Windows 8.1: First Impressions

Windows 8.1 became available last week to consumers wishing to upgrade their Windows 8 installations.  The update is free and is only available as a download through the Windows store.  I have a Windows 8 machine that is dedicated to music production.  My so-called productivity machine runs Windows 7 with no plans to upgrade to Windows 8.1 for the foreseeable future.  I am one of the Metro Modern Interface haters, though I’m not pathological about it compared to some of the comments I’ve read in tech stories.  All of my audio/video applications are based in the desktop.  I made the upgrade last weekend.

Aside from the download (about 3.5 GB), a lot of the actual installation happens behind innocuous screens that ask for patience or state “almost done” or words to that effect.  SkyDrive is deeply integrated into Windows with an option in the install process to use it or not (which Microsoft does not recommend).  I declined as I didn’t need cloud storage for everything I do.  Raw recorded multi-channel music files can be in the hundreds of megabytes each and I don’t need to waste the bandwidth to access them.

Microsoft seems to lean on machine owners to log into their systems using a Microsoft account, though there are ways to maintain a local account on the machine.  If a local account already exists, there is an option on the “create a Microsoft account” screen that includes a link to “Continue using my existing account.”  See the illustration and instructions here and here.

Depending on preferences, there are steps to disable Bing search as part of the desktop search, if one doesn’t want it, and steps to boot directly to the desktop (right click on the desktop taskbar and look for the option under navigation).  There are better options for grouping apps on the Start Screen.  The Start Button also returns with my favorite feature.  Right clicking on it brings up several options, including one to power down without having to invoke the charms list on the right side of the monitor.  The Start Button is worth it for that feature alone.  One other point worth mentioning is that antivirus software such as McAffee does not work with Windows 8.1.  The install process silently removes any installed antivirus software and replaces it with Windows Defender.

I understand what Microsoft is doing here by creating an operating system that can share information seamlessly over Windows powered devices.  It makes sense in a world where people use phones, tablets, and desktop machines and need that convenience.  It’s lost on me since a) I don’t use social media, so I’m not constantly sharing anything, b) have only one Windows 8 capable computer with no current plans to buy another, and c) use all of my applications via the desktop with a mouse and keyboard.  I appreciate the fact that Microsoft has built in settings that can be changed to disable most of the new features. I’ll be posting links to the better articles that offer Windows 8.1 tips over the next few days.

Mark

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