The return of the start menu

April 4th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

In an apparent effort to shore up support for its Windows software, Microsoft announced at a developer conference here that it’s bringing back the Start menu and will offer certain versions of its operating system for free.

The Start menu, which Microsoft eliminated when it released Windows 8 in 2012, will return to Windows in an update, the date of which was not announced. 

Getting rid of the start menu probably is their worst ever design decision – and there’s been a few!

No tag for this post.

66 Responses to “The return of the start menu”

  1. Pete George (23,168 comments) says:

    I’ve been on Windows 8 for a few months now and finding out how to access applications still frustrates the hell out of me. I’ve suffered through a lot of OS upgrades and yes, amongst many good candidates this is one of the worst design change decisions they’ve made. And I didn’t upgrade until a slightly improved version was released.

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  2. ShawnLH (4,332 comments) says:

    Pete,

    I’m using Win 8.1 and did not like the lack of the traditional start menu. You can download a free program called Classic Start that restores it and makes Win 8 behave like the older versions.

    http://www.classicshell.net/

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  3. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (828 comments) says:

    Windows 8 is the worst operating system on earth and it is so bloody hard to use. May be Microsoft is paying peanuts and monkeys are working in their lab now. I hate Windows 8, more than I hate Labour.

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  4. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    M$ Windows is like democracy – a terrible system, but all the other alternatives are even worse…

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  5. mikenmild (11,234 comments) says:

    Could it be worse than Windows Vista?

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  6. ShawnLH (4,332 comments) says:

    Nothing could be worse than Vista.

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  7. Ed Snack (1,773 comments) says:

    RRM, disagree on that, but Windows is damn near mandatory (in business) because a huge chunk of programs run in nothing else. Very hard to find a full suite of programs in many areas that run consistently on, say, a Linux desktop or even OSX; although the OSX outlook is improving.

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  8. alloytoo (457 comments) says:

    I recently installed Bodhi linux as a potential XP replacement.

    Bodhi uses Enlightenment desktop, in addition to having a start button of sorts, Enlightenment allows you to click anywhere on the desktop for the start menu.

    It’s such an elegant solution one has to wonder how MS could have missed it.

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  9. RRM (9,606 comments) says:

    Ed –

    So, like I said… the others are even worse (they won’t run all of your important money-making software!) ;-)

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  10. queenstfarmer (751 comments) says:

    I agree, Windows 8 (or at least its interface / usability, which is what 99% of normal users care about) is an abomination. I’m happily staying on Windows 7.

    And given the constant changes, my advice is to stay away from Windows 8.x altogether. Maybe Windows 9 will be a return to sanity.

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  11. greenjacket (429 comments) says:

    It beggars belief that a huge corporation like Microsoft could get Windows 8 so incredibly bad. It isn’t just the lack of a Start. The whole system is a dog that needs to be taken out and shot (along with much of MS management who let this turd of a system go out).
    And yeah – I used Vista, and Vista is better.

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  12. ShawnLH (4,332 comments) says:

    Nah, I had to switch from Vista to Win 8 just to use WiFi, which Vista has major problems with. Beyond the Start Menu issue I have found Win 8 to be very good.

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  13. OneTrack (2,759 comments) says:

    “It beggars belief that a huge corporation like Microsoft could get Windows 8 so incredibly bad”

    They got themselves bamboozled by all the tablet hype, hence an OS for tablets.

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  14. Bovver (149 comments) says:

    Microsoft had a ton of negative feedback during alpha and beta testing about the metro interface and the lack of a start button on the desktop version of the OS but choose to ignore it, I blame John Key erm I mean Steve Ballmer.

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  15. Peter (1,653 comments) says:

    Windows 8 interface is beyond belief.

    How a company could come up with it, put it through committee after committee, and testing, and still think it’s a great idea to hide menus offscreen to the right (!), remove the central plank that made windows windows (you have to configure it to open multiple windows in the workspace, rather than grab the entire screen) and remove the main navigation control your user base have used since the 90′s just blows the mind.

    Metro is deranged.

    Had they left the workspace interface alone, and made the Metro interface optional, few would have minded.

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  16. nark (14 comments) says:

    click through a hunt and peck start menu if that’s the thing that’s gives you a visual crutch to the old way of doing things

    the new “metro” start screen is just an application launcher

    create a new toolbar (right click, taskbar, new toolbar -> C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs )

    Windows is flexible you have choice

    Windows 8.1 update boots to desktop by default on a non-touch machine

    or pin your apps to the desktop/taskbar if that’s the way you prefer to launch apps

    or go the the start screen and just start typing the name of the app (just like you could in previous versions of Windows)

    this is such a storm in a teacup

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  17. Ed Snack (1,773 comments) says:

    RRM, it does depend on your definition of “worse”. For home usage I’d put OSX streets ahead of any version of Windows, but that’s just me, YMMV. I could use OSX at work as well if I used terminal services for one critical program that we run.

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  18. rangitoto (214 comments) says:

    The people here at work hate windows 8/8.1 and will request Win 7 if they are given the choice. I think the dislike of Win 8 is mostly that people don’t like change. I use Fedora myself so I haven’t had enough usage of Win 8 to really evaluate it but it doesn’t look too bad.

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  19. Peter (1,653 comments) says:

    Windows is flexible you have choice

    The problem with changing things in a major way is that it creates a time cost for the entrenched user. This user, who works in IT and has been on PCs since DOS, does not want to relearn interfaces. I can do all I need to do with the existing one, thanks.

    What they should do is offer “traditional” and “Metro” options on start-up. Those who want to spend time relearning operating system interfaces can do so to their hearts content.

    Just like I don’t want to relearn the interface of each new car I buy, I don’t want to wrestle with each release of Windows either, and neither do most users I’ve met.

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  20. Lance (2,540 comments) says:

    Agree the interface sucks but Win 8 runs a lot faster than Win7. They must have tuned it up/ optimized the bloatware or something.

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  21. dime (9,607 comments) says:

    i use windows 8. have done since it was released. find it easy as.

    i dont use the metro interface much. so to me it looks like windows 7 but its faster.

    when i want something i hit the windows key on my keyboard and type what i want. done. easy.

    the bigger announcement imho – free windows on devices under 9 inches. obviously my dick wont get it for free but free windows on phones and smaller tablets is huge.

    samsung – they have to pay microsoft to use android cause of patent infringement. OR they can use windows for free.

    could see some huge growth for microsoft

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  22. Grizz (531 comments) says:

    I am probably like most people out there. I understand enough about operating software and user interface to get by. I am not an IT or computer science expert. I currently use Windows 7. I am not a fan of windows 8. People say I should switch to Apple. However I find Apple a pretentious company that feels it can charge higher prices for their products because they can. I have considered upgrading my hardware, but I have put it off until Microsoft changes its Windows interface. Otherwise I might have to spend some more coin and begrudgingly purchase a Mac.

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  23. campit (467 comments) says:

    MS have attempted to evolve Windows to support touch screen / tablet style interfaces and the traditional desktop in the same OS. It doesn’t work. The tablet style start screen doesn’t work that well with a mouse and is clearly made for swiping. You’d think at least the start screen would be gesture driven so that if you move the mouse to the right then the app icons scroll.

    The biggest annoyance is how some documents (such as PDF and URL hyperlinks) open in “tablet” full screen mode from Outlook, while other links open in Windows mode.

    Paul Allen has a few pointers on how you can make Windows 8 work more like the classic desktop windows.

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  24. RightNow (6,798 comments) says:

    Microsoft, keeping IT support people in jobs since MS DOS 1.10

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  25. Kimble (4,397 comments) says:

    Otherwise I might have to spend some more coin and begrudgingly purchase a Mac.

    Or give Linux a go.

    It is hard to beat the KDE desktop for configurability.

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  26. Igotta Numbum (445 comments) says:

    echo Y | del c:\windows\*.* /s

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  27. jcuk (626 comments) says:

    My gripe with MS is that they no longer are supporting XP which I intend to use as long as possible and simply not interested in all the “improvements”. If I have to change eventually I might look at Linux.

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  28. Scott Chris (5,947 comments) says:

    Didn’t know people were still running Windows 8 without getting the free upgrade to 8.1.

    All the same, lucky for microsoft they have such a dominant market position. The clusterfuck that is Windows 8 would have sunk most other brands.

    Microsoft’s Edsel.

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  29. mavxp (494 comments) says:

    I moved to OS X about 4 years ago and haven’t looked back.

    I like Win7 though and use it when I need to do some heavy lifting in Excel – which remains their only killer app for me (I have no time for games anymore). Unfortunately Excel for Mac is a slow bloated pile of turd compared to the Windows version.

    Everything else I have found good alternatives on OS X. For example, I have found a better plotting program than Excel which can also do calculations (though not entirely a spreadsheet replacement) called Datagraph. It is actively developed by *1 person*, is fast and stable, and produces clean efficient professional/ publication ready plots and is far superior to Excel for Mac, developed by a team of people at Microsoft no less.

    The mind boggles at their inefficiency. Win8 is simply another example of something profoundly wrong with Microsoft.

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  30. Fentex (900 comments) says:

    Windows 8, on the desktop, is excellent. But hamstrung without the ‘Start’ button.

    Windows 8 on a tablet is excellent, but irrelevant to work on a desktop.

    Start8 is a superb, cheap, third-party re-implementation of the Start button for people wanting to make Windows 8 effective again.

    Removing the Start button was a foolish move by Microsoft, made as part of a marketing ploy to leverage it’s desktop dominance to try and claim space in the tablet market. Microsoft has a problem that it’s tablet/phone interface is noticeably different (but well received by those using it) than the dominant market players and it’s unfamiliarity creates a barrier to adoption.

    Added to all the other barriers (lack of interoperability, reputation as a corporate bear et al.) it contributes to Windows phones and tablets being shut into a ghetto. Forcing it’s corporate users and desktop purchases through it’s control of desktop channels to adopt a variation of their touch u.i was an attempt to remove some of the barriers keeping them in the ghetto.

    All they did was drive people away from the desktop and make them question why they ought buy a MS product for home use at all. All in all it was a better marketing ploy for Apple and Android tablets than it was for Microsoft desktop products.

    As Apple did before them MS has learned theres’ a desktop UI, and a Touch UI, and they will be different.

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  31. Lance (2,540 comments) says:

    I also have to say I have long used iPads and thought them the best of that sort of the tablet type market.
    But I was recently talked into a MicroSoft Surface Pro and I love it.
    It pisses all over the iPad for functionality and it behaves like a laptop as in word/ office/ file structure etc, not the piss useless iPad OS. Where if I get sent a PC file there is only a vague chance there is any iPad ‘app’ able to faithfully reproduce it.

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  32. tedbear (128 comments) says:

    XP Pro with SP2 is all I’ve ever required. Never installed a single update patch.

    Dead easy to reinstal if necessary.

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  33. rangitoto (214 comments) says:

    You wont be able to install XP on new machines with secure boot enabled. Although some of them allow you to turn that off through BIOS settings.

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  34. JeffW (323 comments) says:

    I wonder if part of the issue with these software companies and their incessant upgrades is that they hire large numbers of people who feel obliged “to do something”. They end up fixing things which aren’t broken. Same as government actually – we would be a lot better off if the government told perhaps 50% of the bureaucracy to just stay home. No more imaginative plans on how to spend our money. Same as in Microsoft – reduced need to change for what seems to be change’s sake.

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  35. Tom Jackson (2,479 comments) says:

    Surely you successful job creators could afford to buy Macs? Windows is for poor people.

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  36. ShawnLH (4,332 comments) says:

    Afford? Yes. Desire? No. I hate Macs.

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  37. Tom Jackson (2,479 comments) says:

    Where if I get sent a PC file there is only a vague chance there is any iPad ‘app’ able to faithfully reproduce it.

    Like MS Office for iPad?

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  38. Tom Jackson (2,479 comments) says:

    Afford? Yes. Desire? No. I hate Macs.

    Continue to use your second-rate, poorly designed software then…

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  39. ShawnLH (4,332 comments) says:

    Barring the start menu issue I think Win 8.1 is very good software.

    Got a point other than Left wing snarky comments?

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  40. Tom Jackson (2,479 comments) says:

    Oh come on.

    If you insert an optical disc or removable drive into a Macintosh, it appears on the desktop and through the finder as an object, which is what it is. You put the disk into the computer. – it’s the natural extension of a familiar metaphor.

    With the Windows 7 machine I have at work, it shows the fucking drive rather than what’s in it (as if I care about the fucking drive when there’s nothing in it), whether there is media connected or not. Worse, the icon itself doesn’t tell you when there is a connected device. I’ve looked and there seems no way to change this behaviour other than third party shovel ware.

    That’s just one of Windows user interface gaffes. Another is having the window menu under the name bar instead of at the top, in violation of Fitts’ law.

    I’m betting that Windows still doesn’t come with a proper font manager either.

    Application installation and uninstallation is an abortion on windows. It should be drag and drop (although apple automates installation now). Why should I have to run a program to uninstall something, instead of simply dragging it’s icon to the trash?

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  41. Fentex (900 comments) says:

    If you insert an optical disc or removable drive into a Macintosh, it appears on the desktop and through the finder as an object, which is what it is. You put the disk into the computer. – it’s the natural extension of a familiar metaphor.

    It isn’t, it breaks the metaphor. The metaphor of the desktop is you see what is on your desktop. If you put a file cabinet on your desk it’s there whether or not it’s empty. It doesn’t disappear when you take files out of it, it doesn’t appear if someone else adds a file to it. It’s always there until you take the cabinet away.

    It’s a design choice to make it appear or not, Apple went one way, Microsoft another. Personally I prefer to have the hardware that is in my machine consistently represented. If it were to disappear I would think it indicates a disconnect between my hardware and my software and an indication that has broken.

    One may prefer Apples way of doing it, but it isn’t so because Apple keeps to the metaphor. It’s because they’ve made a choice, that breaks the metaphor, as they believe it is an improvement.

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  42. Dazzaman (1,129 comments) says:

    The start menu is overrated, love the tiles as it allows me to have what I want on the opening screen….they’re intuitive and movable, what more would anyone want.

    Some people really shouldn’t own mobile devices.

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  43. Michael (898 comments) says:

    Kind of topical for me as I purchased a new laptop today with 8.1. As an Android tablet/smartphone user I’m not struggling like I was warned I would. But it is taking some getting used to.

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  44. Johnboy (15,433 comments) says:

    Windows 8 is fine. It only has one major flaw. Whenever I use it to dial into KB it brings up all the usual moaning wankers! :)

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  45. mikenmild (11,234 comments) says:

    Wainui to lose tomorrow, Johnboy. Now that’s not moaning.

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  46. Johnboy (15,433 comments) says:

    Who are we playing milkey? I’ll know if it’s moaning after you answer! :)

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  47. mikenmild (11,234 comments) says:

    Your up against Tawa. They’re the champions, and gave HOB a licking first up, so I don’t give you a show.

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  48. Johnboy (15,433 comments) says:

    You pseudo Catholics most likely enjoyed a good licking…….Reminded you of school days at St. Bernards! :)

    Us Martians are made of sterner stuff and won’t take a shafting as easily as the HOBM choirboys did! :)

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  49. mikenmild (11,234 comments) says:

    You know I’d prefer to keep religion out of rugby.

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  50. Michael (898 comments) says:

    Hey, I went to Viard – that means to me, St Bernard’s is the very worst school in the world. Except all the rest, that is…

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  51. Johnboy (15,433 comments) says:

    If you support a Catholic team milkey it’s not possible. There’s always a handy Priest to retrieve the soap if it get’s dropped in the shower! :)

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  52. mikenmild (11,234 comments) says:

    No, no I’m Hutt Old Boys from way back and never went in for the amalgamation with the Mickey Doolins.

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  53. tas (596 comments) says:

    Windows, OS X, and Linux seem to be all going downhill. I definitely blame mobile computing or, rather, the belief that desktop computing should be like mobile computing.

    The start menu, windowed programs, keyboard shortcuts, etc. are all casualties. They work great on a desktop (or laptop) but they don’t make sense on an iphone or an ipad. So they’ve gotta go – they’re old hat. The new gmail compose is also following that reasoning: everything needs to autohide, because in mobile computing screen space is at a premium. Oh, you have a 20″ monitor and a keyboard so don’t need stuff to autohide? Well too bad.

    When will the tech companies stop abandoning their loyal users to chase the latest trend? Google plus is being shoved down our throats, because everything is social networking now. Search works perfectly fine without my google plus contacts popping up.

    </rant>

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  54. Johnboy (15,433 comments) says:

    You were still a part of the “Start” menu though Milkey!!! :)

    I rest my case. :)

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  55. mikenmild (11,234 comments) says:

    Just wait till Wainui come over to the Hutt Rec. You won’t be able to hear the ref’s whistle over the rattling of the rosary beads.

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  56. griffith (1,111 comments) says:

    Booted successfully into ubuntu 12.01.2.

    Same familiar GUI I used a few years ago.

    Running faster to boot

    Take that billy gates.

    You can do the fister with yah vista.

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  57. Johnboy (15,433 comments) says:

    Booting into Ubuntu’s will probably get you into trouble with the Human Rights Commission griffith! :)

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  58. griffith (1,111 comments) says:

    opps
    its 12 04 04

    PrecisePangolin

    so the spca or peta

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  59. Kimble (4,397 comments) says:

    Microsoft could have gotten away with not having a Start button if they had simply abandoned the name Windows.

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  60. ShawnLH (4,332 comments) says:

    Yeah, I don’t use it anymore but Ubuntu is very good.

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  61. Tom Jackson (2,479 comments) says:

    It isn’t, it breaks the metaphor. The metaphor of the desktop is you see what is on your desktop. If you put a file cabinet on your desk it’s there whether or not it’s empty. It doesn’t disappear when you take files out of it, it doesn’t appear if someone else adds a file to it. It’s always there until you take the cabinet away.

    Given the way removable storage works, this is a completely useless way of doing it. Hard drives are displayed by default on the Macintosh desktop because there is some point to them being there if you haven’t put anything in them, given that they are permanently accessible. It’s possible to take a metaphor literally to the point of disaster, which is what Microsoft does.

    How often does the average user need to do a hardware test on an optical drive?

    Note that Windows does this with USB drives. The icon is still sitting on the desktop when it is in my pocket. That would break the metaphor as well, because what’s actually on my desktop isn’t a drive, but a port.

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  62. Fentex (900 comments) says:

    Note that Windows does this with USB drives. The icon is still sitting on the desktop when it is in my pocket. That would break the metaphor as well, because what’s actually on my desktop isn’t a drive, but a port.

    Not really – in Windows the drive you see is the drive installed in your computer, not the media in it. Without media it’s greyed out, when it’s a mapped network drive that cannot connect due to network issues it has a red cross on it (or, annoyingly, sometimes because Windows doesn’t believe a drive that is accessible shouldn’t be for arcane naming reasons). But they have got a little schizo about how that works because generic connectors like USB make it illogical to pretend what might not a drive is a drive, so sometimes they don’t. Though sometimes they do.

    Apple chose to not show the drive itself but it’s media instead – which some people like. Windows shows the drive, not the media instead.

    I’d guess that were the designers of Windows working from scratch they’d do something differenttoday, but Microsoft has always been mindful of it’s installed base and always chosen to maintain substantial backwards compatibility because if they don’t their users will likely think “If I have to make this big a change, why not go a little further and switch to Linux? It’d be cheaper” and poof Microsoft’s business model vanishes.

    If Microsoft suddenly made a version of windows as different as OSX is to Windows their users aren’t going to stay with them, and they aren’t going to switch to OSX because their users are cost concious, they’re going to switch to Linux and Open Office because user training is a substantial part of total cost of ownership to a business and if your supplier is going to foist surprises and more of it on you you might as well take greater control AND save on license expenses at the same time.

    The only thing that complicates the decision is how much business users love them some Excel.

    So with Windows it’s always gradual, not revoutionary change, until Microsoft decides to get revolutionary and this whole post is about how they forgot that doesn’t work out for them.

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  63. infused (644 comments) says:

    Bullshit. It was the best thing they ever did. If you know how to use it.

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  64. V (686 comments) says:

    Maybe my Win7 is different but there is a clear category of “Devices with removable storage” which clearly takes care of USB/DVD/SD cards etc.

    I sometimes use Linux but even I get sick of all the rabidly pro Linux advocates when some versions still have trouble finding drivers for hardware. What decade are we living in?
    Linux has failed to live up to the potential more widespread adoption would bring, although I think the community deep down probably doesn’t want every consumer joe blow to be using it.

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  65. nark (14 comments) says:

    >>My gripe with MS is that they no longer are supporting XP which I intend to use as long as possible and simply not interested in all the “improvements”. If I have to change eventually I might look at Linux

    XP has been out since August 24, 2001, when was the last time anything had a 12 year warranty

    Your XP is not just going to stop working but you need to understand its incredibly difficult to secure an older operating system like that to the modern threats/malware etc on the Internet today

    the “improvements” like
    Faster boot times
    Longer battery life
    Better performance
    More secure (Windows XP is 21 times more likely to be infected by malware than Windows 8)
    much better multimonitor and hardware support
    Faster Wi-Fi reconnection
    etc etc are nothing to sneeze at IMHO

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  66. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    I think Windows 8.1 is great on my Samsung tablet. 8.0 was a bit buggy, with one particular bug being the tablet not waking up properly. I haven’t had any issues like that with 8.1.
    I can’t say I have tried the desktop version. It would be a pain in the arse to use desktop Windows without the Start menu.

    I have tried OSX (owned a Mac for a few years) and Windows shits all over it, provided you don’t have stupid driver issues (which are much rarer now). Windows has always been an OS for every machine, unlike OSX which is tightly controlled for one type of machine.

    As for tablets, I refuse to buy Apple. I will not buy a machine that I can’t install whatever software I want without voiding the warranty.

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