3. Boot in under 20 seconds?
Windows 8 sports a new Hybrid Boot mode which drastically reduces (cold) boot time and will most likely be the default boot option going forward. In essence, it's a combination of "Log Off" and "Hibernate" -- the moment users click on the shutdown button, Windows closes all running applications, logs off and then goes into hibernation mode. Instead of booting up regularly, which usually involves loading hundreds of files and initializing services, drivers and so forth, Windows 8 simply loads the single hibernation file into memory and presents you with the log on screen. I've benchmarked the results on two machines and came away impressed:
On two of my test rigs, Hybrid Boot cut boot time in half
However, Hybrid Boot works only if users actually shut down their machines. If a user restarts his or her machine, it boots up cold.
4. Automatic Maintenance
Microsoft puts a heavy emphasis on optimizing and increasing overall stability of Windows 8: A new "Automatic Maintenance" regularly checks for solutions to problems (via Windows Error Report), runs the .NET Optimization Service and defrags all hard disks automatically -- all of this happens while the PC is on idle, of course.
Automatic Maintenance tries to fix Windows problems, runs a disk defrag and an optimization service for .NET applications.
5. Disk Defragmenter
Speaking of defragmentation, the new Disk Defragmenter is finally capable of handling SSD drives and allows users to perform the TRIM command much easier than in Windows 7.
Disk Defragmenter with SSD ("Trim") support
In addition, I've found a new Windows service called "Spot Verifier". According to its descriptions and its related DLL files, it checks for bad sectors in real-time and marks them as "bad" in order to avoid data loss or damage. I've also dug up traces of some underlying file system changes that I couldn't quite make sense of, such as an entirely new file system driver called "NT Protogon FS driver", which looks like a kernel mode driver for some sort of (yet unknown) file system called Protogon. It's unclear, whether this is a major new file system or just some minor subsystem.
6. Performance boost
In the performance department, Microsoft has also made some serious improvements: After four weeks of productive use (and even putting it under the load of dozens of applications), Windows 8 somehow manages to perform snappier than an identically configured Windows 7 installation. The log on/off process, launching applications, doing heavy multitasking and performing day-to-day tasks is just a tad quicker -- Microsoft managed to reduce any delay there was and improve responsiveness.
7. Usability goal: Click reduction
Neither the traditional nor the classic Windows UI are anywhere near finished. Yet, Microsoft's usability department is busy simplifying the user interface and reducing overall complexity.
For example, once you connect to a public Wi-Fi, Windows 8 offers a new dialog to enter the user name and password to get online access:
Windows 7 users would need to connect to the Wi-Fi, open up a browser and then wait for the online provider's landing page to pop up.