Windows 7 to Windows 8: The system's biggest improvements

Automatically change window color

Where to get started: Right-click from Desktop > Personalize > Window Color

Windows 8 has a new feature that automatically adjusts the window color in the traditional desktop to match your background image.

Windows 7: The window border colors are fixed.

If you have an image of the sky, the windows and the taskbar will turn blue. If you have an image heavy in brown tones, the windows and taskbar will go brown.

Windows 8: If your desktop background image shows a golden sunset, you'll get a golden window border.
Windows 8: Use a green background, and the windows border changes to green, like a chameleon.

Faster startup times

Where to get started: Power button

Windows 8 includes a new hybrid system that Microsoft says will dramatically improve boot times compared to Windows 7. The new hybrid boot combines processes used in cold boots and hibernation mode, including kernel-session storage and the employment of multiple cores in parallel during boot.

New chkdsk

Where to get started: Computer > right-click Local Disk (C:) > Properties > Tools > Error Checking

A close cousin to the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is the Black Screen of Come On Already! (BSOCOA!), also known as chkdsk (check disk). Chkdsk is a utility that tries to fix file-system corruptions.

Windows 7: Oops, can’t do this on the boot drive!
Windows 7: Instead, you have to reboot and then watch chkdsk run. Slowly.

In Windows 8, the GUI version of chkdsk can scan an active drive, something the Windows 7 GUI version can't do. To fix problems, you still have to reboot in Windows 8, but the process is much faster.

Windows 8: You can run chkdsk on the boot drive, but Windows 8 won't perform repairs until you reboot.

File History

Where to get started: Control Panel > System and Security > File History

Microsoft has upgraded the Windows Backup and Restore features of Windows 7 with a new, easier-to-use Windows 8 tool called File History.

Windows 7: The backup tool’s user interface is cumbersome, and the process requires extensive user knowledge.
File History (not enabled by default) backs up everything in your Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders and lets you restore previous revisions of a file.
It can save data to an external hard drive as well as cache items in your local drive on occasions when you're not connected to your backup drive.
Windows 8: Backup is now called File History and is easy to automate.

Settings app in the Modern UI

Where to get started: Charms bar > Settings > Change PC settings

Mucking around in the Control Panel can sometimes be a pain, but in Windows 8 you can access some basic tasks via the new Settings app in the Modern UI. You can use the Settings app to adjust your system date and time, reinstall Windows, manage your HomeGroup, or access Windows Update.

You'll still need to use the Control Panel for most security tasks, power options, and power-user features (such as BitLocker encryption).

Search in Windows 8

Where to get started: Charms Bar > Search

The search tool in Windows 7 is fairly powerful, letting you search for apps, as well as search inside files and folders.

Windows 7: Search isn’t visual, and users can easily overlook key results.

The new search function in the Windows 8 Modern UI adds to this by letting you search the content inside touch-centric apps. This is a handy feature when you're looking for something inside the Windows Store or for a news topic via the News app.

Third-party apps must add search functionality, so search may not work in all of your apps.

WIndows 8: Search works globally—or you can search inside search-aware apps.

Personalization

Where to get started: Windows 8 Start screen

For most users, personalization in Windows 7 means pinning apps to the taskbar, changing the desktop wallpaper, and selecting a user-account photo.

In Windows 8, personalization extends to showing you data you've arranged to highlight right from the Start screen's live tiles, including new email, social networking updates, and sports news about your favorite teams.

Windows 8: You can reorganize tiles, add tiles, group tiles, or remove tiles that you don’t need. You can make tiles live, or not, as you wish.

Secure boot

Where to get started: Charms bar > Change PC settings > General > Advanced startup

A new secure-boot process, enabled by default on all new Windows 8 PCs, will prevent unauthorized operating systems and malware from loading on your machine. The system uses cryptographic signatures to verify that the operating system is authorized to load and that it hasn't been tampered with.

Windows 8: Secure boot attempts to prevent malware from loading.

Although some critics welcome the new security enhancement, this feature is controversial. Many digital-rights advocates worry that secure boot will give users less control over their PCs and even less security, arguing that the secure boot process will inevitably be hacked.

So much more

Microsoft has made many more improvements to Windows 8, including improved hardware acceleration for graphics, better printer discovery, and a new enterprise virtualization feature called Windows to Go.

Windows 8 offers something for everyone from nothing-fancy users who just want to handle email, surf the Web, and watch videos, to advanced users with needs such as managing multiple external hard drives and reinstalling Windows.

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