8 things I hate about Windows 8.1


I have some complaints for new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. (Photo by Brian Smale/Microsoft via Getty Images)

I have a confession: I am the lone primary Windows user at The Switch. It's not so much out of loyalty as habit. I grew up with DOS, '95, and '98 then managed to ride XP through Vista to Windows 7. And as of earlier this week, I have a Windows 8 machine -- or more specifically a Windows 8.1 machine. It's a hybrid laptop-tablet that I'll be shortly trying to additionally load up with Ubuntu and/or Steam OS. But for now, it's solely a Windows 8.1 beast.

And I'm not alone. Microsoft just announced it had surpassed 200 million Windows 8 licenses. That's slower than Windows 7, which celebrated more than 240 million licenses out the door in its first year, but not as downtrodden as Vista which only shipped 140 million units during its first 17 months on the market.

But Windows 8.1 can't seem to shake its reputation as the next Vista. And after using it for the past 48 hours, I can see why. Here are the eight things I already hate about the operating system:

No, I don't want to create a Microsoft account.
I didn't even get through the set up process before finding something to gripe about. During the initial start up, Windows 8.1 asks you to sign in with your Microsoft account -- presumably to help you sync up all of your services with the operating system. But I don't use Microsoft services. You can set it up with a local account not tied to Microsoft's cloud servers -- but it's not obvious how to do that. Luckily, the Internet has some handy walkthroughs.

These tiles are terrible.
The first thing you see after set up is the new "start page." It's a collage of live tiles featuring Microsoft services, plugs for Bing and whatever bloatware the manufacturer installed. Especially since I chose to opt out of using a Microsoft account as the key to my PC kingdom, almost none of it is relevant to me. I guess I sort of like the weather tile?

How on earth do I get to a desktop?
Surprisingly not obvious on initial set up, but it's a small tile on the lower left-hand side. Considering that I hate almost all of the tiles, after finding the desktop tile I made some adjustments.


Look how uncluttered this is now. (Andrea Peterson/Washington Post)

Much better. Now let's go play with the desktop.

What did Microsoft do to the Start Button?
The first thing that feels wrong here is that there is no Start Button. Oh, there's a logo in the corner that makes you think there's a start button. But clicking on it brings you back to the dreaded tiles. Oh well, once I'm back I might as well at least try playing with "apps."

Why isn't there an intuitive way to close apps?
And playing with the apps was a mistake -- mostly because it's not clear how to exit out of them. Microsoft seems aware of this issue, because it has a help page specifically addressing it -- albeit as more of a design feature rather than an annoyance. "Apps you install from the Windows Store don’t slow down your PC, so you don’t need to close them," the company says. "When you’re not using an app, Windows will leave it running in the background and then close it eventually if you don’ t use it." But, if like me you don't like having to cycle through an additional program or 10 when you hit alt+tab, there's a way around it. "If you want to close an app and remove it from view, drag the app to the bottom of the screen." This means you're less likely to close out of an app accidentally, but also that you're wasting precious seconds of your finite time on Earth.

Seriously, stop wasting precious seconds of my finite time on Earth.
Let's get a little philosophical here. The currency of your life is time. Since we are all slowly trudging onward in a parade of mortality, it is probably the most valuable currency out there. Every second you spend counts. And every second that Microsoft has me clicking and dragging or having to click past the tiles "start page" to the real desktop is one less second I can use to do other more productive and meaningful things with my life. Even if I'm only spending say, an extra 30 seconds per day doing an extra step or two in this operating system, that means I'm losing three hours a year to Windows 8.1.

The calculator app has already frozen on me twice.
Oh, and I did that three-hour calculation using Google because the calculator app on my Windows 8.1 machine kept freezing up. Yes, I know it's easy math, but it's worth always double checking for things that are going to be published.

It took me at least twice as long to write this post as it should have.
But already today, Windows 8.1 has definitely taken more than 30 seconds out of my life. During the course of writing this post alone, countless accidental touchpad swipes have brought up unwanted apps or programs. Part of this is the learning curve that comes with any new operating system and will go away with time: There are things that seem obtrusive and unwieldy now that will be second nature in a matter of weeks if not days. But two days in and I'm already planning to accelerate my Linux installation timeline.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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