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Should you upgrade to Windows 8? (+video)

Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system will launch on Friday. Should you upgrade right away?

By Katie GattoTechNewsDaily Contributor / October 22, 2012

In this June 2012 photo, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer comments on the Windows 8 operating system.

Damian Dovarganes/AP/File

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Operating-system upgrades tend to garner a lot of excitement from end users, both in the consumer and business spheres. That hype can lead many to undertake a potentially costly upgrade before it's necessary, or wise, to do so.

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Windows 8 brings new terminology, iPad trade-ins are on the rise, and a gadget adds sound effects to costumes.

With Microsoft's Windows 8 hitting the open market on Oct. 26, there are many factors that can help you decide whether or not you or your business should upgrade right away. We'll examine both the benefits and the potential problems with immediate upgrades, plus a loose estimate of the cost of upgrading.

The basics, only better

One of the biggest benefits for day-to-day Windows use is the enhancement that Windows 8 brings to the basic functioning of the operating system.

"First, Windows 8 is faster than its predecessor in startup times — much faster," said Mike Romp, a senior consultant at SWC Technology Partners in Oak Brook, Ill. "This is due to Windows 8's ability to hibernate just the system kernel. Windows 8 will also run on any machine capable of running Windows 7. 

"Second, users who upgrade can run the new Windows 8 applications," Romp said. "This probably won't be a deciding factor for many organizations, but the number of Windows 8 applications is expanding every day. Eventually, users will be able to run the exact same applications across all devices, from desktops to tablets to smartphones."

[Windows 8's New Security Features Explained]

Special features, even without a touchscreen

With its sleek Modern interface, Windows 8 is the first Microsoft desktop operating system designed especially for touchscreens. But there are some other cool special features that you may want to consider.

The biggest news for users who don’t have touch screens is the support for multiple monitors from a single graphics card. If you hate waiting for your PC to start up, then you'll find Windows 8 a relief, as boot times will be halved in some cases. Windows 8 also speeds up software installs and allows updates without restarts.

"There are a lot of minor tweaks that probably won’t affect the average user, but will really improve the desktop experience for us tech folk," Romp said. "Client Hyper-V finally brings a real hypervisor to the client OS. The improved Windows Explorer, along with its enhanced file/copy dialogue, makes a lot of everyday IT tasks a lot more streamlined. And then there are the little under-the-hood things, like native USB 3.0 support."

Who benefits most, and least, from an immediate upgrade?

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