One look at Windows 8 and you will realise it is very different to any of Microsoft's previous operating systems. Here are 20 key new features, improvements and additions
1 Windows Store
With Apple making a great success of its App Store on Macs and iOS devices, the inclusion of an integrated online store in Windows 8 isn’t a massive surprise. Microsoft’s Windows Store is an easy way to access free and paid-for software. So-called digital distribution (where you download software directly rather than buying a physical disc) means people can get instant access to apps and software, and use free trials. Many Windows 8 apps are designed to be used by swiping gestures on touchscreen devices, but most will work just as well with a mouse and keyboard.
2 Microsoft account integration
You can sign in to Windows 8 and Microsoft’s online cloud services using a Microsoft account. If you use this account on several Windows 8 devices, you can sync the same settings and preferences on each gadget. You can also sync themes, browser favourites, apps, files, folders and contacts, including people in your Hotmail contacts list, Facebook friends, people you follow on Twitter and more.
Watch: Windows 8 video guides
3 Internet Explorer 10
Microsoft’s web browser has come in for its fair share of criticism over the years, but the latest version has some useful features. For the first time ever Microsoft has opted to use a ‘do not track’ feature that is enabled by default. Websites that sign up to the system – which is becoming more widely used – won’t be able to display targeted advertising and follow your activities across the internet. This tactic is used by some websites and advertising networks, and has been cause for concern with some web users. Elsewhere, Internet Explorer 10 is a clean, easy-to-use and fast browser.
4 Family Safety
Keeping children safe when using the computer has been made easier in Windows 8. The Family Safety feature is tucked away in the Settings menu of the operating system. Most importantly, it allows certain applications, features and options to be disabled on a child’s account. It also includes support for web filtering and can block games with certain age ratings from the Windows Store. Reports can also be created for an account, and these can be sent to your email inbox. A weekly report can show which websites have been visited, what a child has been searching for, how long they’ve been using the computer, and more.
5 Virus protection
Windows users are now protected from viruses and other malicious software, right from the start. Windows Defender in Windows 8 combines the features of the Windows Defender found in Windows 7 with those of Microsoft’s once-separate Security Essentials software. It is still a lightweight security solution, but many free Windows 8-compatible security products are becoming available from the usual third parties. To avoid falling foul of antitrust laws, Microsoft disables Windows Defender if any other comparable security software is installed.
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