Monday, August 20, 2012

Living with 8, my 8 days with a Windows 8 upgrade - Day 2

Saturday, August 18th 2012, I decided that the only way I could really look at Windows 8 was to make it my primary OS and live with it day in and out on my primary personal notebook. Sure I've been playing with Windows 8 since the Developer Preview, but always on a secondary machine, a PDC 09 Acer 1420p convertible, and always doing a clean install every time. While that seemed to work well , it wasn't the same as using it live, using it "for real."

So I bit the bullet (and was bored, looking for something to do) and jumped into Windows 8 with both feet with an in-place upgrade. Not being stupid, I did do a complete system image backup first, just in case. With past upgrades this has saved my bacon, so there was no way I was going to upgrade my main without doing it.

Once the system image backup was complete, which took a few hours, it was upgrade time. Again, my choice was to do an in-place upgrade, leaving apps, settings, files all in-place just upgrading the OS to Win8 Pro x64, from Win7 Home Premium x64. I didn't want to have to worry about drivers, printers, app's, etc, I just wanted to get the goodness of Win8 with a little other installs as possible.

Taking my Win8 bootable USB stick (created with the Win8 Pro MSDN ISO and the Windows 7 USB DVD Download utility), I ran the setup.exe in the root. After some initial entry, like the product key, etc, my drive spun and I got a report back saying that a reboot was first needed and that I one unsupported driver that had to go, my Intel Wifi driver.

Removing driver concerned me a little, without wifi I would be up a creek. Then I thought about it and realized that that driver, or a newer one, HAD to be included in the setup and every time I've setup Win8 on any system the networking, including wifi, always seemed to just work and work well.

So I nuked the driver, rebooted and restarted the Win8 Setup.

Like a dummy, when the Setup asked me if I wanted to start off where I left off or start over, I said start over. So I had to go through the initial setup again and the system checking/report stuff again. This time though, I was given a clean bill up upgrade health. I took a deep breath and clicked ok.

I won't bore you with the upgrade details, but it took a while. Hours. A clean Win8 install is amazingly fast, so I kind of expected an upgrade to be fast too. Not seconds or minutes fast, but still fast. Well... um... Upgrading is hard and it's doing a great deal of work and copying of the old Windows files, etc., so my expectation was off. Now it wasn't days long or anything like that, just hours'ish (I tweeted the entire time, so I could get better time numbers, but... yeah).

How did the upgrade story end? Once the upgrade was complete, I ran through initial setup/personalization and that was it. Done. Upgraded.

I quickly ran through my critical apps, and low and behold, everything pretty much just seems to work. And in some cases some long standing bit-rot issues were fixed too. Network/internet? Check. Printing? Check, App's? Check. Check. Check.

Problems? Sure, there are a few driver issues. The Action Center suggested a number of apps/drivers need to be re-installed. The primary driver issue for me is a video driver issue. The system in an Alienware MX11r3 (yes, my main is an 11"... I'd love a 17/18 but this is SO much more portable and was SO much more affordable...) and it has the cross Intel/Nvidia video adapters. And while the upgrade found the Nvidia adapter and installed drivers for it, it looks like it used "standard" drivers. So the swapping between in integrated and Nvidia doesn't seem to be working. I'm sure this will be fixed when Win8 RTM Nvidia drivers become available (but I do wonder if Dell will provide any driver support or if I'm going to have to skip the OEM and go with drivers direct from Nvidia? I hope Dell comes through...). This means some games might not be as uber until new drivers area available, but my current addiction/games seem to work 'ok' so I'm going to see if I can live with this for now...

Also I swear the system is running hotter than before. With Win7 it would run hot, but usually only when the Nvidia kicked in. Now it's not that hot, but does seem hotter. Might just be dust build-up. Once I hunt down a can of air, I'll give that a go and see if it helps.

So living with Windows 8...

Yesterday I took a break and mostly just used the system lightly. The thing was that it just seemed to work. I would sometimes forget I was on Win8, until something Win8'ish reminded me (like the lack of Aero, a notification, etc). Everything launched, was were I needed it, just seemed to work...

My thoughts so far?

So far, Win8 feels like a cleaner Win7. A Win7 but with bonus of mostly optional Start/Modern UI capability. A Win7++, a better Win7...

Windows 8, the worse of both olds? No, I say it's the best of both! You get what you have today (actually better), BUT you also get an onramp to the future too.

Will I stick with it for now? Not sure. The video drivers (and related heat issue?) do concern me and might have me rolling back while I wait for updated drivers. But then again, I'm really starting to get used to it... I'll give it a week and we'll see.

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