finally installed around 4:15 pm - this was with a few breaks here and there.
  • Compatibility: The biggest issue was having to uninstall incompatible programs. This took a long time and was really frustrating, especially because I needed someone else to put the “administrator” password in each time I had to uninstall a program. Also, sometimes it was hard to find the programs Windows 8 identified as “incompatible”. For instance, “Windows Live Family Safety” was incompatible but I could not see it in my Program Files. I searched on Google and discovered it was part of Windows Essentials. To uninstall it, I had to go into Windows Essentials and uninstall just that part of the program.


My Experience Using Windows 8

After the installation is complete, Windows 8 gives you some options to customize your colour and PC. You will also be asked to pick between Express settings or Custom settings. For most users, Express settings are adequate, but be sure to read through the list of settings you'll opt into.

After this is done, you will be faced with Windows 8! This is the screen that will greet you.

Windows 8 start screen

Where is the start button? This is the start button! The start button is now a bunch of tiles that you can easily click on. But if you are looking for items not here or want your desktop back, this can be done in a simple flick of the wrist. All you need to know about is the "four corners".

The four corners: If you put your cursor on the bottom left corner of your screen, that will bring up your start menu (see the box of colorful tiles?). If you move your cursor to the top left corner, you can switch back to your desktop or see your most recent open applications. It's called the"switch" menu.  

Windows 8 Switch menu


If you put your cursor in either the top right or bottom right corner, you get a menu that lets you search all of your files or applications. I find the search really handy; it pulls up applications instantly. In this menu you will also find the "share" option, your start screen, devices to set up your screen and settings for the Internet, screen brightness, and volume.


windows 8 switch menu on left corners

The next thing I looked for is “Computer” and “Program Files”. To find this, put your cursor in the top right corner. Click on the search bar and search under Apps. Here you will see all of your apps and Program Files.

Finally, if you want to use Microsoft Outlook or any Microsoft-specific programs, you’ll be prompted to enter your Microsoft account information. If you don't have an account already, you can sign up for one easily on their website. You'll be prompted on how to do this. 

Windows 8 Conclusion

Only one day in to using Windows 8 and I have to say the rumours are true! It is faster and it definitely performs better. Really. It is saving me time. As for learning a new operating system? As long as you know about the four corners, it is no big deal. So in conclusion - so far, so good!

But I also want to hear from you! Feel free to leave comments about your own experience, fears of upgrading or questions.