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.