Why are we not supporting Windows 8?

Windows 8 is the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system for desktop, notebook and tablet computers, while Windows 7 is the version of the operating system installed on all the machines managed by the ITDS department. This naturally leads to a few questions.

Q: Is the ITDS department investigating Windows 8?

A: Absolutely, and has been from the early beta days, many months ago.  A continuing rigorous investigation is underway, asking the questions should we roll Windows 8 out to people, can we roll Windows 8 out and how would we roll WIndows 8 out.

Should we involves questions about productivity and stability; we do not assume that newer is automatically better.  Indeed, the completely different user interface has a steep learning curve for most people.

Can we asks the question of compatibility; do the programs used by people at SFU work under Windows 8.  If people can't do their jobs, we obviously can't roll it out.  The news is pretty good on this front.  Currently,  over 100 commonly used programs have been tested along with the several dozen of the most common web applications and most either work or have an acceptable workaround that can be employed.  (We'll be happier though, when workarounds are not required, when it all just works.)

How do we asks about the details of a rollout; imaging of machines, look of the desktop, applications deployed and perhaps most importantly, user training.

Q: Will the SFU managed machines be upgraded to Windows 8?

A: Possibly.  Certainly, many of the modern tablets come with Windows 8 and cannot be downgraded, so those will remain WIndows 8.  As to the regular desktops, see the question above.

Q: Should I buy Windows 8 for my personal use?

A: The decision tree for personal use and institutional use are two very different things.

If you’re buying a new machine, both Windows 7 and Windows 8 are usually options.

If your machine is a Tablet, no question, buy the Windows 8 version, full stop.  The touch interface included with Windows 8 is significantly enhanced over previous versions of Windows; frankly, it's hard to talk about them in the same breath.

If your machine is a Notebook AND has a touchscreen interface, you have a decision to make.  Either will work well.  On a purely anecdotal level, the author found (to his surprise) that shortly after using a touchscreen notebook with Windows 8, he found himself "typing and swiping", not "typing and clicking".  The Windows 8 user interface started to make sense and it became natural to reach out and touch the screen rather than reach for the mouse.

If your machine is a desktop, you again have a decision to make.  With a desktop, the Windows 8 interface is less obvious a plus than our familiar WIndows 7 interface; a learning curve is ahead of you.  Interestingly, if your computer is a wee bit older and therefore lower on resources than modern machines, Windows 8 might just be the choice, as it truly does seem to run well on slower hardware with less RAM.  However, you are strongly urged to seek out the "Compatibility Tester" before plunking down the credit card.

Q: Is Windows 8 mnore secure than Windows 7?

A: MAYBE, but most of the security concerns with modern machines have to do with the end user, not the machine.  People continue to open attachments from unknown sources and click on links in emails from Nigerian princes or eastern European lotteries and in such cases, neither version of Windows will be of much help.

Q: If I upgrade my existing machine to Windows 7 or WIndows 8, will my files and programs transfer over.
A: If you are an XP user, no. There is no good way to do this in any automatic manner. If you are a Vista user .. probably. Again, the Microsoft web site should be consulted for some specific “gotchas”.

Q: If my home machine is Windows 8 and my office machine is Windows 7, will my files be compatible from one to the other?

A: Probably. An exact answer is difficult because it is not actually the operating system that creates the files, it’s the programs that are installed that creates them. If you use the same programs on all machines, the files will be compatible.

Q: Can I use all my old programs with Windows 8?

A: Maybe; most programs compatible with Windows 7 can be used with Windows 8 but older programs may not run. If you have older programs that are mission critical, an investigation into their compatibility is strongly advised, the Microsoft site again being the first place to go.

Q: If I upgrade to Windows 8 and I’m not happy, can I go back.

A: Only by erasing everything and starting again. Therefore, a backup of anything you cannot lose must be done before performing an upgrade.