How to Buy a New Windows PC if You Don’t Want Windows 8

How to Buy a New Windows PC if You Don’t Want Windows 8

Photo credit: Raysonho

Recently a family friend reached out with this conundrum: His six-year-old computer was on its last legs, and he was ready for a new machine. But he’d heard so many bad things about Windows 8, he’d confined his shopping to the smattering of Windows 7 systems available from the likes of Dell and Toshiba.

This is a not-uncommon scenario. Even though Windows 8 is approaching its second birthday, its reputation for being confusing, illogical, and largely inferior to Windows 7 remains.

Indeed, anyone accustomed to Microsoft’s previous operating systems tends to balk at the idea of battling the Windows 8 learning curve. (Just how steep that curve is depends on your overall tech-savvy. I consider myself an advanced user, and I still find 8 unintuitive.)

So if you’re in the market for a new PC, do you really have to seek out Windows 7 relics from the darker corners of online stores? Do you have to pay some geek squad to “downgrade” a newer machine to Windows 7? Do you have to just suck it up and suffer with Windows 8?

The answer to all three questions: no.

My advice to my friend, and to you, goes like this: Buy a Windows 8 machine, but pretend it has Windows 7. Crazy? No, ingenious! See, Windows 8 does afford some benefits that make it worth having, not the least of which are more robust baked-in security features and much faster boot/shutdown capabilities. Plus, there’s a refresh option that can restore Windows to a faster, better-working state without affecting your files.

What’s more, choosing Windows 8 means you get considerably more buying options, including ultra-thin, ultra-light Ultrabooks, laptops with touch-powered displays, and various hybrid/convertible machines that can alternate between laptop and tablet modes.

“But, Rick!” you say. “Now I’m stuck with all those dumb tiles. My new computer won’t work the way my old one does.”

Wrong! Windows 8 actually has Windows 7 underpinnings, and in fact you can make the former look and operate exactly like the latter. Just set it to boot directly to Desktop mode, then install a Start-button utility that replaces Microsoft’s rather neutered version.

Presto! Now your spiffy new Windows 8 PC looks and feels totally familiar. You don’t ever have to visit that tile-heavy “Metro” interface again, not unless you want to. And, who knows, maybe you’ll decide you like it after all. Stranger things have happened.

By the way, my Start-button replacement of choice is Classic Shell. It’s what I’m using at this very moment to make my Windows 8 Ultrabook function like a Windows 7 Ultrabook. See? Best of all possible worlds. You’re welcome.

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.


Rick Broida has spent the last 25 years writing about technology in all its forms. A self-proclaimed cheapskate, he authors an eponymous blog for CNET. He is also a contributor to CNET's iPhone Atlas and Ehow Tech. Broida's book credits include the best-selling "How to Do Everything with Your Palm Handheld" and the more recent "The Cheapskate Rules: 21 Easy Money-Saving Tech Secrets."

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