So it’s time for a new laptop in the Quercus household. Now the household’s IT support person (yours truly) is currently learning Win 7, and wasn’t planning on investing any scarce mental energy in learning Win 8.1. Unfortunately, it turns out that Win7 is so scarce and evidently desirable that the equivalent laptop with Win 7 costs $100 more than with Win 8. Note that the main user of said laptop will not be the household IT support staffer.
So, I ask the Dopers who’ve used both, how hard is learning enough Win 8.1 to support someone doing basic things? Would you say it would be worth $100 to avoid?
[Yes, I know, linux. If mental energy and time were not scarce, that’s what I would be doing, since the laptop will probably not do much beyond Firefox, LibreOffice, and a .ogg player. But it is scarce.]
For me, the key question would be:
Are you a person who likes to organise everything into hierarchical folders and subfolders in your Start Menu?
If the answer is yes, then you probably won’t like Windows 8 straight away - because it doesn’t encourage you to organise anything - but you could overcome this by installing one of the third-party Start Menu replacements.
If the answer is no, then you might be fine with Windows 8 - you can organise the Start screen so it functions as a collection of shortcuts (replacing the general utility of the Start Menu) and everything else is pretty much the same as Win7 anyway.
Note that unless you intend to move away from the Windows OS, one of two things will likely happen:
Microsoft will get rid of the parts of Win 8 that most people dislike, and you can upgrade.
You’ll have to learn it at some point anyway.
So, you’re really paying $100 to delay having to learn Win 8, which makes it seem like much less of a good deal. You do have to upgrade in case 1, but Microsoft has seen the writing on the wall with respect to OS upgrades, and their upgrade pricing is expected to be quite low in the future.
From what I can tell, you’re talking about programs here. One of my main concerns is how the data files are organized. I was fine with everything from Win 3.0 to XP, but then Win 7 started using something called “Libraries” and I can’t find anything anymore. Comments? (And don’t get me started on playlists.)
I was thinking more about the hierarchy of the Start Menu - some people like to organise theirs thematically so that all of their graphics programs are in a folder, all of their web browsers in another, etc. It was only when I switched to Windows 8 that I realised how horrible and inefficient my Start Menu had been in XP - nested hierarchies 5 levels deep that collapse and disappear if you accidentally move the cursor off them for a moment.
But yes, Windows 8 (and 7, really) doesn’t want you to worry too much about where your documents, photos, etc reside. There’s nothing at all to stop you organising them into folders and subfolders (and typically, for photos, I do) - libraries are virtual collections of your stuff - your files aren’t actually in the libraries - they’re more like a meta-index.
If you just ignore the libraries, the file system is pretty much as it was in Windows XP and you can use it the same way (trivial things have changed - ‘Documents and Settings’ is now ‘Users’, for example).
But really, the search function is so good that searching for something is quick and easy - easier than opening up Windows Explorer, navigating to where you think you left it, locating it and opening it.
I don’t have the article handy, but you might be able to google it. It was reported that HP was going to be offering new computers with Win7 at a $150 discount over the Win8.1 versions. Their reasoning is no one wanted HPs with Win8.1 and they were, in fact, licensed to sell puters with Win7 anyway…
Ebuyer often has them. I think even Dell will sell you a laptop without the OS.
I don’t think it’s a great idea to do that though - if the machine comes with drivers on a disc, it might be ok, but if you have tontrack tge mall down yourself, it can be hard to get the exactly correct version for the hardware (including revision, etc). You may end up with a machine that never seems quite right.
There is no reason to avoid Windows 8.1 to the point of paying extra for 7 as an individual user.
Windows 8 has several very nice features built in, and very few genuine drawbacks.
If you hate the new Metro functions, it’s really not too tricky to disable them and still keep the various good functions (especially built-in Skydrive functionality, which I think is a pretty great feature for users who aren’t likely to have a real backup solution).
For light users, I think Win 8 is actually a really good OS. It’s drawbacks are more an issue for power users; there’s certain functions that require relearning. But just operating the PC? Should be fine.
Libraries are just a way to lump multiple folders together. The real folders still exist. Granted, since the libraries are already there, they are no longer listed in your favorites. But you can put them there if you’d rather. (Though, honestly, just using the libraries with only one folder attached is often simpler.)
The underlying file system was only changed in a few ways, really, and the only one I think a typical user would notice is that “My Pictures,” “My Music,” “My Videos,” etc. were moved up from “My Documents” to your username folder, and the “My” part was removed.
There are multiple ways to get to your username folder. The fastest way I can think of involves clicking the first drop down arrow in the Explorer address bar, and then clicking your username. An easy-to-type way is to put %userprofile% into the address bar. The most surefire way is to put C:\Users into the address bar, and then choose your username from the folder list.
Then just drag the folders you want into the Favorites so you can get there faster.
Why would that be hard? If you buy a genuine, new copy of 7, you install it yourself and then let the updates do their thing until you are current. It’s time consuming but I don’t get how you wouldn’t end up with everything you need. Most non-OS PC builds I’ve seen on places like eBay will also come with a few discs for the motherboard and whatnot…should be good to go right out of the box.
When you need to update the drivers, it can be hard to find the right ones - the onboard devices are often low-power variants (or variant in some other way) of their desktop counterparts - and you may have to gamble as to whether a later ‘all in one’ driver release that supposedly covers the whole group of, say, ‘9243xx series’ devices actually addresses your variant at all. Sometimes they don’t.
It’s possible to have exactly the same problem with a prebuilt, preinstalled laptop (especially a nonbranded one, where the supplier has just built it the same way you or I would), but with the bigger names (HP, Lenovo, Dell, etc), the appropriate driver updates will typically be picked out and presented for you on the supplier support site.
In practice, that often amounts to driver updates seeming to dry up sooner than they ought - but it does tend to circumvent the problem of accidentally getting the wrong one.
If you’re really unlucky, you could end up with a machine where Windows 7 doesn’t have a built-in driver for the SATA controller and can’t install directly. In that case, you have to locate and download the appropriate driver using a different computer, put the driver on removable media (USB drive), and provide it during the install process. It’s pretty rare but it does happen.