The Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been covered extensively over the last few weeks, and there’s a rough consensus about the pros and cons. Metro looks good and it works well for touchscreen use. The desktop is virtually the same as Windows 7, but you may get frustrated using the mouse and keyboard, or looking for the Start button.
I’ve been playing around with Win 8 Consumer Preview for a couple weeks now and I’ve got to say that there are a number of little benefits and important improvements that that should be highlighted. To supplement the usual ‘best things about Windows 8’ lists, I’ve compiled a list of:
Seven Under-Reported Geeky Benefits of Windows 8
- #1. It’s Just Faster
- One of Microsoft’s main goals with Windows 8 was to create a ‘scalable, device-agnostic’ operating system that could run on nearly anything. Microsoft took a hard look at memory utilization, and came up with a way to cut the ‘memory footprint’ of the OS nearly by half. The result is an efficient use of memory for tablets and a noticeably snappier feel for users of more powerful desktops.
- #2. Task Master
- If you want to see exactly where this memory is going, you can pull up the revamped Task Manager. Call me geeky, but I really appreciate the thought that went into making the redesigned Task Manager more clean, informative, and downright good-looking than ever.
- #3. It’s Refreshing
- In earlier versions of Windows, System Restore came in handy when your PC needed a trip back to an earlier, simpler time when things worked better. In Windows 8, the Refresh and Reset options take the concept much, much further. Reset gives you a fresh install, including scrambling empty space on your hard drives (among other things, so that none of your data can be reconstructed after you’ve sold or given away your PC). Refresh is like a fresh install but with all of your system settings and files kept intact. Refresh will also re-install Metro apps, but NOT ‘Windows mode’ programs — like System Restore, you can take a snapshot of your PC when you have everything exactly the way that you like it, and go back to that at any time.
- #4. Try Before You Buy
- The Windows Store has a little feature that should make Apple and Android very nervous: the Try option. When browsing the Store, users can take an app for a test drive before committing to buying it. Developers will have the option of defining a trial period or limiting features, but Microsoft assures that choosing to buy will allow you to continue right where you left off, with all settings or data (or levels) saved. It’s a far more direct, immediate, and streamlined way of sampling apps than other app markets have to offer.
- #5. Mount Up
- Remember the days when you had to find, download, install, and juggle third-party tools to mount disk images on virtual drives? Well, Windows 7 began by taking care of the virtual drive problem, but Windows 8 provides a one-click solution that instantly creates a new VHD (virtual hard drive) with the selected ISO, BIN, CUE, or IMG file mounted and ready to roll.
- #6. As Much Space as You Need
- When it comes to storage, Windows 8 offers new ways to make more efficient use of your storage than ever before. StorageSpaces let you create a virtual hard drive (VHD) which automatically scales to be as big or small as you need it (called ‘thin provisioning’). VHDs can be spread across any or all physical drives (internal, external, HDD, SSD, etc.) in the same way that Windows 7 can look at multiple locations for your Documents, Music, and Pictures folders. Multiple VHDs can also be configured as RAID drives for data redundancy in the case of a hardware failure, and still grow in size as needed without re-configuring the whole setup even when you add new hardware drives.
- #7. The Sky’s the Limit
- Speaking of storage, Windows 8 gives you cloud storage in the form of your SkyDrive account. ‘Big deal’, you might say, ‘everybody and their mother offers cloud storage these days.’ But in the case of SkyDrive, it comes to a sizable 25GB, and is integrated directly into your system; as far as your OS is concerned, it’s just another folder on your PC, with no extra apps or steps or settings. You can ‘save and load’ from any Metro app and you can drag and drop, even from ‘desktop mode.’ On top of all this, when you sign into SkyDrive, from any device, anywhere; you’ll get secure, protected access to anything stored on your ‘main’ Windows 8 PC (and not just files, but also Metro apps and personalization settings.