Windows 8 New Features

Windows 8 New Features Windows 8 New Features

There is no doubt that the Metro UI will be the killer reason for early adopters to buy Windows 8.  I see lots of cheap tablet sales to people who can’t wait to get their thumbs on the apps in the new user interface.

In my opinion, the other new features illustrate how concepts that Microsoft introduced in Vista, and improved in Windows 7, have been perfected in Windows 8.

Windows 8 New Features Topics


Microsoft Windows 8 Metro UIWindows 8 Metro-style UI Start Screen

The first thing you notice after Windows 8 initializes is a new tiled Start screen, which replaces the Windows 7 desktop.  As you swipe the screen from right to left, a special overlay appears, which is rich in customizable Apps.

The new Windows 8 UI is not so much "Touch-centric", but "Touch-first."

While this new display feature is ideal for horizontal screens such as tablets, the tiles do work well on bigger screens because they respond to a mouse click almost as easily as a finger.  Incidentally, the Metro UI also goes by the nickname MoSh (modern shell).  See more on Windows 8 Metro-style UI »

Microsoft Windows 8 Requirements
No new features here!  Windows 8 will need the same system requirements than it’s predecessors, namely, for a 64-bit system:

1GHz Processor, 2MB RAM, 20GB disk space, DirectX 9 graphics card.  You can get away with 1MB of RAM on 32-bit systems.  Incidentally, Windows 8 will be the last desktop operating system to come in both 32 (x86) and 64-bit (x64) versions.

The only problem with Windows 8 requirements is that you really need a touch screen to benefit from the Apps in the New UI.

Windows Explorer RibbonWindows 8 Explorer Ribbon
Another new feature for Windows 8 is a ribbon for Explorer (I am not talking about IE here).

Microsoft introduced the ribbon in Office 2007; at first many of us did not ‘get it’.  But now I think the ribbon has come of age and I am comfortable with the Windows 8 version because the menus are better designed and more intuitive.

‘Steadily improving and no longer a shock for we users.’ Mr Sinofsky.

The new Windows Explorer focuses on three tabs at the top: Home, Share, and View.  (See screen shot).  Further down, on the left side is the File menu to cater for common operations such as ‘Copy’.  Incidentally, I find ‘Copy as path’ handy for pasting a file path into another Explorer window.   See more on the Windows 8 Explorer ribbon »

Aero Auto-Colorization
Auto-colourization is an example of a Windows 8 feature that you can customize more than the equivalent in Vista or Windows 7.  The idea is that you can change the appearance of Windows shell, menus and taskbar.  It’s worth seeing the extra Personalization options for example, Windows Color and Appearance.

Task Manager
The Windows Task Manager has changed, the information is now displayed with applications grouped in columns.  Furthermore, it has several new tabs, notably ‘Startup’ so that you can remove programs that you don’t want to load automatically at startup. (See screenshot below)

Windows 8 Task Manager

See more on the Windows 8 Task Manager.

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Windows 8 New Features

Windows 8 and IE 10
The Metro UI techniques also extend to IE 10, where the browser is optimised for touch, and panning.  IE 10 has a split-screen keyboard so that you can type urls with your thumbs.  It will also has hardware accelerated HTML 5 to support a whole range of apps. 

Note 1: ‘Internet Explorer Immersive’ is an alternative to Aero Graphics for tablets, phones and some laptops. 

Note 2: See how to configure the Desktop version of IE 10 in Windows 8 »

Portable Workspace
The catchphrase is ‘Run Windows 8 from a USB Stick’; seems similar to a Linux Distro.  The Portable Workspace Creator could be used to create copies of Windows 8 for troubleshooting, as well as for people on the move.  Probably only available for the Windows 8 Enterprise Edition and above.

Windows devices connect faster and work better on Windows 8 than on previous operating systems.

Cloud Screen Integration
One possibility for the gung-ho is that you could setup your user account in the cloud, in this way you could logon from anywhere that has an internet connection and get your settings.  Perhaps this is a case for having a second user account just for travelling?

It will also be easier to store data on Microsoft’s own Skydrive, and to integrate with Office 365, Office Web Apps, Windows Live and Azure.

PowerShell 3.0
For those, like me, who enjoy monitoring and changing operating system settings with PowerShell, then version 3 is a joy with its 2000+ new cmdlets.  However, the real benefit of PowerShell 3.0 is for professional developers; for example, AppX is Microsoft’s new method for deploying applications in Windows 8, it’s similar to Silverlight XAP, thus PowerShell has new cmdlets called Add-AppxPackage and Get-AppxPackage.  See more about Windows 8 PowerShell »

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More New Features of Windows 8

Naturally there is plenty of hype from Microsoft, but so far I am not picking up the usual gripes and Microsoft bashing, at least developers and power users seem happy with Windows 8.

"Windows 8 is a true reimagining of Windows from the chip to the interface." 
Tami Reller of Microsoft

Windows 8: The Trend for a Better Laptop–> Tablet
Laptop users were the most vociferous critics of Vista.  Microsoft listened, then made improvements to the battery life and awakening from ‘Sleep’.  Windows 8 continues the battle to win back laptop users by removing interrupts and timers that interfere with the operating system when it’s trying to save power.

Windows 7 blocked processes that tried to wake-up laptops automatically when they’re not plugged in.  Windows 8 takes this a stage further with a new ‘intelligent alarm’ that wake them up for remote desktop or virus scans, but only if they’re plugged in.

Windows 8 will also be designed for mobile devices that use System on a Chip (SoC).


Windows 8 Tablet
Windows 8 can recognise a variety of form factors, for example it can recognises computer without keyboards.  The optimum size for a tablet is 10 inches, and the weight should be under 2 lbs.  See more on tablets »

Booting and Hardware
Windows 8 will boot even faster then Windows 7, it may be as quick as 20 secs as opposed to about 50 secs for current Windows machines.  This speed is related to the fact that on startup Windows 8 only runs 29 processes taking 281 MB, whereas Windows 7 requires 404 MB for its 32 processes.

The key to a fast start is that a Windows 8 shutdown employs elements of existing hibernation technology.  Even though the machine uses no power when it’s shutdown, it will have settings stored in a hiberfile, thus the new hybrid fast start will only take half the time of a Windows 7 machine.

It will also be possible to select programs or services for a Delayed Startup, the result is you get the programs you need immediately that bit quicker after booting.  Awakening from sleep will also be less hesitant.  See more on Windows 8 boot sequence »

Windows 8 UEFI
UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) is a specification born in the 2010s.  It interfaces between the operating system and the platform firmware, one day UEFI will replace the BIOS.

Secure boot is designed to stop malware invading memory before the Windows 8 OS begins loading.  The Windows 8 boot loader will be digitally signed, and a list of valid public keys will beburned into the UEFI chipset.  Now providing your boot loader is signed with a private key that matches one of the burned in keys, then the boot sequence procedes. 

Another benefit of UEFI to Windows 8 is speed of loading, and a welcome side effect is less distracting flashing screens as the operating system initializes.

Windows 8 Wireless
Mobile network connections for Windows 8 will follow the same principles as smart phones. The operating system will move automatically between the 3G or 4G phone networks and the Wi-Fi networks used in homes.  See more on Windows 8 Wireless »

PortPrompt and New V4 Printer Drivers
The v4 printer driver class brings new capabilities for printing from Windows 8.  One of the practical points is that 'Print to file' is replaced by PortPrompt.  See more on Windows 8 printers »

Windows 8 Nokia Phone
Microsoft is teaming up with Nokia to produce a phone to rival Android smartphones.

Windows 8 Has Location Sensors
Microsoft encourages a PC or phone to make use of location sensors and thus applications can improve the user’s experience.  Windows devices connect faster and work better on Windows 8 than on previous operating systems.  See more on Windows 8 tablets »

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Windows 8 and ARM Chipsets
For many years ARM (Advanced RISC Machines) has been the leading provider of 32-bit embedded microprocessors on iPhones and tablets.  However, Until Windows 8, Microsoft operating systems were designed to run only on the rival Intel chips.

This will be the first Microsoft operating system to run on ARM hardware, the benefits are for laptop and tablet computers, for example, lower running temperatures and extended battery life.  While the ARM versions of Windows 8 provide the full Windows experience for less cost, their disadvantage is they don’t have backwards compatibility with existing apps.  That said, if running old programs is vital, then you could buy a x86 or 64-bit Intel tablet.

The downside of switching to ARM is that developers will have to re-compile existing Windows Applications so that they run on the different processor architecture.

MinWin Windows Mini-kernel
MinWin’s role is to reduce operating system dependencies, and thus minimise the Windows Core.  Windows 8 improves on work on MinWin which started in Windows 7.

Windows 8 will also support 128-bit processors; however, after my problems with 64-bit drivers will make me reluctant to be an early adopter next time we have a change in architecture.

Hyper-V 3.0
Windows 8 will contain Hyper-V 3.0.  It works in the same way as the hypervisor built into Windows Server 2008 R2, namely it will allow multiple guest operating systems to run concurrently on Windows 8.  See more on Windows 8 Hyper-V »

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Windows Server (Emphasise SERVER) 8
Talking of Hyper-V Microsoft is planning to release a replacement for Windows Server 2008 R2, this will probably be in 2013.  One of it’s interesting features is using Hyper-V 3.0 for Virtual Live Migration.  See more on Windows 8 Server »

Recovery and System Refresh
For extra security you can use an encrypted hard drive to boot Windows 8, and they’ll integrate with BitLocker and third-party security apps.  There are also better recovery procedures if you have to repair/reinstall.

Windows 8 takes the principle of a restore point a stage further, there is now a button in the Control Panel called ‘Refresh Your PC’ which preserves (backs-up) all your documents, music and other personal files; it then reinstalls Windows 8 from scratch, and finally restores your files.  The good news is the refresh only takes 5 minutes.

Windows Updates – Patch Tuesday
People have been annoyed because after installing a critical upgrade, Windows Update want’s to restart the computer ‘ready or not’.  Thankfully Windows 8 increases the grace period from 15 minutes to 72 hours, thus making unlikely that users will ever lose date as a result of silent update.

History Vault
This is a new type of backup based on Windows existing Shadow Copy technology.

App StoreWindows 8 SmartScreen
The App Store is new feature which has its roots in Windows phone. 

Here we have a Store tile to provide access to a catalog of all those inticing gadgets, utilities, and tools that developers have created especially for Windows 8.  See more about App Store »

SmartScreen FilterWindows 8 SmartScreen
I first saw SmartScreen in Internet Explorer, but this feature in Windows 8 it has migrated to the Folder View Advanced Setting:

To understand SmartScreen think of ‘Screen’ as meaning protect against malicious files.

In addition to the image right:

‘Use SmartScreen to check files’, consider implementing this setting:

‘Never run downloaded programs that are unknown to SmartScreen’.

The subliminal point is that Microsoft are stepping-up their mission to secure your system from malware.  The downside is that you may get false positives from good software that just is not digitally signed or on Microsoft’s white list.

Windows PDF Reader
Microsoft has developed a native AppX application to view PDFs.  Look out for the new name for this gismo: ‘Modern Reader’.   It employs a new AppX which was developed from Windows Phone 7.  While the Windows PDF Reader is fine for straightforward PDF viewing you may still need a third-party program. See how to find the Windows PDF Reader »

Windows Store: Microsoft’s Apps Store, Apps Mall, Apps Marketplace
Microsoft’s plan is to create a ‘Windows Store’ the equivalent of Apple’s iPhone App Store, where you can download new software for your device with just one click.  Indeed, Microsoft’s main aim of the September 2011 Build conference was to attract developers and persuade them to make clever gismos to take advantage of Windows 8’s Metro UI.

The Windows 8 ‘Jupiter’ application model will also encourage developers to create Silverlight based apps deployed as AppX packages.

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Additional Windows 8 New Features

ISO Mounting
It’s frustrated me for years that I had to buy additional tools to mount ISO files.  So I applaud the ability to mount ISO directly.  It’s another example of the progression from Windows 7 where you can burn .ISO files, to Windows 8 where you can burn then mount the .ISO file.

USB 3.0
The biggest advantage of Windows 8 support for USB 3.0 is better performance, at least 5 times faster than USB 2.0 with a theoretical limit of 5 GB/s.  As a bonus USB 3.0 also uses less power.

Now you can already use USB 3.0 ports in Windows 7, but in Windows 8 you will get native support for USB 3.0 thus avoiding having to download third-party drivers.

Media Center
The news about the Windows Media Center is there is no news!  What I mean is that Microsoft say the urban myth that there will be no Media Center in Windows 8 is untrue.  Windows 8 plays 3D movies and 3D games, however, I don’t yet have a list of supported file formats.  See features that really have been removed from Windows 8 »

Family Safety
Formerly Parental Control, this protective feature has been improved and refined.  What you need is a policy for your children's web and local computer activities, then the time to monitor how well it works.  See how to setup Family Safety ยป

The Brief History of Windows Operating Systems

Windows 3.11 migration to Windows 95. 
People wearing rose-tinted glasses say this was one of THE great upgrades.  The reality was it took time to win-over lovers of the old Program Manager and File Mangler to the new fangled way of doing things.  Just as some desktop die-hards are going to take time to switch to the Metro UI.

Windows 98 –> XP
By the Millenium, Windows 9x had been overtaken by the internet and hounded by security problems.  Its successor XP was a well loved, and solid operating system that gave great service for 7 years.

XP –> Vista
This transistion was too much too soon, the result was frustrating especially for laptop users.

Vista –> Windows 7
Windows 7 fixed most that was wrong with Vista, good system.

Windows 7 –> Windows 8
It does not seem long since Microsoft released Windows 7, principally to put right faults with Vista.  Also new fads such as tablet computing take off, and inevitably Microsoft responds with a new operating system called Windows 8, complete with Metro UI and hopefull, lots of gorgeous Apps.

Microsoft explained the design philosophy behind its newly unveiled logo for Windows 8. According to Sam Moreau, Microsoft’s principal director of user experience for Windows, said in a blog post that the intention of the design was to reflect the Windows 8 Metro user interface, while staying within logo traditions used for past Windows products all the way back to Windows 1.0. The new design has lost the multicolored panes and flag-like aspects seen with earlier logos, he explained.

The New Windows 8 LogoWindows 8 SmartScreen

The thinking behind the new logo is that at should reflect and remind us of the new Metro UI.   As a change from round logs of recent version, Windows 8 has a flat square look and feel.  As a matter of interest the font in the Windows 8 logo is Moreau.

See Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 new features »

Summary of Guy’s Windows 8 New Features

The big story of Windows 8 is the Metro UI.  If you are considering buying a tablet or laptop computer then knowledge that Windows 8 is on the horizon may mean you wait and buy a cheap but flashy ARM machine in 2012. 

If you are a home user with XP then you may hold off buying Windows 7 – just as you swerved Vista – and wait for Windows 8.

Those who have already bought Windows 7 have the toughest decision; it seems only yesterday that you bought a good alternative to Vista, and in no time you’ll be faced with an upgrade to Windows 8 with that must-have Metro UI.

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Microsoft Windows 8 Network Topics

Windows 8 Overview  • Windows 8 IPv6  • Windows 8 Metro Tile  • Windows 8 Shutdown

Windows 8 Performance Monitor  • Windows 8 Network Location  • Network Performance Monitor

Windows 8 Configuration  • Windows 8 Wireless  • SolarWinds TFTP Server  • Mobile App Manager