Windows 8

Windows 8
Version of Microsoft Windows
OS familyWindows NT
CodenameWindows 8
Architecturex86, x64, ARM32
Latest build6.2.9200.16384 (win8_rtm)
Release date2012-10-26
Support end2016-01-12
Server counterpart
Windows Server 2012
Windows 7
Replaced by
Windows 8.1

Windows 8 is an operating system developed by Microsoft. It is the ninth major release in the Windows NT operating system line, replacing Windows 7 and later being replaced by Windows 8.1. It reached RTM on 1 August 2012 and was released to general availability on 26 October 2012. Windows 8 was one of the most short-lived releases, and its support ended on 12 January 2016, as extended support was in favor of Windows 8.1. Even though this is the case, it still runs on 0.69% of desktop and laptop computers as of October 2022.[1] It is the last version of 64-bit Windows to support processors without the CMPXCHG16b, PrefetchW and LAHF/SAHF instructions. It is the first client release of Windows to drop the traditional Service Pack mechanism in favor of releasing updates in smaller chunks on a continual basis. It is the first version of Windows to drop support for processors without PAE, SSE2 and NX and the ability to upgrade from versions prior to Windows 7. It is the second version of Windows to support upgrade paths to Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

Editions[edit | edit source]

Windows 8 comes in the following editions:

  • Windows 8 (also known as Core) is the base edition intended for the average home user.
    • Windows RT is a version of Windows 8 for ARM-based tablets. Compared to other editions, it can only launch applications that either originate from the Windows Store or were digitally signed by Microsoft. It is functionally identical to the aforementioned Core edition.
    • Windows 8 Single Language is same as Core but limited to a single installed language pack.
    • Windows 8 China (also known as Core Country Specific) is same as Single Language but only allows the Simplified Chinese language pack to be installed. This is a special variant targeting the mainland China market.
  • Windows 8 Pro is targeted at enthusiast and business markets. Compared to Core, it adds the ability to run Hyper-V virtual machines, receive RDP connections and BitLocker support.
    • Windows 8 Pro with Media Center is a variant of Pro that also includes the Windows Media Center.
  • Windows 8 Enterprise is designed for large organizations and can only be activated with a KMS server or MAK keys. It has the same feature set as Pro but supports creating Windows To Go portable workspaces.

Main changes[edit | edit source]

Interface[edit | edit source]

Windows 8 was largely designed for use on touchscreen devices such as tablets, and this can be seen all across the OS, with includes bigger buttons, more distinct colors, and a more modern interface with the removal of Aero transparency effects on open windows. The taskbar is still transparent, even though it doesn't blur anything behind it anymore. The renewal of the classic Windows shell was accompanied by the addition of the Metro interface, which includes a new Start menu (named Start screen), with a full-screen UI replacing the smaller Start menu first introduced in Windows 95. From the Start screen, Metro apps can be launched, which can take the entire screen, providing an immersive interface, or be snapped to a side of the screen alongside another application or the desktop. The Start screen contains titles for all applications and some can be live, showing information in real-time.

The File Explorer also got a renewal, with the introduction of the Ribbon UI first seen in Windows 7. The Up button, which was absent by default or unavailable since Windows Longhorn build 3670 (except for early Vista post-reset builds like build 3790.1232 and build 5001), has been readded and the details pane is now vertical.

The Metro UI is directly integrated with the desktop, which features hot corners: positioning the mouse in certain parts of the screen will reveal new functionality. The right side features the Charms Bar, a vertical bar that includes Search, Share, Start, Devices, and Settings as buttons. Right-clicking on the bottom left corner of the screen opens the Quick Link menu, which contains shortcuts to frequently used areas.

The OOBE was massively redesigned and it allows the user to pick an accent color using a color picker and also introduced the Express Settings which speeds up the OOBE by automatically using certain default settings.

The login screen received a massive UI overhaul with the addition of the lock screen which displays the time and date, a customizable image and shows quick notifications, status and updates from supported apps. PIN and picture password logins were also introduced. The network button was added to the login screen to allow users to connect and disconnect from Wi-Fi networks without having to login to Windows itself. The login screen also reminds users when a reboot is required to install updates.

Windows 8 also includes improved support for multi-monitor configurations. The taskbar can now be shown on multiple displays. Displays can also have their own wallpapers and taskbars as well.

Windows 8 was the first Windows operating system ever since Windows NT 3.51 to have no Start button. Although the last build of Windows 8 to have the Start button by default was 8176, it is possible to remove the Start button from the taskbar, on builds 7899 to 8102. To accomplish this, a new DWORD value in HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer called YouBettaHideYoPearl with a value of 1 should be created. After doing so, log off and log back in. If done correctly, the Start button should be removed.

Desktop Window Manager now renders using a software-based 3D rasterizer when such an accelerator is unavailable. Additionally, the Windows Classic and Windows Basic themes have been removed. Although the visual styles still exist, they cannot be enabled by default unless the user modifies the system files.

Progress windows have been modified to remove the animation on the top and make it possible to view "more details", including a graph for tracking transfer speeds, however, the older progress dialog box can still be seen when recycling large amounts of files. It would be changed to the new one starting with 8.1. It is also possible to pause file transfer operations.

Notifications have been updated to be more noticeable, as they appear on the right of the screen and are the same color as the current theme.

Task Manager[edit | edit source]

The Task Manager now opens up in a simple view which only displays a list of open programs and not processes. Expanding the view reveals a modernized and improved version of the classic Task Manager, featuring tabs and a bigger focus on memory usage.

Windows Store[edit | edit source]

Windows Store allows the consumer to distribute and download Metro apps or advertise desktop software. The Windows Store would later be redesigned in Windows 8.1. The Store was called "MSHelp" in order to disguise its true purpose between builds 7814 and 8032. The Windows Store would later be rebranded as the Microsoft Store in September 2017 in an update for the app for Windows 10 devices.

Media Center[edit | edit source]

Unlike Windows Vista and Windows 7, Windows Media Center is not included by default in any Windows 8 edition. Customers with existing Windows 8 Pro licenses could purchase Media Center with the Windows 8 Pro Pack until 30 October 2015. It was free previously under a promotional offer (until 31 January 2013). It also can no longer run at startup or on top of other windows.

Display language support[edit | edit source]

Microsoft offered 109 display languages in Windows 8,[2] 14 more than Windows 7, adding the following localizations:

  • English (United Kingdom)
  • Punjabi (Pakistan)
  • Sindhi (Pakistan)
  • Central Kurdish (Iraq)
  • Uyghur (People's Republic of China)
  • Belarusian (Belarus)
  • Kinyarwanda (Rwanda)
  • Tigrinya (Ethiopia)
  • Tajik (Tajikistan)
  • Wolof (Senegal)
  • K'iche' (Guatemala)
  • Scottish Gaelic (United Kingdom)
  • Cherokee (United States)
  • Valencian (Spain)

Sounds[edit | edit source]

Windows 8 introduces a new sound scheme, which considerably brings down the number of used sounds. The new Background and Foreground sounds are now used for many scenarios formerly using separate sounds, such as various types of message boxes. Some sounds have been disabled, such as the startup, shutdown and log on/off sounds. Despite that, the new scheme also includes a new logon sound, although it is disabled by default. This sound is often confused for a startup sound, although it was actually supposed to play when the user logs in, while the proper startup sound (also disabled by default) remains unchanged since Windows 7 and no longer works with fast startup.

According to Jensen Harris, a former Microsoft executive, the logon sound was originally removed due to loudness concerns. However, Matthew Bennett, the musician contracted to produce the new sound scheme, was not notified of the decision and submitted one anyway. In the end, the sound was included with Windows, but was left disabled as the responsible team objected to restoring the sound due to performance reasons.[3] An alternative four-note variant was also produced for Surface, however, in the end it was removed and replaced by the stock three-note sound.[4]

Applications[edit | edit source]

Windows 8 introduced massive changes to the operating system's built-in applications. Many were added and some were removed:

  • The Mail and Calendar apps were brought back as modern apps after being removed from Windows 7.
  • Windows Explorer was renamed to File Explorer.
  • Internet Explorer 10 was introduced. There are two versions of IE 10, a modern touch-optimized Metro app and the classic desktop version.
  • The People app was added as a modern replacement for Windows Contacts.
  • The Messaging app was added. It would later be replaced by the Skype app in Windows 8.1.
  • The Photos app was added as a modern replacement for Windows Photo Viewer although the latter is still present and usable.
  • The Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps were added. They can play local video and audio files stored on the computer and were a gateway to purchase and play videos and music bought from the Xbox Video and Xbox Music marketplaces.
  • The Xbox Live Games app was added. It allowed users to view their Xbox Live account and information.
  • The Camera app was added. It allows users to take pictures using their computer's built-in webcam.
  • The SkyDrive app was added. It allows users to view files stored on their SkyDrive cloud storage. It was renamed to OneDrive in 2014 as an update for Windows 8.1.
  • The Reader app was added. It allows users to view PDF files.
  • The Search, News, Finance, Weather, Travel and Sports apps were added. These apps exposed Bing and MSN services to pull down content.
  • The PC settings app was added as an alternative touch-based UI for the Control Panel.
  • File History was introduced to replace Backup and Restore as the primary backup component of Windows.
  • Windows Defender was overhauled as an antivirus solution replacing the downloadable Microsoft Security Essentials program.
  • The Control Panel received a minor UI redesign.
  • Hyper-V which was first introduced in Windows Server 2008 was added as an optional component for the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8, replacing Windows Virtual PC.
  • Disk Defragmenter was renamed to Drive Optimizer with some minor changes.
  • Windows Anytime Upgrade was renamed to Add Features to Windows. It could be used to purchase a license to upgrade to the Pro edition or to add Windows Media Center to an existing Windows 8 Pro installation which upon adding would identify the system as Windows 8 Pro with Media Center. Support for this service ceased on 30 October 2015.
  • The Desktop Gadgets were completely removed from the operating system due to security vulnerabilities.
  • Windows CardSpace was removed.
  • The classic desktop games like Chess Titans, Mahjong Titans, Purble Place, Minesweeper, Hearts, FreeCell, Solitaire, Spider Solitaire, Internet Checkers, Internet Spades and Internet Backgammon were completely removed, although updated versions of some of these games were made available on Windows Store.
  • All shortcuts to the Games Explorer were removed. The feature and its command line shortcut (shell:games) remained until Windows 10 April 2018 Update after which it was completely removed in favor of the Xbox app.
  • Windows DVD Maker was removed.
  • The Action Center Control Panel applet received updates.
  • The DVD playback and Media Guide features were removed from Windows Media Player. Additionally, the DVD-Video and MPEG-2 Video codecs also no longer ship with the operating system due to the cost of licensing, the increasing amount of devices that do not have optical disc drives and the prevalence of online streaming services. However, it is possible to restore DVD playback support by downloading third-party DVD playback programs like VLC Player or until October 2015, by acquiring Windows Media Center by purchasing the Windows 8 Pro Pack.
  • The Network Map was removed from Network and Sharing Center.

Other changes[edit | edit source]

  • Windows 8 can only be officially upgraded to from Windows 7 on devices using a 1 GHz processor or faster with support for PAE, NX and SSE2, 1 GB of RAM (2 GB of RAM for Windows 8 x64) or higher, 16 GB (20 GB for Windows 8 x64) of hard drive space, a DirectX 9-based WDDM display adapter or better display adapter, and a DVD-ROM drive, with BIOS or compatible firmware and Windows 7 supported and installed.
  • The Windows Runtime platform was introduced.
  • Support for virtual smart cards were added.
  • The design of the On-Screen Keyboard was updated.
  • The "peek" button for password text boxes was added.
  • Native support for USB 3.0 was added.
  • Support for UEFI Secure Boot and TPM 2.0 were added.
  • The Windows Recovery Environment received a major UI update based on the Metro design language. The Reset and Refresh options were also added.
  • The WinPE-based Windows Setup received design updates.
  • The Upgrade Assistant and Windows 8 Setup programs were added for upgrades and clean installations.
  • Improved support for mobile broadband was added.
  • The boot screen was updated. The Windows logo can be replaced by OEMs with their own logo in the firmware.
  • Fast Startup was added which allows the operating system to boot up faster after shutdown.
  • Windows To Go was added.
  • Support for the ARM architecture was added.
  • Microsoft account integration was added. This allows users to link their profiles with a Microsoft account which provides additional functionality such as synchronization of user data and settings and allows for integration with other Microsoft services. However, local accounts can still be setup and used.
  • Flip 3D was removed.
  • The sample pictures, sample music clips, sample video clip and built-in user account pictures that were present in previous versions were removed.
  • The Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, Heritage, Landscape, Quirky, Raga, Savanna and Sonata sound schemes from Windows 7 were removed. However, the folders of which the sound files were in are still present.
  • The Briefcase was hidden and disabled by default. It can be enabled over the registry. The feature would remain until Windows 10 April 2018 Update after which it was removed completely in favor of OneDrive.
  • Certain dial-up networking settings are no longer available.
  • Support for DirectDraw was removed.
  • Unified search was removed.
  • The Windows 2000, Windows NT 4.0, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 compatibility modes are no longer available.
  • The Recent documents folder is no longer present on the Start screen.
  • Creating an ad hoc wireless connection is no longer available in the GUI.

System requirements[edit | edit source]

Microsoft recommends Windows 8 to be installed on a system with a processor with a speed of at least 1 GHz, at least 1 GB (2 GB for x64 versions) of RAM, 16 GB (20 GB for x64 versions) of hard drive space, a DirectX 9-based WDDM display adapter or better display adapter, and a DVD-ROM drive.[5] Windows 8 drops support for processors without PAE, SSE2 and NX, as attempting to boot on these processors will cause an UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR bugcheck.

As a result of the upgraded processor requirement, Windows 8 can be installed on processors as early as the Pentium 4. Windows 8 can also be run with as low as 512 MB of RAM. SVGA cards can still be used, and most WDDM-required effects are now software rendered, although such rendering will be slow compared to using hardware rendering.

List of known builds[edit | edit source]

Milestone 1[edit | edit source]

Milestone 2[edit | edit source]

Milestone 3[edit | edit source]

Consumer Preview[edit | edit source]

Release Preview[edit | edit source]

Pre-RTM[edit | edit source]

RTM Escrow[edit | edit source]

RTM[edit | edit source]

Post-RTM[edit | edit source]

Partner-specific compiles[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]