What Windows 8 Will Mean for Computer Repair Technicians


The latest rumors are pitting Windows 8 at an October 2012 release date. Are you ready? It feels as if Windows 7 just came out, and to most large companies, they are just rolling out the operating system. However, whether we like it or not, computer technicians not only need to be aware of the arrival of Windows 8, but should have a sense of what changes this new platform will bring. Windows 7 has already proven to be the fastest selling OS of all time, and Windows 8 will likely be no different. Your customers may even have their hands on retail Windows 8 systems before you get a chance to.

As a computer repair technician, you should probably take a look at downloading and installing the Windows 8 developer preview before the monster OS hits this fall or early 2013. As soon as the OS hits shelves, OEMs will be shipping PCs preloaded with the new version of Windows whether we like it or not. Customers of my company FireLogic began carpet-bombing me with questions about Windows 7 the same week of its release and you should expect similar from your own client base. The time to get acquainted with the underpinnings of the OS should be right now and not after Windows 8 has already landed. By then, customers will expect you to be just what they always believe to be the case: that you ARE the expert.

Many specifics about the new Windows are still up in the air, but the underlying technology in the preview build Microsoft released (download your copy here) is a fairly good baseline for what we can expect in the final release. While Windows Vista had a rough patch of false starts, like the then-cancelled WinFS file system, the path to Windows 7 was pretty smooth for Microsoft and we can rest assured that they have learned from their mistakes of shooting for the moon. For what we know, some basic statements can be made about what Windows 8 will truly mean for computer repair technicians worldwide:

New accompanying file system called ReFS

While some reports are claiming that this new bigger brother of NTFS will be for the server editions of Windows 8 only, the fact that users have been able to dig up traces of ReFS in the newest leaked developer builds should not be surprising. I’m going to make an educated guess that NTFS will again be the bread and butter of Windows 8 to facilitate co-existence with pre-8 machines. However, the more ReFS rears its head, the larger presumed presence we can see in the Windows 8 ecosystem. Not much is known yet, but ReFS could dynamically change the way that larger hard disks are handled in the new OS, even possibly on the client level.

Windows 8 starts so fast, Microsoft has removed the boot screen

I know Microsoft has promised super fast boot times in the past, but they seem to be serious with Windows 8. How serious? Have a look at the evidence yourself in the video posted by their development team, shown here. They removed the boot screen entirely as the boot process from a cold state is literally now a mere 3-5 second process after POST. This means that technicians will likely be hearing less complaining from users about slow boot times, which is not necessarily a bad thing! Microsoft claims that even traditional HDDs (not just SSDs) will see the benefits. Any speed improvement we can get is good news for techs and users alike.

Windows 8 may be silly-easy to install & will offer Web delivery

Windows Vista took the install process and simplified it. Windows 7 capitalized even further. Windows 8 seems to be taking it to a whole new level. Computer techs should know that one of the biggest changes to Windows 8 will now be an option for web-delivery of the installer. That’s right – the same manner in which Apple deliver Tiger is similar to what Microsoft is planning for Windows 8. Rest assured, traditional DVD installs will still be available. In a blog post, Windows 8 developers claim that the new install process results in 82% fewer clicks compared to Windows 7. Another key feature is the new capability to perform an in-place clean installation while keeping a user’s personal files – without having to backup the files externally. It’s a radical new approach to clean installing Windows which should be very useful for technicians looking to “nuke & load” over a virus-infested system.

A new streamlined Task Manager will be present

Task Manager has always been a technician’s go-to tool for process hunting and memory utilization inspection, among other things. Windows 8 attempts to take the Task Manager and simplify it for the average user to the point where it could be mistaken for a traditional Control Panel applet. Have a look at the new proposed interface for yourself. Hardcore technicians may find the new interface a bit demeaning, but average users will probably love it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the interface will allow you to revert back to “classic” mode for more technical inspection of the items we take for granted as techs.

USB 3.0 support to be included from the ground up

We all know that even Windows 7 is sometimes wonky when it comes to USB 3.0 devices. Most computers that offer USB 3.0 support need custom drivers installed which help interface the bus to the operating system. Windows 8 seems to have capitalized on the USB 3.0 revolution, and is natively building in support for the interface. Microsoft blogged about the inclusion not too long ago which shows off the speed benefits of including this new specifcation natively, bypassing the need for custom drivers. Let’s hope that USB 3.0 support becomes as standardized as USB 2.0 is today, making it easier for technicians to work with large backup drives and other devices that benefit from the added speed in USB 3.0.

The evolving nature of Windows development is hard to follow with extreme accuracy, but the general topics of interest above should give computer repair technicians a good starting point for getting wet with Windows 8. Familiarize yourself with the forthcoming OS as much as possible because your customers will be depending on you when the software launches later this year or early next. From what we know, Microsoft is focusing on a few key areas with 8: speed, ease of use, and security as a whole. Rumors are pitting the next available beta of Windows 8 at February 2012 so keep your eyes peeled.

Feel free to leave your comments below on thoughts surrounding Windows 8 and what it will mean for the computer repair field.

Derrick Wlodarz

About the Author

Derrick Wlodarz
More articles by me...
Derrick Wlodarz is an IT Specialist that owns Park Ridge, IL (USA) based technology consulting & service company FireLogic, with over 8+ years of IT experience in the private and public sectors. He holds numerous technical credentials from Microsoft, Google, and CompTIA and specializes in consulting customers on growing hot technologies such as Office 365, Google Apps, cloud hosted VoIP, among others. Derrick is an active member of CompTIA's Subject Matter Expert Technical Advisory Council that shapes the future of CompTIA exams across the world. You can reach him directly at derrick@wlodarz.net.

Comments (11)

  • Jimmy says:

    My main concern is the reset and refresh feature…..
    It’s a good implementation for the user but not for us….

    • Mikey says:

      Why? Because your income based on specific product inefficiencies and problems will decrease?

      Technology changes, and it’s our job to keep up with it. Old problems will disappear and new ones will appear, so we have to move with that instead of resisting it. If we don’t embrace it, we will just become obsolete, as has happened to many in the past in many different industries.

  • gunslinger says:

    I’m not sure computer techs will have problems with the new reset and refresh feature. Its not like Its super hard to image your system and restore it with win 7 and I don’t see anyone doing it.

  • Skillachi says:

    I remember viewing a video from Pcmagazine couple years back where they ask people on the street what OS they were using on a laptop, 90% of the people had no idea all they knew it works. So Restore/Refresh in windows 8 will not be a problem for techs. That OS was linux which most of them say windows….

  • Mikey says:

    I disagree with the idea of getting everyone to download a developer preview of Windows 8 now in order to get a heads up. Many things will change between now and release. It would be much better to WAIT until closer to the release date when there are more polished public betas and RCs to play with.

    A good example of my point is in this post itself. Linking to a page that shows the new interface for the task manager, which is from a very early build of Windows 8. The new task manager now looks like this: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2011/10/13/the-windows-8-task-manager.aspx – Very, very different.

    For now, in many ways, downloading and playing with it is probably more time wasting than anything unless you intend on developing for it.

    All you need to do is keep up with the related news and changes, and then download within a month or two of the RTM version. People may ask you questions about the new Windows that’s coming up, and if your knowledge is based on old developer previews then you may end up giving out wrong information which is not very professional.

  • AdvancedUsers™ says:

    Strange… a small time gap apparently at 33 seconds on the video that I had watched. Likley nothing, but if you are showing continuity of time in a video, make sure its not broken. It may leave people to wonder what happened.

  • James Ford says:

    >>That’s right – the same manner in which Apple deliver Tiger is similar to what Microsoft is planning for Windows 8.

    Tiger was never delivered via the web. Apple has released Leopard, Snow Leopard and now Lion since Tiger was released. Lion is the first version to be delivered via the web.

  • Ismael Cortes says:

    Hello, my fellow techs… A lot of you have made really valid points and I respect every single one of your opinions. In my case, I just most recently installed the x64 version of the new OS and I gotta say that I certainly do like what I see so far. Obviously there are some things that I don’t care for but this is what it takes for Microsoft to revamp the OS until it works perfect… I think that we all agree that we do not need another Win Vista episode. On the other hand, I generated a ton of business fixing Vista machines. No seriously, I agree with Mikey and only because the finish product will look all together different from the Developer version. But it will be nice to know how to navigate through the new OS and getting familiar with it is definitely not a bad idea. Therefore, I also agree with Derrick. The installation went very smooth and did not take as long as I thought it would and now I learn a little more about it daily. I like it and my client base is as excited as I am. Can’t wait for the release. Be well fellas, stay positive.

  • Bomos says:

    Once again microsoft seems to be stealing ideas from linux distros, if your really interested in fast boot times install ubuntu for free and rid yourself from microcrap headaches.

  • Stro says:

    I see it as a huge opportunity for selling downgrades to Windows 7.

    I set up a station with 8 in my retail store. People hate it. While some people embrace change, others fight it tooth and nail. They hate that the metro apps do not have an X in the corner to close them. I had one of my customers fire up some loud playing song and then lost the program and it took them some time to find the program to get back to it to turn it off.

    Look how people reacted to the ribbonized toolbar in office 2007. It took a year before I stopped hearing clients complain about it.

    I have had several customers tell me, “let me know when it is coming out”, because I want to buy a new computer with Windows 7 right before it comes out.

    As far as the reset and refresh feature, not too worried about it. Features like that will still scare alot of users. It won’t fix hardware problems. People will use it wrong and wipe things out that they need me to get back. And with viruses, people won’t always think to use it or even try to use it.