2 Reasons Why I Am rolling Back From Windows 8.1 to Windows 7

To be clear, this is a rant post from a frustrated IT professional charged with the maintenance and diagnosis of problems by disillusioned users.

This rant is based on a limited perspective that is my own. I do not expect every owner of Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 to share my experience nor am I attempting to influence your thoughts on the matter. Please by all means come to your own conclusions. That said if you share a similar view and want to contribute, please share your pain in comments below.

1. Microsoft fixed that which was not broken

I can understand perfectly Microsoft’s decision to have a unified and consistent interface experience when using their operating system – all platforms with one experience. That’s nice for them. Allow me to explain my perspective.

If I am using a tablet, mobile phone or even a computer with touch capability then I would judge, rate and expect “touch” to play a very core role in my user experience. If using touch input was difficult, poorly implemented or hindered my ability to use the device in a manner I, the user, deem normal – then it is a failure in my mind. Wouldn’t you agree?

Imagine I am using Windows Server 2012 (a server operating system) to administer an enterprise/corporate environment such as managing servers across WANs, updating middleware on remote application servers, setting up iSCSI targets to map to remote storage, distributed file replication, installing database servers, etc. Most of these tasks take place across slow internet links, via remote connections and/or VPN.

Zero of these tasks require touch input now and zero have needed it in the past. There is no reason I would compromise the performance of mission critical business servers or add to the expense of such servers by encouraging a redundant input method such as touch on my servers. It is a waste of resources and there is zero need for it in my mind. In perhaps a 0.1% of cases where it could be argued as useful – fine -“enable” that as an option. However I cannot comprehend why in the other 99.9% of cases, an administrator should have it forced upon, to use an interface not ever designed for use in such an environment.

Loading the start screen on an older server and/or on a slow connection means the entire screen needs to be rendered again and transmitted through the remote desktop connection. The old start menu required the render of a small segment in the bottom left corner of the screen while you searched / typed in what you wanted to load.

Let us consider opening notepad on a server. On Windows Server 2008 R2, press the Windows key on the keyboard or click the Start button, type “notep”, press Enter or click the result.

On Windows Server 2012 – the process is exactly the same – however the start screen displays over the top of applications the user was using in the background (access to view the task you were working on prior is now hidden), the amount of screen rendering is 100% and data sent back to the remote operator is slower.

Being forced to use a touch oriented user interface in an environment where it has no place to me is the same has having an environment that demands an excellent touch interface to use it effectively and none exists. If a typical input method became difficult, poorly implemented or hindered my ability to use the device in a manner I, the user, deem normal – then it is a failure in my mind.

The same argument for having “metro” on a server (as the extreme) is also relevant to the desktop workstation experience. So what, it’s a nice branding idea for Microsoft to have a consistent user experience across all devices? We as users have different devices for different purposes – we don’t necessarily need the same user experience across them all. Even if that logic fails you, why oh why would you force it “on” without the ability to turn it off!?

Windows 8 plus has some very nice features that I enjoy using. But it is needlessly more difficult to use in subtle ways that reflect negatively on my once easy user experience. I may as well install Ubuntu or another linux distribution now. The Zen balance has been offset. Finally, they had the chance to not force it on users, to bring back a start menu (not just a button) in Windows 8.1 – and they chose not to.

This is reason 1 for rolling back to Windows 7.

2. Microsoft removed functionality

Have you tried to get some sort of information about a network connection on Windows 8+ at all? Managing new and existing network connections (including wifi) is now harder. Microsoft had a working interface for managing wireless and took it away. Microsoft removed functionality from the Network and Sharing Center such as changing the connection firewall profile. Of course there’s more.

For example, you’re connecting to a new wifi network which requires certificate authentication. You have the certificate installed and ready to use, you simply need to modify the wireless connection profile. You click on the network icon and can see the wifi network in the list of wifi networks nearby. You attempt to connect to it but it fails – as you would expect. You now right mouse click on it to modify the wifi connection profile to use certificate authentication but nothing happens – but suddenly you remember you’ve installed Windows 8 plus. In Windows 8+, you cannot modify a connection profile until you’ve connected to it successfully. Which is difficult because you need to modify the connection profile to connect to it?

So what to do? Microsoft’s recommendation is you use their easy to use command line tools. But then you remember you paid a ridiculous sum of money so you and your users could use a graphical user interface, not an OS where the manufacturer forgot to implement a usable interface.

Because Microsoft deleted the interface you need from Windows 8 plus, the other option is to download a third party app that does something similar but no where near the same.

But wait, you’re not an administrator and cannot install new unsigned applications.

So instead you sigh, open control panel, open Network and Sharing Center, click “Set up a net connection or network”, select wifi, manually type in the wifi SSID, enter other relevant settings as required, save, now click on the network icon, right mouse click on the network, click view properties, make changes to the advanced settings and click OK.

You try to connect again but it fails. You then realised that because you had to manually type the SSID instead of Windows doing it’s job, you’ve made a typo. You try to right mouse click on the network connections from the list – but you’ve not yet connected to it successfully so you can’t! You are now forced to delete the connection you added manually and repeat the above procedure again without error.

It’s a pathetic joke and a massive failure on Microsoft’s behalf. I’m pretty sure lesson one is never ever intentionally remove a working user interface that every user is accustomed to using from a critical piece of functionality!

This is reason 2 for rolling back to Windows 7.

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What are your thoughts?