Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
124 of 137 people found the following review helpful
More efficient but less useableNov. 30 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
I purchased two 64-bit Windows 8 Professional System Builder DVDs for use on relatively low-end headless home servers. This decision was made based on two factors: 1) $10 cheaper than Windows 7, which was yet another efficiency gain for the ~$200 systems and 2) Slightly better resource utilization (CPU, RAM) than Windows 7 at idle. Seamless remote desktop was a priority, therefore Windows Pro was chosen over Ubuntu or Windows Home Server.
Edit 1/21/13 (M): Per the information provided by D.Kenney in the product discussion, the following Note may be wrong, as it appears Microsoft may now permit you to transfer licenses: ### One note - keep in mind that if you buy a System Builder DVD, your license key is tied to the make and model of your motherboard. You can upgrade all of your other hardware, but you have to use the same motherboard or replace it with the identical model. ###
The good: The systems are very stable and very power efficient. Reboots, shutdowns, and startups are significantly faster than Windows 7. Even with a low-end 1.6GHz dual-core CPU, opening applications, switching tasks, etc is seamlessly fast and feels more efficient than Windows 7. Runs great on HTPC and other small form-factor and low-end hardware.
The bad: The interface. I knew Metro was going to be a change and while it didn't take much time to get used to it, I think it's a step backwards. I have no use for the start page and just click directly on the Desktop to get things done. I see no advantage to having to hover around the upper right portion of the screen to get to what's essentially an auto-hidden version of the Start Button.
I would not recommend this over Windows 7 for any business PC. The Metro interface is less efficient, even with regular use, for any serious multitasking purposes. If you're primarily using your PC for social media, looking at the weather, checking news, and other things that benefit from live tiles I think you'd love this. Working with and switching between multiple Word documents, spreadsheets, and Visio diagrams open at the same time would probably be a nightmare.
This is *not* a terrible operating system, but the removal of the Start Button on the Desktop was pointless. The Start Page screen is equally pointless for anything other than accessing the desktop unless you happen to like the interface and want to see a bunch of live updating content. It's surprisingly efficient, though in the end the faster bootup times may be offset by the additional time it takes to navigate around and launch things compared to Windows 7.
In short, Windows 8 is effective for my limited purposes but fortunately I do not have to interact with its interface very often. I would not choose to use it for my daily needs and would *not* upgrade from Windows 7. I will continue to use Windows 7 for any PC that I need to use on a regular basis for productivity.
212 of 252 people found the following review helpful
Easy to use - but only after an hour or two of "Secrets" trainingOct. 26 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
The "System Builder" version of Windows 8 Professional is for installation on a new computer (with no operating system installed) or on a computer that is NOT currently running Windows 7, Vista, or XP. This product ("System Builder") is NOT for upgrading; if you are upgrading from a previous version of Windows, then get the upgrade package (which is cheaper).
One great thing about Windows 8 is that it standardizes the user interface across computers, tablets, and other devices. For businesses that combine desktop and laptop computers with handheld tablets and other mobile devices, having such standardization should make folks' jobs easier.
The user-interface of Windows 8 is so different that most ordinary folks will have difficulty mastering it without help. A great many functions of Windows 8 are not at all obvious or intuitive. Unless folks get help of some kind, I forecast storms of great aggravation and anger (perhaps even some violent temper tantrums resulting in equipment damage). Nearly everything you want to do in Windows 8 is hidden until you learn the secrets (even simple things like signing-in or shutting down your computer). Do yourself a favor: get some instruction before you try to use Windows 8, even if that instruction is nothing more than watching videos on a popular video website.
But be of good cheer! One can become pretty good at using Windows 8 very, very quickly. I think most folks, could learn the basics in under 60 minutes with the help of a grandchild (your own or borrowed) who knows the secrets. You could probably become an expert with just four hours of focused, hands-on training led by a professional I.T. trainer. Therefore, I suppose the best way to learn Windows 8 is to work for a large corporation with a wonderful training department and patient I.T. professionals who staff a help desk. If you do not work for such a large corporation, then do yourself a favor and buy a Windows 8 book.
Windows 8 Secrets by Paul Thurrott and Rafael Rivera was very helpful to me. Windows 8 can be extremely frustrating if you do not know the secrets (i.e., there are NO CLUES what to do, because all of the menus are hidden). However, you will NOT be frustrated if you have a person or a book to show you the secrets; after a day or so, your Windows experience will become so automated (like driving a car) you won't even think about it.
If you do not like to read, there are some pretty good Windows 8 instruction videos on a popular video website. Such video training is often better than a book, because you can see the computer response along with a running narrative.
By the way, the "Desktop" is still there. If you hate the new Start Screen (as most folks seem to), you don't have to use it; simply use the Desktop instead (just like you did in previous versions of Windows). After you have setup your Desktop, Toolbars and System Tray (just like you did in previous versions of Windows), your computer will be quick and easy to use. Any of your applications that run under Windows 7 should also run under Windows 8.
While I shall not clutter this review with specific information about Windows 8, I will tell you the most useful Windows 8 "secret" (for me): Memorize and use the "Windows Key" (Winkey) keyboard shortcuts! (The Winkey is the key on the bottom row with a depiction the Microsoft flag; my Winkey is just to the right of the CTRL key.) For example, if you hold down the Winkey and press C, the "Charms" bar will be displayed. The "Charms" bar is perhaps the most important interface in Windows 8. If you learn the Winkey keyboard shortcuts first thing, you will be able to get most things done in Windows 8 right away!
Here are a few of the more helpful Winkey keyboard shortcuts:
Winkey: toggles between Start Menu and last app Winkey + D: opens Desktop Winkey + C: opens "Charms" bar Winkey + E: opens file explorer Winkey + F: searches for files Winkey + I: opens the Settings charm (to shut down your computer, for example) Winkey + Z: opens "app bar" (the menu user interface that is normally hidden when interacting with a Windows 8 app) Winkey + X: opens the "power user" menu (which includes programs and features, power options, event viewer, system, device manager, disk management, computer management, command prompt, task manager, control panel, file explorer, search, run)
Update (12/13/2012): After several weeks of use, I am really happy that I loaded Windows 8 on my new (home-built) computer instead of Windows 7. Windows 8 is faster and more stable than the Windows 7 that is running on another machine that I use daily. Windows 8 loaded very quickly (20 minutes for a "clean install") and all of the drivers worked without any problems. On my dual-monitor system, I have the Desktop app on the center monitor and the Start Screen on the side monitor. Thanks to two Windows 8 books, I have been learning about "Metro-style" apps and the new world of the Start Screen (look at youtube videos if you don't know what that is). I have been loading apps from the Windows Store and customizing the Start Screen after learning how to add (pin), delete (unpin), resize, move, and group "tiles." I think that most home users (who only need casual web access) will eventually abandon the Desktop entirely in favor of the "Metro-style" apps on the Start Screen. For myself, I prefer the old familiar Desktop for work software. Therefore, I implemented a task through the Task Scheduler to switch directly to the Desktop app on each boot. As I stated in my original review, Windows 8 is very easy with the help of an instruction book; it would have been a royal pain without such a book.
Update (12/25/2012): I also found it helpful to add the following icons to my Windows 8 desktop app: Computer (formerly "My Computer"), Control Panel, and Network. To do this, right click on any clear area of the desktop and select the Personalize option. In the left pane of the Personalize window, click Change desktop icons. Tick the boxes for the icons you want displayed on the desktop (Computer, Control Panel, Recycle Bin, User's Files, Network). Click the Apply button.
Update (5/25/2013): I just finished reading the book Windows 8 Inside Out. While the Windows 8 Secrets book provided great training back when I was completely new to Windows 8 (and just about to load it on my new computer), Windows 8 Inside Out has more information and a better table of contents, thus making it the better choice for my desk reference.
67 of 90 people found the following review helpful
New Tech for Hardware, New and OldOct. 26 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
This version of Windows 8 is referred to as the "System Builder" in that it is a full installation of Windows 8 and not an upgrade. Windows 8 is a multi-boot friendly OS and the intention behind this particular disc is that persons building new machines can have a full version of the Windows 8 OS and install it without having to own a prior version of Windows--but it can also be installed on any hardware that meets the system requirements. It is uncertain at this time whether this brand replaces the "OEM" versions many of us are familiar with, but for now the "System Builder" editions of Windows 8 are the only versions of Windows 8 being sold that are not an upgrade. If you're building a new Windows machine it might make sense to take the plunge and go with the newest Microsoft OS. If you want to keep your options open and do a dual-boot install on an older machine, thus far I've seen Windows 8 to be fairly multi-boot friendly, and I've even heard that the "Windows Anywhere" concept would allow you to install the OS on a removable drive (NOTE: I have not tried this and do not have experience with it).
The different look and feel of Windows 8 boils down to one huge change: the Start Menu that we have had since Windows 95 is no longer a menu. It is a full-screen splash of tiles (formerly called "the Metro UI"), each of which represents something installed on your computer. This makes sense in that some of today's programs are more like the Windows Desktop Gadgets we've seen in Vista and 7: they sit idle, stream information to you, and need a bit more room to be easy to read than the older Start Menu could allow them to have--instead of icons they are square tiles, and some programs' tiles are two squares wide. It may take some arranging by you to get the tiles presented in a layout that makes sense to you. If you've used Windows Media Center, Office 2010, or an XBox 360, you've already been interacting with similar interfaces--this sort of UI has been slowly making its way into Microsoft's products for a while now, but it's been beefed up to be more touchscreen friendly.
The rest of the Windows 8 OS spends its time balancing between the old and the new. The desktop looks exactly like it did in Windows 7 and Vista, except there's no Start Button: you're expected to press the Windows key or move your mouse to the bottom corner of the screen to launch the tile dashboard. Older programs run from within the Desktop view, but all programs can be launched directly off the tile screen: programs unique to Windows 8 run one at a time in full screen, while older programs that run within the desktop can be resized. We have a version of Internet Explorer accessible from the desktop that looks just like IE 9 did in 7, then we have a version of Internet Explorer in the tile screen that looks entirely different. Some parts of the Control Panel have the full-screen tile look and feel and often the options cascade left-to-right like the "File" menu in any MS Office 2010 product. Other parts of the Control Panel look exactly like they did in Windows 7 and before.
Windows 8 is not all about appearance however. In earlier versions of Windows, the number of programs running in the background could get unwieldy and slow things down. There was a shift to using more Services under the covers, which are listeners that sit idle waiting to launch programs so that the programs don't have to run all the time. Windows 7 started to get bogged down with a lot of running Services though, and performance-tweaking power users got in the habit of going in and adjusting them all to get back lost performance.
Microsoft have stripped several services out of Windows 8. They have made the installation footprint (space taken and resources used) a bit smaller than Windows 7, and they've made Windows 8 run on any hardware that could run 7. Programs that used to run, shut down, then have to be fully spooled up to run again are instead "exsanguinated" (Microsoft's term): put on a virtual shelf and the resources they used handed back to the OS for other work. Re-launch the program and it'll respond much faster due to having been left in this standby mode. The Windows Vista and 7 "Aero effects" that gave your windows a glossy sheen and rounded corners used graphics and CPU to run, so they've been stripped out in favor of simple color schemes, blocky edges, and a bit of glassiness when looking at the Desktop. Interaction with Windows in this new look and feel is easier if you have a touchscreen or you're using a tablet, and if you're a Windows Phone user the territory is already pretty familiar. The downside is that those of us still relying on a mouse and keyboard find our time spent hunting along the edges of the screen for scrollbars and dragging our screens around to be able to interact most of the time. As odd as the tile interface is, my chief complaint hasn't been with it so much as it's been that the scroll bars in most Windows 8 programs are too skinny. This pixel-hunt can be very annoying when you see that 10 pixels more width would make this problem go away.
Like all Windows OS releases, time will truly tell us the full story. I've found the IE 10 browser to be less compatible and more cranky with websites, but I expect that to change given time. I like the fact that antivirus and security are rolled into the OS without me having to take care of them or be interrupted with update notifications. The OS runs updates on a schedule that's far less aggressive than previous versions and thus far hasn't forced me into a reboot. I've been told that the performance for gaming is supposed to be greater simply by virtue of a cleaner codebase, but I haven't seen anything substantially different in my framerate despite higher benchmarks in 3DMark 11. I have however seen faster boot-up and shut-down times on one machine. And once my programs launch, I don't even think about that tile layout waiting for me underneath.
The basic applications like Weather, Photos, Stocks, Mail, and more are very user-friendly, but solely within the context of the new look & feel: expect little familar ground and a lot of new territory. If you have a Windows Live account and/or SkyDrive, these can integrate fully into the OS: so much so that you would sign in to the computer with your Windows Live/Hotmail account and everything you do would be synced to Microsoft's cloud.
If you're considering Windows 8, there are many benefits under the covers. The patchwork way in which the OS seems to meld old into new can be confusing, and it's clear the UI pays lip service to mice while eagerly awaiting your first touch-screen or touch-pad purchase. But to give credit where credit is due, there are benefits under the surface to go with the drawbacks you see before your eyes. Putting Windows 8 Pro on a new system is a good hedge against longevity, but will require experienced Windows 7 (and below) users to be patient with the newer parts of the UI.
UPDATE: Amazon customer Robert Haines says that there is a program called "Classic UI" that would restore the old look, so if you're dead-set on new code that skips the new UI, you might want to try that. Other customers say that Stardock's program is worth the money.
UPDATE: Amazon customer AJ points out that although Windows 8 Pro may in the future require you to purchase a license for Windows Media Center separately, right now you can get a serial key for free via the Windows 8 site: just go to the Windows 8 "Add Ons" section. You may request up to 5 serial keys using different e-mail addresses and Microsoft will e-mail them to you within 24-48 hours.
UPDATE, 11/2013: Microsoft has now released Windows 8.1, a minor update to the OS that mostly attempts to make the user experience better. If you purhcase this copy of Windows 8, you will be offered the ability to update it to 8.1 at no additional cost. The upgrade is pushed through the Windows Store that is part of Windows 8. Personally, I've done clean installs of 8.1 from the MSDN media and done an in-place upgrade via the store, on both my desktop and laptop, and have not had good experiences. I don't personally recommend the update at this time for that reason. Peraps with time it will get better.
This review was posted under the System Builder DVD product listing of Windows 8 Pro. The three versions of Windows 8 are "just Windows 8" (which is like Windows Home in earlier versions), "Windows 8 Pro", and "Windows 8 Enterprise". The generic Windows 8 that replaces "Home" in earlier versions has the basic feature set. This "Pro" flavor adds the BitLocker drive encryption we previously had to buy Windows Ultimate to obtain. It adds the ability to use Remote Desktop (that in my opinion should be in all versions of Windows), and it makes it easier to connect your computer to an Active Directory Domain. Windows 8 Pro is best for the power user or the small business and most people hardware-savvy enough to build their own machines will most likely prefer the added control they gain from using Pro. "Enterprise" takes things one step further by being designed for use in medium to large businesses with corporate networks. There is also a "Windows 8 RT", but this version is solely intended for the ARM processors and other hardware built-in to tablet computers and is not intended for a desktop or laptop computer.
32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Windows 8Jan. 18 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
The common opinion of Windows 8 is not a good one for a desktop environment. I have worked as a computer consultant for over 10 years, here is my opinion:
Pros: Windows 8 is fast, very fast. Boot up time is the big one, shut down is fast, going to sleep and waking up are all very quick. Cons: Windows 8 Modern UI is Microsoft's attempt at unifying the smartphone, tablet and desktop experience. However the UI is cumbersome on a desktop. The Modern UI doesn't bring anything to the table on a desktop, it was designed for a tablet - it works well on a tablet. There are third party programs available to suppress the Modern UI that makes most of the UI complaints a moot point IMO. I strongly believe Microsoft should have a desktop mode where the Modern UI is completely suppressed. Microsoft should also include a built in tutorial that is blatantly obvious for new users.
The product isn't nearly as bad as people make it out to be, but Microsoft should not have released it as is for desktop users.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Invalid code, invalid product IDApril 15 2013
Mark D. Nobriga
- Published on Amazon.com
I got the product new and unopened, and like others have mentioned it does not work. After 1 hour on the phone with MS they told me to send it back to Amazon. My review is on the the sale and what i got not on Win 8 since i never got to install it or use it.