What is Windows 8? How do I get Windows 8? Windows 8 is a major release of the Windows NT operating system developed by Microsoft. It was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012, and was made available for download via MSDN and TechNet on August 15, 2012. Nearly three months after its initial release, Windows 8 finally made its first retail appearance on October 26, 2012.
Windows 8 introduced major changes to the operating system’s platform and user interface with the intention to improve its user experience on tablets, where Windows competed with mobile operating systems such as Android and iOS. In particular, these changes included a touch-optimized Windows shell and start screen based on Microsoft’s Metro design language, integration with online services, the Windows Store, and a new keyboard shortcut for screenshots.
Many of these features were adapted from Windows Phone. Windows 8 also added support for USB 3.0, Advanced Format, near-field communication, and cloud computing. Additional security features – including built-in antivirus software, integration with Microsoft SmartScreen phishing filtering, and support for Secure Boot on supported devices – were introduced. Windows 8 is the first version of Windows to support the ARM architecture under the Windows RT branding. No CPUs without PAE, SSE2 and NX are supported in this version.
What is Windows 8?
Windows 8.1 is an operating system designed by Microsoft. Windows 8 introduced a lot of new changes, and many people found it difficult to use. Windows 8.1 is very similar to Windows 8, but it addresses some of the problems people had with Windows 8.
There have been many different versions of Windows over the years, including Windows 7 (released in 2009), Windows Vista (2006), and Windows XP (2001). While previous versions of Windows mainly ran on desktop and laptop computers, Windows 8 is also designed to run on tablets. Because of this, the interface has been simplified so it will work with touchscreens.
An operating system manages all of the hardware and software on a computer. Without it, the computer would be useless. To learn more about how operating systems work, check out Understanding Operating Systems and Getting to Know the OS in our Computer Basics tutorial.
Updating Windows 8 to Windows 8.1
When Windows 8 was released in 2012, many users complained that it was difficult and confusing to use, especially compared to older versions of Windows. Windows 8.1 is an update for Windows 8 that includes a number of improvements and features to address some of these issues. Below are some of the most helpful and notable features:
- Start Button: Windows 8 removed the Start button from the Desktop. Many users complained about the missing Start button, so Windows 8.1 adds it back to the Desktop. Clicking the Start button on the Desktop will launch the Start screen, which you’ll use to open programs and search for files.
- Boot to Desktop: Rather than launching the Start screen when you turn on your device, Windows 8.1 now gives you the option to boot directly to the Desktop, much like older versions of Windows. This is especially helpful if you’re not interested in using the Start screen very often.
- Snap Start Screen Apps: Windows 8 introduced full-screen apps for the Start screen, but it did not allow you to view more than two apps at once. Windows 8.1 allows you to view several different Start screen apps and snap them to different parts of the screen.
- Traditional desktop apps still work the way they did in earlier versions of Windows: They’ll appear in individual windows that you can move and resize.
If you already have Windows 8, you should now able to upgrade to Windows 8.1. Your computer may be updated to Windows 8.1 automatically, but you can also update it manually. To do this, open the Windows Store app from the Start screen, then select Update Windows.
How do I get Windows 8?
Some laptops will come with Windows 8 pre-installed unless you specifically request otherwise. Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP as of April 2014 and Windows 7 as of January 2020, so if you are still running those version of Windows, you should upgrade to Windows 8 or 10 as soon as possible.
College students with an “.edu” email address can purchase Windows 8.1 Pro directly from the Microsoft online store at a deep discount (with the total price being around $70). Otherwise, it costs about $120 for Windows 8.1 and $200 for 8.1 Pro. You can also order a boxed copy with all the backup discs. If you already have Windows 8, you can upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free via Microsoft’s website.
Another option is to download a copy of Windows 8.1 Enterprise. It is basically a free 90-day trial of the program designed mostly for developers to test out the OS before buying. After 90 days, your system will shut down every 60 minutes until you upgrade to the full, paid version of the OS.
Lastly, you can always find a free full version online. But keep in mind Microsoft will not offer support for pirated versions and some will come with malware pre-installed. You will also need a product key for the OS to function.
When was Windows 8 released?
The official release date to the general public for Windows 8 was October 26, 2012. It was released to manufacturing (given to hardware companies to install in their products) on August 1, 2012. Development of Windows 8 commenced before its predecessor, Windows 7, was released to the general public on October 22, 2009.
Windows 8 and its functionality were first detailed at the Consumers Electronic Show (CES) 2011 in Las Vegas. Though the actual interface was not demonstrated, Microsoft’s President of Windows Steven Sinofsky told the crowd that the newest version of Windows would be capable of running architectures that only Windows Embedded was previous capable of running. One of those architectures is Windows CE, the system that operates Windows Phone 7. Thus the cat was let out of the bag about the potential of touch screens and other tablet and smartphone-like features being incorporated into Windows 8.
Windows 8, as of September 2013, holds an 8.2 percent market share, but the company expects that number to surpass 10 percent by the end of 2013. Windows 8.1, the first major update for the operating system, was released to the public on October 17, 2013. Customers with an existing copy of Windows 8 can download the update free of charge.
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