As a desktop operating system Windows 8 has some significant improvements that will help you get work done more quickly and efficiently and over the next page we give you the main reasons Windows 8 is a good move for your business.
The first improvement is performance. Windows 8 starts up, shuts down and resumes faster than Windows 7 on the same hardware. On a first generation Core i5 system that we upgraded, boot and shutdown were both more than twice as fast in Windows 8 and resuming from hibernation was up to a third faster.
Some of the reasons for the fast shut down are because of the new way Windows 8 shuts down compared to previous versions. Windows 8 will close any running applications but it just hibernates the operating system, so as long as the drivers pass a test when you turn the PC back on Windows will just reload rather than starting from scratch.
Some of it is because there's less of Windows 8 to load into memory, which means more memory to run your other applications as well. You see the effects of that in general program use, and we saw 15-20% speedups in benchmarks like PCMark 7 that are based on real programs.
Another way Windows 7 improves performance is by doing less in the background; Windows batches up low-level system calls so they're not always interrupting the CPU. If you're running software, that means the CPU doesn't have to switch away from what it's doing as often. It also means that when you're watching a movie or scrolling through a web page – which use the GPU far more than the CPU – the CPU can drop into a low power state for longer before it's interrupted, saving power for longer.
Additionally if you're not using the USB ports or your SD Card slot, they're not drawing power. A lot of that relies on improved USB drivers, which may also explain the nearly 10% speedup we've seen when copying files to and from USB drives in Windows 8.
But the most noticeable improvement, which might make an upgrade worthwhile on its own for mobile users, is better battery life. With our first generation Core i5 test laptop, battery life went from just under four hours to nearly five.
More desktop tools
Pinning applications to the taskbar and using the Windows-X shortcut for power user tools let you stay on the desktop where you can take advantage of the improved Explorer. This packs the ribbon full of useful tools like inverting the current file selection; if you want to make a ZIP file of everything except one file, it's faster to select the unwanted file and invert your selection than to painstakingly select all the other files by hand.
There's also a useful Easy Access menu in the Home tab of the ribbon that puts tools for mapping network drives, pinning favourite folders and managing offline file access in the same place.
There are no obvious differences in offline files as a way to take files from your Windows Server network share on the road, and have them automatically sync when you get back, but we've found this faster and less prone to connection problems (with both Windows Server 2008 R2 and 2012).
There are specific tools on the ribbon for copying the path to the current file or folder and pasting a shortcut, as well as opening a command or PowerShell window to the current folder ready to type commands. And if you work with deep nested folders on network drives you'll be used to seeing the folder view jump around annoyingly as you try to navigate it; that's fixed in Windows 8.
There's also a whole tab devoted to sharing; although it's disappointing that this doesn't include third-party tools like WinZip or YouSendIt that you have installed, it certainly makes setting up access for file sharing on a network clearer.