If you are currently running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, an upgrade version of Windows 8 is available for you – and it’s already available pre-installed on hundreds of desktop PCs, laptops, and all-in-one PCs. Windows is now also available on tablets for the first time.
Windows 8 is a completely new version of Windows. There is a completely new user interface ideal for touchscreens, but also designed to be used with a mouse and keyboard. The key to the new interface is the brand new Start Screen. It replaces the Start Menu and fills the entire screen, but it can be used in the same way as the Start Menu – you can search by typing a name and browse and find applications using your mouse.
But the Start Screen is also a home for new Windows 8-style apps you can download from the new Windows Store (this works much like Apple’s App Store or Google Play). The Start Screen features new colorful tiles with your key Windows 8 applications. And, for the touchscreen, there’s a great on-screen keyboard and handwriting recognition.
On traditional PCs, Windows 8 does represent a different experience from what you’re used to, and there are new tricks to navigate through apps – just click in the top left corner to cycle through your open apps (the equivalent on a touchscreen is to flick in from the left-hand side of the screen).
Another new feature on all Windows 8 devices are charms – these are quick access tools on the right side of the screen – move your mouse towards them or swipe in from the right side with your finger. They enable you to share from any Windows 8 app, search from anywhere on your PC, go to start or access your devices and settings.
In the background, Windows 8 closely resembles Windows 7, but it has been given a fine tuning, meaning that it will run just as well on equivalent hardware. Gone are the days of expensive upgrades for the latest version of Windows and Microsoft says that Windows 8 will run better on the same hardware as its predecessor. If you are upgrading to Windows 8 will be asked which files and settings you want to bring from your previous installation – although what you can bring to your new Windows 8 install will depend on what older Windows version you have.