By now you're likely aware Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, debuted on October 26.
Along with a handful of impressive features, Windows 8 Pro also proved relatively affordable at just $39.99 for a downloadable upgrade – as long as you were running Windows 7, Vista or XP that met the modest minimum system requirements.
Even better, those who bought a new PC after June 2, 2012, could’ve snagged the new OS for $14.99.
But as the ‘ol adage goes, all good things must come to an end.
As Microsoft warned, the price for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade jumped to $199.99 on February 1, 2013. The standard version costs $119.99, and only students with credentials can pick up Windows 8 Pro for $69.99.
Still worth it, you ask?
Well, if a new PC is in your future, the answer is no – as it’ll be preloaded on your new machine already.
If you’re itching to upgrade your existing computer to Windows 8, however, first decide if you really need everything offered in the Pro version – which includes enhanced data protection (using BitLocker technology), remote PC access (control another PC, somewhere else) and the option to connect to your corporate or school network with Domain join. The differences between the Pro and regular version of Windows 8 are outlined here, in chart form.
If you’re curious about whether Windows 8 delivers the goods, the answer is yes.
After spending some hands-on time with the new platform – on traditional PCs as well as touchscreen tablets – you'll like the changes, though it might take a little getting used to.
And so the following are eight reasons to consider upgrading to Windows 8:
A fresh desktop
Similar to Windows Phone devices, Windows 8 has replaced small and static icons with big and beautiful tiles. Now called your Start screen, all the information, people and apps (programs) you care about are in one place – simply click (or tap) to launch it. Also, info and photos are updated in real-time, such as seeing how many new emails are waiting for you, the latest photos uploaded to Facebook or weather, sports scores and more – therefore you can see a lot of information at a glance. And you get to decide where everything goes by simply dragging and dropping the tiles wherever you like.
A consistent experience
Whether you're on a Windows 8 computer, tablet or smartphone, you'll notice a consistent look and feel across all of these devices -- beginning with the Start screen and the colorful, dynamic tiles. Plus, when you sign into any of your devices running Windows 8, all your personalized settings and apps are right there as they're automatically synchronized between PCs, tablets and phones. This includes popular "cloud" services like SkyDrive (file storage and sharing), Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and more.
Long gone are the days of cumbersome software installation. Windows 8's direct access to the Windows Store means it's a breeze to find, download and run apps on your device. Whether it's a productivity tool, the latest game or an e-book, it's easy to browse and buy apps to truly personalize your experience in a myriad of ways. Sure, they took a page from Apple, but have done a great job with it. And because your apps are synchronized between Windows 8 devices, you can start a project on one machine, such as drafting a Word document, and finishing it on another.
Rather than having to choose how to interface with your content, Windows 8 supports multiple input devices, be it keyboard and mouse, touch, stylus pen or voice control. The operating system was designed from the ground up to work the way you want to – as long as the hardware supports it, of course (newer desktop or laptop PCs have a touch screen). Windows 8 tablets, such as Microsoft's own Surface products, support external keyboards and Bluetooth mice or you can pull up a virtual keyboard to type on, along with support for flicking, pinch to zoom and other intuitive gestures.
Accessible from your Start screen, the People app brings up your contacts – such as friends, family and coworkers -- and it not only shows phone numbers, email and street addresses, but also their social networking info, including tweets, Facebook posts, photos, and more. In other words, each of your contacts get their own page -- with all relevant info, messages, status updates and photos – all in one place. Compare this to most other platforms, where you must close one app (say, Facebook), to open another (Contacts).
Along with integrated security software, Windows 8 also has an optional app called Microsoft Family Safety, which lets you set up accounts for your children. The software monitors your children's online activities and lets you know what they're doing, where they're going and with whom they're communicating with. As the computer's administrator, you can opt for weekly email reports in your inbox. Family Safety also lets you set up web filtering, time limits, app restrictions and more options under your control.
The web, supersized
Built into Windows 8 is Internet Explorer 10, the first browser to feature a "Do Not Track" privacy option turned on by default, plus it can warn you against malware (malicious software) and phishing attempts. Aesthetically, the browser dedicates your entire screen to your websites for an edge-to-edge view, and only when you want them, browser tabs and navigation controls will appear (and then disappear when you don’t). Internet Explorer 10 also takes advantage of Windows 8 and your device's hardware to create a fast and fluid online experience.
Upgrading is easy
Going from Windows 7 to Windows 8 offers the most seamless upgrade, as your settings, personal files and apps will be preserved during the transition. From Windows Vista, settings and personal files are intact, and from Windows XP, personal files will make the jump to Windows 8 (though apps can be reinstalled after the upgrade is complete). While you could pick it up on a disc or order one online, the fastest and easiest way to upgrade to Windows 8 is via a digital download, found here.