Windows 8 Impressions…and why I went back to Windows 7

I have been slowly connecting all of my Windows 8 notes for a few months now and was getting ready to put together a whole long detailed ‘Impressions’ blog.  I even hinted at it when I left a comment on my buddy Dallas Marks’ Windows 8 blog entry.  And then it happened.  I finally lost all patience with Windows 8 and spent 3 hours formatting and reinstalling Windows 7 back on my laptop.   Was it just an angry overreaction?  Perhaps.  Was it that my laptop wasn’t 100% compatible with Windows 8 and it was a bad idea to install?  Perhaps.  Am I glad that it’s gone and back to Windows 7?  Yup.

Here’s the hardware we’re dealing with today:

We’re playing with a Dell Inspiron 1121, also known as a Dell 11z.  The specs are:

  • Intel Core i3 ULV
  • 64 bit Capable
  • 6GB RAM
  • 128 GB Samsung 470 SSD (90GB free space)
    • (Upgraded RAM and SSD)
  • 11″ Screen w/a built-in Sprint WiMAX 4G card

For those who know me, this is the laptop you see me with at conferences and such.  Pretty light, easily transported and with the upgraded SSD and RAM, fairly snappy for what I need it to do:

  • Email (trying Postbox right now, since 99% of my email accounts are Gmail based)
  • Internet Stuff (Social Media, Reddit, etc…)
  • Blogging/Note taking (Evernote, Windows LiveWriter)
  • Light BI Development, mainly web based or via RDC.  But with local installs of SAP Visual Intelligence & SAP Dashboard Designer.
  • Content Creation (Presentations, PDFs, MS Office, etc…)

That’s about it.  A light to medium duty notebook, mainly for internet-ing and making stuff.  In no way is it meant to be a hard-core development machine.  So, I thought that this PC would be a natural candidate for a Windows 8 upgrade.  The majority of my content is stored in Dropbox, so a quick backup and I was off to upgrade.  I documented my upgrade process, as well as the Windows 8 ‘impression’ notes I made along the way. You can find these notes on Page 2 of this blog.

I won’t bore you with the list of differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8- countless blogs and articles are out there for your reading pleasure.  I have three main reasons for going back:

  1. Desktop/Metro app switching.  Chrome- some features only work in desktop mode.
  2. Wireless connectivity.  Or lack of consistency.
  3. Sleep mode.  Lack of consistency.  Sensing a theme?

Ok, maybe you can chalk up #1 to a lack of familiarity with Windows 8. But after a solid three months of use, I never could get used to the whole Metro vs Desktop setup.  I also wasn’t a fan of having two apps installed for the same thing.  Evernote is a great example- at launch, the Metro app wasn’t a full featured client.  You needed to use the Desktop version to do real rich text formatting and features. A Metro app finally came, but it still wasn’t as fully featured.  GMail? When you opened Metro Chrome, you would get a popup that Voice calling was only supported in the Desktop.  And I never got to really use IE10, as the ‘cool’ Metro version only was available if you chose IE as your default browser.

Reasons #2 and #3 seemed to broach a theme.  Like any new OS, there will be times where behaviors aren’t fully consistent. And maybe since I wasn’t using a PC that was ‘certified’ for Windows 8, I shouldn’t have expected it to play nice all the time. But when the OS is set to go to sleep when you close the lid and you close the lid, it should sleep.  Not Windows 8. Even after updates, it would work ONCE and then I had to always press the power button.  This got old, REALLY quickly.  Same for the Wifi.  It would disconnect instantly at sleep and take FOREVER (scientifically proven, of course) to reconnect when woken up.

There were also the little things that drove me crazy: Having to use my Hotmail address as my login token.  (The only reason I still have a working Hotmail account is that I use it for Xbox Live!) The ‘Messaging’ app that like to announce that I had a Facebook message come in, but then wouldn’t load any more of the conversation if I took focus off it.  The fact that in Metro, I had to CTRL-C to see the time, as the clock was only on the Desktop side of the house.  And the fact that my Desktop picture was only on the Desktop and not the Metro side.

At the end of the day, Windows 8 wasn’t worth the frustration and learning curve.  If I had to buy a new Ultrabook, I would make sure that it had a touchscreen.  I kept feeling like I should just touch the Live Tiles.  As touchscreens become more prevelent and apps all become Metro native, I think Windows 8 will find its place.  But right now, it’s just not the right OS for my needs.

<Geeky installation & application notes follow on Page 2>