Why I Downgraded from Windows 8 to Windows 7

Why I Downgraded from Windows 8 to Windows 7I remember initially hearing the news about the metro “Modern” UI on Windows 8, and to be honest, I was pumped. Although I have never owned a Windows Phone (the last mobile device I had on a Microsoft OS was an iPAQ h5455), I have used them and been very impressed by the interface. I thought it was sleek and stylish with its poppy colors, fast and functional with the inventive live tiles, and all around a unique experience that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. iOS on my iPod touch was feeling pretty aged, and paying for a smartphone contract was out of the question, so Windows 8 was supposed to be my chance to get a slice of that pie.

And then Developer Preview came out. And I loved it.

I had Windows 8 running on my laptop until about a week ago, when I popped my Windows 7 DVD in and downgraded. Why? Because Windows 8 seemed to progressively get worse and worse for me.

The novelty of the Modern interface faded quickly. I was running this on my laptop, and I realized that I only used a handful of the new apps. I could really tell that they were designed for touch input, and, even with multi-touch on my touchpad, they just didn’t feel right. I could get just about everything available in the new experience on the desktop in less time, with more detail, and better optimized for mouse-and-keyboard input. I used Mail, Calendar, and People until Office 2013 Preview rolled around. Outlook did everything that they did and much more. And, with the visual revamp of Office, it still had that fresh look and a lot of snazzy transition effects. Oh, and the apps weren’t even remotely smooth. My laptop is by no means high-end hardware; it falls much on the other end of the spectrum. However, if Windows 8 is supposed to be able to run on tablets, one might really expect Microsoft to have optimized its software to work well even on low-end machines. One big complaint I have about the Modern interface is snapping. Why? Because I couldn’t. Microsoft requires a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 in order to snap apps. What about the tons of laptops that run 1280 x 800? What about the netbooks at 1024 x 600? I honestly feel like Microsoft didn’t handle that very well. Plus, even when I hooked my laptop up to a larger display, the ability to snap two apps felt like a major downgrade from being able to have as many windows up as I could squeeze in.

Earlier, I said that the OS felt incrementally worse to me. That wasn’t just on my end. Each prerelease that came out continually detracted from the experience for me. Microsoft removed a lot of visual flare and some functionality that I had really been looking forward to. I knew that a lot of people were upset about the removal of the Start button in Consumer Preview — it had been a staple of the Windows brand for years and expunged the last sense of familiarity that this newest iteration possessed. I could live with a hot corner replacing a button, though. That was no big deal. What was a big deal, on the other hand, was the subsequent removal of a feature that I used all the time. You see, I like having two screens. I never used the highly advertised feature of Windows 7 where you can drag windows to the sides to tile them vertically because I could have two programs running full-screen right next to each other. In Windows 8, Microsoft added a feature where the Start button would turn into a screen icon and you could switch which monitor had the Aero experience and which had the Modern one. No Start button = no monitor switching. So this forced me to either have two screens on the desktop or one desktop and one Modern UI. Want to switch them? Now you have to dig through setting panels to do that.

The next disappointment for me rolled out with the Consumer Preview. There wasn’t really much noticeable change in functionality at the OS level; most of the change that happened was within the apps. While the Microsoft Essentials suite had some definite improvements from its version in the Consumer Preview, one of the first things that I noticed were toned-down graphics. In apps such as Weather and News, the background picture would move more slowly than the foreground, leading to an illusion of depth. It was gorgeous. And it was gone. Microsoft also changed some of the assets in the desktop to have a more Modern look. Basically, it took the shiny things and made them solid colors. The cursor’s loading icon had solid colors, the windows no longer had beveled edges, and the navigation buttons in system programs were now flat. I like the design choices in the Modern look, but mixed with Aero, it just looks out of place. You have a beautiful frosted glass design language and an inventive and simplistic design language. I love both of them. However, like chocolate milk and raspberry lemonade, they just don’t make a great combination. It was awkward enough having both experiences together in the same package, but now they were clashing with each other. Components of the Modern interface would be mixed into the classic desktop, and I even ran into some glitches where Aero windows would open on top of Modern apps.

Windows 8 just lacked the visual polish that I was expecting. I know it’s the first release like this, but Windows Phone 7 was also a debut, and I feel like the new design language was implemented much better on the mobile platform. On Windows Phone, the tiles have all sorts of neat little animations. Some are divided into 3×3 sections that flip with a nice little 3D effect independently of each other. The Xbox app has your avatar smiling back at you. The Live Tiles are literally alive with activity. On the other hand, on Windows 8, the tiles slide up to give you information. And then they slide back down. And that’s it. It’s just lacking the diversity that Windows Phone flaunts. The mobile OS managed to make some intricate animations without breaking the simplistic design mold. I don’t feel like it would have taken a lot of development to spruce up the Start screen a bit and really believe that Microsoft should have invested more in the visual department.

Even when I went for the retail upgrade hoping that the issues would be ironed out, they weren’t. It just didn’t feel complete. I encountered a lot of bugs with Windows Update and ran into more glitches. Throughout my Windows 8 experience, I ran into a lot of problems switching from the Modern UI to the desktop. Not issues with me, but graphical anomalies. I would switch from having a research website up in IE back to Word 2013 to continue typing a paper for school only to be greeted by a myriad of truncated bits and pieces of other apps I had open. The latest version of Microsoft’s flagship OS did have one thing that I have to quickly praise it for: the startup speed. The hybrid shutdown mode works marvelously, and even low-end hardware seems to get it up and running in just seconds.

Honestly, Windows 8 is just an odd mix. Users who use a mouse and keyboard will have little use for the new interface. I remember one of Windows 7’s advertising slogans being “Your PC. Simplified.” I feel like Microsoft has taken the success of that a little too far. Users who have a touchscreen will have little use for the Aero interface. If you have an all-in-one PC, more power to you, but I honestly don’t know a single person who does and I can’t see this catching on very well with the hefty price tag associated with touch-enabled PCs. The performance improvements are nice, but just not worth the hassle of dealing with useless and often frustrating new features that are being forced on users. Windows 8 is aiming to be something new, and consequently just can’t appeal to the majority of people who aren’t shopping for new hardware. It wasn’t worth the upgrade.

My name is Alex Griffith, and I’m a 16-year-old student in central Indiana who loves tinkering with gadgets but has to do so on a tight budget. I’ve always been primarily a PC user, and I keep a Ubuntu Live USB on me at all times, but I’d be open to giving OS X a try if it weren’t for the heavy price tag. I’m a member of the Sonic Paradox animation team and I help manage some of the more technical aspects of the group’s assets.

Image: Microsoft

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  • Trip

    That is exactly why, when I bought a new Windows 8 laptop, I made sure I bought one with a touch screen. I will keep mine Windows 8 because with a touch screen it is an awesome operating system. There is no way I would run it without a touch screen though.

  • http://www.geekchimp.org/ Ferdinand

    Personally I just disagree. The UI isn’t burdensome at all, I spend little to no time navigating between the two. Also the Dev Preview was atrocious, you should have tried the Release Preview. In the full version I have no issues, all my “toys” run perfectly fine and I have no wants with this current release. I feel at this stage it’s proper and all of the people who have high expectations should know all OS’s have these kind of buggy launches.

    For instance the new Ubuntu isn’t as great as the last, I’m having problems with my Nvidia card on it.

    Android OS didn’t run smoothly or was user friendly on a number of devices, but that’s why the modding community and third party dev’s are there.

    Also Mountain Lion had some strange bugs that are currently addressed.

    So pretty much be open to change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1430310093 Wolfee Darkfang

    I feel the same way about this. The new “Modern UI” looks like it could have easily been made in 16 bit Windows 3.1. I’m not impressed with the art team at Microsoft. I’ve seen lesser downloaded Metacity skins on Linux that could top Windows 8’s desktop design. The start screen IMO is horrid. I don’t like anything I do being full screen unless it’s a video game. I multitask, and it’s easier to do that with actual windows you can move around. If I’m not using a all-in-one or tablet/phone I should not be forced to use a interface designed for one.

    • http://www.facebook.com/LookitsPuck Stephen Adams

      You have 3 options, really.

      Use Desktop
      Use Modern UI
      Use both

      Noone is forcing you to use anything.

      • http://chris.pirillo.com/ Chris Pirillo

        Microsoft is forcing us to use everything – no rhyme or reason on when Windows wants to switch between the two environments.
        Not my problem.

        • http://www.davescomputertips.com/ Jim Hillier

          And that’s a problem because??
          Look, we are all different and subjectivity plays a major role but, I have no issue with the way in which Windows 8 switches between environments… it’s smooth, seamless, and nigh on instantaneous. Well, it is on my Win8 machine anyway.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Aidanl405 Aidan Lovegrove

    How do you get the titles on each of the sections in the W8 Metro, as demonstrated in the picture, “Communication” and “Entertainment”?

    • http://twitter.com/jah600 Justin Haghighi

      If you’re using a mouse and keyboard, click on the small minus sign in the bottom-right corner of the Start screen. Right-click on a group of apps and select “Name group” in the command bar that appears at the bottom of your screen. Type in a name and hit Enter or click “Name.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/coutlas.simon Coutlas Simon

    yeah,,, those
    things u were saying are absolutely true,,,,new and useless features
    are disappointing to some extent,,,specially the fact that the sense of balance
    has not been maintained properly in some features between being modern and
    classic,,,,it is also a little frustrating having to dig into
    some alien menus in order to rearrange and organise
    staff,,,i found it all the same too,,,

    is almost like u have moved to a bigger and more up-to-date house but
    having lost your usual premises and control over things,,,,so psychologically
    the new house carries a sense of chaos and rebellion due to
    its confused and disorganised era!!! it is fine to move back if u
    feel that u can’t proceed wi the new house because it is all about u
    being comfortable i respect that!!! but i have to say
    that windows 8 has not made me downgrade!!! i find the overall
    package working well.,,, my apps are running well ,,,,,i never had
    your desktop difficulties or desktop mentality i’d better say,,, and found
    myself in a position to adopt quite well,,,,

    mean i am not 100% happy with it but it cannot persuade me to
    downgrade,,,because i think that downgrading results from
    a strong sense of frustration over your expectations!!!but it
    has not frustrated me that much, comparing it to windows 7 which was simpler to
    use but had problems of its own kind,,,,i have personally found windows 8 an
    ideal operating system on PC,,,,but disappointing system on the
    tablet,,,,and i don’t know about the phones!!! finally, i don’t
    think that windows 8 deserves downgrading since there is room in
    there to adapt if u can manage to get your apps running properly
    which is the key!!! but that was at least the right direction for
    Microsoft to step on and the next upcoming windows on this
    new platform is going to be much better as they realise their problems
    with the new operating system gradually!!!

  • johnwerneken

    Disagree but then I hate snap. Resize works fine for me. WINKEY + X brings up basicly the old start menu, as does charms + tiles after some getting used to them. Or one can add a Start Button, many ways. 8 does mount iso’s, it does have a server-class VM, it is pretty crash resistant, everything runs faster with fewer hardware resources required. I asgree the touch/metro aps are new unpolished and their range of features is by their nature (touch-useable) rather limited.
    That may change if other input methods get to work better as it seems is happening (speech, gestures other than on the device itself, eyeball tracking, even some examples of what amounts to brain reading). The idea that I my customers my users may not have to learn how to deal with more than loom and feel – even if it sure has a dual personality – THAT outweighs everything. Kinda like the One Ring in the Book lol.

  • Paquito19962

    Why? Because you are stupid.

    • Tom4

      An impressive argument from a “brilliant” person.

  • RWW

    Switching to Windows 8 was painless for me. I appreciate all the thought put into it and I enjoy learning all the new features. And it’s fast!

  • http://twitter.com/#!/gpowerf G.Power

    You are 16? You are a great writer. I don’t agree with your every point, but I can understand your reason for downgrading.

  • theccur

    I don’t generally recommend upgrading from windows 7 to 8, BUT from XP or Vista is is an outstanding choice. People often complain about the UI but that’s bogus. Mostly I operate from the desktop and the start menu is always available. I don’t need Metro, so I also have Windows 8 running on a netbook that CAN’T run Metro. The netbook is now MUCH faster and more versatile. Bottom line, I see a LOT of people knocking Windows 8, but NONE of the kvetches is legitimate. Still, what you run is a PERSONAL choice, just STOP the hate campaign. I have Windows 8 running on two laptops, a netbook and a desktop.

  • jclifton007

    I upgraded my laptop from XP Pro to Win 8 Pro because of the less demanding OS. The only problem is I can not print anything from Office 2010. I can print the test page from the control panel no problem. I can print from One Note and from Acrobat Reader with no problem. But nothing prints from Office 2010 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.). I send the document to the printer, the document shows up in the printer queue, then shows all pages sent and then the queue is clear. But still no document? One other issue with Win 8 is now I cant sync my I phone with outlook until Apple comes out with an iTunes that is combatable with Win 8. From an office work stand point, Win 8 is not a winner (yet). Of course Microsoft support denies that it’s their issue and blame the printer manufacture’s driver. But it work with win print and acrobat so what part of the conversation did they miss.

  • http://twitter.com/jah600 Justin Haghighi

    Personally, I’ll keep using Windows 8 because of the overall performance increase and some other small changes, such as the new Task Manager and improved File Explorer. Hopefully Microsoft will further strive to improve keyboard and mouse usability for those without touch screen devices. However, I find the Modern UI to be all right even without a touch screen. It’s not ideal, but it feels polished and fluid to me on my mid-range notebook. And I haven’t experienced any graphical anomalies.

    Thank you for your very well put and honest opinion on Windows 8. I really enjoyed the article, and I really do hope that updates in the coming months will make Windows 8 a viable option for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/LookitsPuck Stephen Adams

    Great article for a 16 year old.

    But I disagree. Just on improvements to the desktop and core system alone W8 is worth it: improved boot speeds, smaller hard drive foot print, smaller RAM foot print, better battery life, etc. Couple that with improved task manager, file operations, not as much “bling” (see: simplification)…then what’s to hate here?

    I’m using Macbook Pro bootcamping Windows 8 and I downloaded Trackpad++. Having these gestures is pretty awesome, for one. Secondly, it’s pretty great being able to work in the desktop, and then when I just want to consume…jump into Metro and see what’s going on around me without having to jump into an app. When jumping into an app, it’s nice to be viewing in full screen with just your content there without extra chrome/skeuomorphism cluttering the experience.

    I have my Logitech MX travel mouse and set the extra button in the middle of the mouse to use as a button to open the start screen. It’s a pretty awesome experience.

  • nortoriousOSX

    Hackintosh best of both worlds and the gateway drug into the AppleEcosphere. If you love to tinker this is where things get interesting. Running OSX Lion on ebay purchased $150 dell D630 laptop and its awesome!

  • http://twitter.com/spiral64 spiral64

    More importantly, windows 8 feels totally unstable. Games won’t launch in full screen, latest nvidia drivers cause the OS to launch to a black screen, safe mode by default is not enabled. It’s an extremely poorly optimised system for desktop PCs; Microsoft have apparently forgotten what makes Windows the best, most widely used OS.