Five Windows 8 features that could benefit your business


Date: 25 October 2012

Windows 8 logoWindows 8 is here. Well, just about. The launch event takes place this afternoon, and the good folk over at PC Pro are covering the whole thing via their live blog.

Although the launch is today, it's a fair bet that many companies will put off upgrading their computers to Windows 8. Historically, it's been a good idea to let Microsoft iron out any teething problems first. (If they're happy with Windows 7, plenty of companies will probably hold off for Windows 9.)

Key Windows 8 features

As with any new software, there are lots of new features. Most obvious - and controversial - is the new interface.

It's bye-bye to the Start menu, and a distinct relegation for the desktop, which is to be replaced by a touch screen-inspired interface. We wrote about this a week or so back.

But there are lots of other changes too. Here are five of the most important:

1. Live tiles

What is it?

This is part of that famous new interface, once dubbed Metro, now being referred to simply as the Windows 8 user interface (snappy, eh?).

The key change is that your desktop is replaced by a screen of tiles. You can click them to launch apps, but they can also show information in real-time.

Emails, diary appointments, tweets, Facebook updates, web analytics - live tiles could be like a dashboard for your business.

Is it any use?

Yes, abosolutely. It can be an at-a-glance guide to all the things that matter to you. That's assuming you decide to opt for the new interface and don't just switch it off in favour of the old-fashioned desktop, of course.

2. Windows To Go

What is it?

Effectively, Windows To Go lets you carry your computer on a USB memory stick. Just pop it into another PC and your desktop will open, complete with all your programs, files and everything.

You'll need to be signed up for a Microsoft Account for it to work propery, because Windows To Go will need to transfer files and settings to the PC you're using over the internet. But the idea is you can pop your USB drive into a PC - almost any PC - fire it up and start working with your usual desktop.

Is it any use?

If could be good for a business that wants to let employees use their home PCs for work. It should be an effective way to keep personal and business data separated in that scenario.

But I think take-up will be limited outside the IT professional market. Many firms will just prefer to issue laptops to staff.

3. Secure boot and built in anti-virus

What is it?

Microsoft is ramping up security, adding a new start-up procedure which blocks viruses from running the moment a PC starts up. Windows 8 will also come with integrated security software, so many companies will feel they can do without third-party security software.

It should all add up to an operating system that's safer from viruses and other threats.

Is it any use?

At face value, yes. The only slight worry is that if everyone ditches third-party security software, life might become easier for the creators of computer viruses, because they'll only have to worry about getting round a single security package.

4. Restore PC

What is it?

If your computer's suffering problems or running slowly, this feature makes it much easier to revert to a clean copy of Windows without deleting your data and files in the process.

Is it any use?

If you've ever wasted the best part of a day wiping your computer, reinstalling Windows and then restoring all your software, you'll appreciate this. Of course, if you take good care of your computer and don't install stuff willy-nilly then you shouldn't have to use it.

5. Faster boot times

What is it?

Microsoft has changed the way Windows starts, claiming that Windows 8 takes up to 70% less time to start up than Windows 7.

Is it any use?

It's not going to have you lining up to upgrade, but if it stops those 'I'll just go and have a cup of coffee' moments as you wait for your computer to start up in the morning then it'll certainly have benefits.

There are, inevitably, lots of other improvements and changes to Windows 8. More information is available over on the Microsoft website (along with an intriguing picture of a bearded man next to a giant floating tablet computer).

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