Head-To-Head: Windows 10 Vs. Windows 8

Windows 8: Nein

Windows 10 is what Windows 8 should have been -- a gentle change that eases people toward a unified interface between two types of systems: desktops and laptops using a mouse and keyboard, and mobile devices driven only by touch. But so be it. It always takes Microsoft a few tries at something new before it gets it mostly right. Kudos to Redmond for scaling back its so-called "Modern Interface" (we still call it "Metro") and acknowledging that the vast majority of people still use nontablets for daily productivity.

To find out what Microsoft was up to with Windows 10, we went to the Windows 10 Technical Preview site, and loaded the latest 32-bit build into a Fusion VM on Mac OS X Mavericks. Some of what we found looked quite Mac-like. Here's a look at the 10 important differences between Windows 8 and Windows 10, which is set for release in mid-2015.

For more on Microsoft's latest OS, check out the rest of CRN's Windows 10 coverage.

Start Menu

Yes, the Start Menu is back, and it's for real this time. It's shown here with a small version of the Windows-8-style Start Screen and its Live Tiles glued onto the side. More on the Tiles section later. At the left side starting from the top is the current user's login ID and the system power button (for sleep, restart or shutdown). Below that is a list of recently used apps that's populated by Windows based on user activity. Below that is a list of apps that can be populated by the user. When a small arrow appears next to an app in either section, clicking on it brings up a list of local files recently opened by that app.

Start-Menu Tiles

For people using a keyboard and mouse, the placement of Tiles next to the Windows 10 Start Menu has more potential for productivity enhancement than having to look for them on some other screen. Windows will display a prompt to enable "Tablet Mode" when it detects that only touch inputs are present and to disable it when nontouch inputs return. This might happen when disconnecting and reconnecting a Surface keyboard, for example. Tablet Mode uses the Start Screen as the default instead of the Desktop, which can be manually toggled in the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties Control Panel.

Task View

Windows 10 now provides multiple desktops in which to launch apps and open files, an obvious nod to Mac OS X. To get there, a new Task View mode is activated by a button on the Taskbar or by swiping in from the left. Eerily like Mac OS X's Mission Control, Task View displays shrunken versions of all running apps across the center of the screen and a row of desktop thumbnails across the bottom (Apple's appear at the top). Clicking on an image brings up that app or desktop. As in Apple's Dock, running apps are highlighted in the Windows 10 Taskbar regardless of which desktop they're running in.

Search Bar

Web-based results (found by Bing) are shown at the top and, if clicked, are displayed using Internet Explorer (version 11 was included in the build we tested) or the default browser, if different. By the way, selecting the top choice after a search for "command" brought us to "command.com," a 3M company that makes wall hangers.

OneDrive Prompt

Taking another queue from Apple, Microsoft during the installation of Windows 10 alerts the installer that some data on the target system will be automatically backed up to the user's free OneDrive account, and that any new documents will be saved there by default. As with prior versions, files also can be saved locally by enabling offline files in the Sync Center Control Panel.

Quad View

"Auto-docking" of windows has been around since Windows 7; dragging a window "off the screen" snaps it into full- or half-screen sizes automatically. Windows 10 adds a quarter-screen option; dragging a window into any of the screen's four corners will park it in that quarter of the display. After a second app window is auto-docked, a Snap Assist feature presents thumbnails of other running app windows (shown) as if to suggest how to fill the remaining corners. When all open windows are minimized, hovering over a window in the Taskbar Preview shows the associated window on the Desktop. In an apparent bug in the beta we tested, one app disappears when any other app is brought up from Preview. Snapped windows are still resizeable.

It's All Windows

On Windows 10 systems that disable the Start Screen, Metro-style apps will launch in a window like the one shown. In full-screen mode, these apps will retain their title bar. The Start Screen can be toggled manually in the Taskbar and Start Menu Properties Control Panel (inset) or activated when entering Tablet Mode.

No Metro

Some of the criticism we came across on the Microsoft Win10 Discussion Forum centered around the fact that the new version doesn't completely purge Metro from the face of the Earth. "Your attempt to fool us with this current start menu has, sadly for you, failed miserably," posted one angry Win10 tester. In response, another tester suggested simply removing all the tiles from the Start menu (shown). While this does rid the desktop of the most obvious Metro remnant, Metro apps continue to still look like Metro apps and anger some people.


Microsoft claims that Win10 will be more focused on the needs of business, including better protections for data and user identity, and simplified development and management options. This includes the elimination of "wipe-and-reload" scenarios using existing management infrastructure, according to a Windows 10 introduction page. Redmond also is planning to build mobile device management capabilities right into the operating system.

One Windows

Microsoft wants to make the one operating system to rule them all. When Windows 10 is released some time next year, the company said that it will be suitable for controlling devices from the tiniest sensor to the largest enterprise server, with and without a display using inputs and outputs of every imaginable variety. Although we understand the philosophy of a consistent UI, it's unclear how a single kernel could be implemented across such a diversity of devices and their commensurate power and peripheral requirements. It seems a tall order, but Redmond engineers have surprised us before.