So I upgraded my Windows 7 laptop to Windows 8 Pro last week for $15. Here is a short write up on my experience with Windows 8 in the past week.
How to upgrade:
Windows 8 Pro upgrade can be purchased for $40 or a similar price in other countries around the world. Just go here to purchase and download the upgrade. Note that if you have purchased a Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013, you can purchase a download of Windows 8 Pro at a special promotional price ($15 in the US). First go here to register and get a promo code to avail the discount and then proceed to purchasing the upgrade and enter the promo code you received at checkout to get the discount.
Now lets see what has changed (rather what I have noticed) in Windows 8.
Performance: One of the best changes that I noticed with the upgrade. Overall, my laptop has become snappier. It boots up and shuts down very fast too. Almost all programs start and run fast on Windows 8 compared to previous versions of Windows.
Compatibility: All my programs, devices and drivers work on Windows 8 too. I have not noticed any major compatibility issues due to the upgrade.
Start Menu: The start menu is replaced with the new, mobile like, start screen (metro UI). This tiled start screen can be completely customized and looks pretty cool unlike anything else that was seen in the previous versions of Windows. The start button is gone (rather hidden) but can be seen by hovering the mouse on the bottom left hand corner of the screen. The start screen can be opened by pressing the windows key or on this invisible start menu button.
Desktop Mode: This is probably the area where you will find no difference between Windows 7 and Windows 8. Most programs (that are not Windows 8 apps) open up in the desktop mode.
Charms Bar: A charms bar appears when you swipe on the right hand portion of the screen. It contains short cuts for search, sharing, start screen, connected devices and settings. To shut down your device, which is a bit tricky in Windows 8, you will need to tap on the settings of this charms bar.
Lock Screen: The standard lock screen has been enhanced in Windows 8. Again, it is mobile inspired and can be customized with your choice of background photo, notifications like weather, calendar appointments, unread messages etc.
Windows Store: Similar to the Apple AppStore, Google Play (Android Market) or BlackBerry AppWorld there is a Windows Store on Windows 8 with a few apps to begin with. There are not many apps right now but I guess there will be more in the coming months.
To wrap up, it is pretty clear that, with Windows 8, Microsoft has taken a shot at making their OS mobile device friendly. While the OS still works and feels good on a PC, it will be best experienced on a tablet or a PC with touch screen. However, since the upgrade itself is not very expensive it is something you might want to try given the improvement in performance.