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Windows 8 review

Our definitive look at the latest version of Windows

There are dozens of features in Windows 8, like the native support for mobile broadband. That means as soon as you plug in a 3G dongle it's ready to work and it will connect far more quickly and it's marked it as a 'metered connection' so background tasks like Windows Update don't get to use up your data allowance. You can set that by hand if you use a mobile hotspot.

Print preview from the charm bar less intrusive than many printer drivers
Print preview from the charm bar; less intrusive than many printer drivers

Windows 8 comes with support for far more printers, right out of the box – not by shipping ever more drivers to fill up your drive space but by creating a printer framework that can work with more printers - and a new, faster print architecture. Printers that usually ask you to install a hefty desktop application – which you can't do on Windows RT – should give you at least basic printing using the built-in class drivers. Printer makers can produce 'modern' style apps for checking the ink level of changing paper settings, but when you just want to print, you shouldn't get umpteen dialogs popping up.

Adding a printer on the network means going back to the desktop PC Settings finds a printer you plug in though
Adding a printer on the network means going back to the desktop; PC Settings finds a printer you plug in though

Other changes are under the hood, like built-in support for USB 3; as far as you're concerned USB 3 devices just work, but the PC maker doesn't have to build in a special driver for that.

One of the things Windows 8 is slightly faster and definitely cleverer about is copying files. If you're copying enough files that you have to wait for it to finish, you can pause and resume copying, and you get one copy dialog for all the file copies you have in progress. A mini graph shows you how the copying speed is changing.

More information and faster file copying in the new interface
More information and faster file copying in the new interface

Microsoft has made several changes to the interface you see when you're copying a file with the same name as one in the folder you're putting the file in over the development of Windows 8, responding to feedback. What you end up with is a two-stage dialog.

You can replace or skip all the files at once or decide one by one from a list of thumbnails with the date and size (the larger or newer file gets marked in bold); choose the checkbox for the file you want to keep, choose both to keep both. It's a lot clearer than the same option in Windows 7, say.

Deal with file conflicts individually or all together
Deal with file conflicts individually or all together

Windows 8 really shines on multiple monitors. You get the best experience if your screens have the same resolution and are at the same height, because then you don't have to worry about a windows that's full screen on one screen being the wrong size on the other screen, and windows that sit across the two screens line up properly.

If you have screens of a different resolution, the desktop background won't be automatically stretched across both, but you can turn that on by hand. Even with very different resolutions on our two test screens, working with multiple monitors was intuitive and powerful.

If you have different resolution screens you won t see the gap you ll just get a lower resolution on the right
If you have different resolution screens, you won't see the gap; you'll just get a lower resolution on the right

You can treat two (or more) screens as one big screen and drag windows around. When you move a desktop app to the second window its icon moves to the taskbar there, so you can work with it more easily. Although Aero Snap still only works with the outer corners, the hot mouse corners work on both monitors so you can get the charm bar or switching pane on either screen.

Use the charm bar on the left screen
Use the charm bar on the left screen...

 hellip or on the right you can see the switching pane on either screen as well
…or on the right; you can see the switching pane on either screen as well

Press the Start button and the Start menu appears on one screen; any 'modern' style apps you open will open on that screen – but you can drag them onto the other screen. That lets you have the desktop full screen on one monitor and another screen dedicated to the Start screen and 'modern' apps, which stops them feeling intrusive.

You can still snap two 'modern' style apps beside each other on one screen, but you can also have a 'modern' app snapped next to the desktop which stretches over one and a bit screens. Just drag the windows around to get them in the arrangement that works best for you.

Save one screen for modern apps
Save one screen for 'modern' apps

A snapped app a modern app and the desktop side by side
A snapped app, a 'modern' app and the desktop side by side

Drag an app from the switching pane onto the screen you want to see it on
Drag an app from the switching pane onto the screen you want to see it on

Tech Specs

Product TypeOperating System
Brand NameMicrosoft
Language SupportedEnglish
Licence Quantity1 User
Software Sub TypeClient
Distribution Media/MethodDVD-ROM
Licence TypeComplete Product
Platform SupportedPC

Windows 7, only better:

  • Windows 8 is built on the rock-solid foundation of Windows 7, but it's been improved on all fronts.
  • You can install Windows 8 on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7, and you'll love how it works on new devices, too.
  • Windows 8 was designed with Windows 7 apps in mind, because you probably have older apps you need to use.
  • In addition to the new look of the Start Screen, Windows 8 incorporates the desktop that you're familiar with.
  • Think of the desktop as one of the many apps you can run in Windows 8.
  • In the desktop, you'll see all the settings, devices and features you used in Windows 7-and you can run the desktop apps you ran in Windows 7, too.

Cloud-connected with your Microsoft account:

  • Sign in to your Windows 8 device with your Microsoft account and you're immediately connected to the people, files and settings you care about.
  • Your PC comes to life with all the things that make Windows yours, including your Start page, themes, language preferences, browsing history and browser favourites.
  • You can connect your favourite services to your Microsoft account, too, like Hotmail, Messenger, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
  • And you can immediately get to your photos, docs and other files, whether they're on SkyDrive, Facebook, Flickr or other services.

It's all about the apps:

  • In the Windows Store, you can search for or browse great apps, all grouped in easy-to-find categories.
  • We highlight great apps for you and provide quick access to frequently downloaded apps.
  • You can also see how other people have rated apps.
  • You'll always know what's interesting, new and popular.
  • You won't have to worry about buying something you don't want because you can try before you buy, if the app supports it.
  • If you try an app and like it, you can buy it and continue using the full app with no interruption.
  • You won't waste time or lose your place.
ManufacturerMicrosoft Corporation
Product NameWindows 8 Pro 64-bit
Software NameWindows 8 Pro 64-bit
Licence PricingOEM
Manufacturer Part NumberFQC-05955
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing Information

Windows has been reimagined to focus on your life. The beautiful, fast, and fluid design is perfect for a range of hardware: from compact, touch-enabled tablets and lightweight laptops, to PCs and large, powerful all-in-ones with high-definition screens.