Windows 8: Bogged down by baggage

Microsoft trumpets Windows 8 refresh/reset as a feature, but actually reveals bloated Windows 7 legacy code it's carting around

The latest post on the Building Windows 8 blog talks about the OS's new "push-button reset" and what it entails.

I can't imagine a more graphic description of exactly why and how Windows 7's legacy bogs down the design of a modern tablet OS. Microsoft chose to build its new tablet OS on top of its old desktop OS, and man, the chickens come home to roost on reset.

In the iPad/Android world, a tablet reset is roughly analogous to a Windows reboot. If your tablet isn't working right, you reset it and (with extremely rare exceptions) it works again. The process takes maybe a minute.

If you want to wipe everything off of your iPad prior to selling it or if things are intensely screwed up and you want to re-install everything from scratch, there's a simple and fast four-step procedure for backing up to iCloud or iTunes, refreshing the OS, and slapping everything back on the Pad again. Android doesn't rebuild everything, but what is backed up to Google -- plus all your purchased apps -- will be recovered once you sign onto your Android device again.

Not so with Windows 8.

Windows 8 has two options: With reset, everything's deleted and Windows gets re-installed. With refresh, all of your files and many of your settings remain, and Metro-style apps survive the trip, but everything else gets wiped out. The precise settings that remain are still being tweaked, but they include your network connections, drive letter assignments, and wallpaper. There's also no word yet about how the two options interact with, for example, Windows Restore Points or Shadow Copies.

Microsoft posted some timing runs and says that a refresh takes 8 or 9 minutes, and a quick reset on a clean machine takes 6 minutes. Of course, that doesn't include the time to re-install any legacy apps.

There's a world of difference between the iPad/Android approach and the Windows 8 approach, and it can be summed up in one word: baggage. Windows 8 has to bring along all of that bloated Windows 7 code and set it to survive the reset.

Then there's the really scary part: In the iPad/Android worlds, resetting's an embarrassing, last-ditch kludge that's rarely employed. By contrast, Microsoft trumpets Windows 8 refresh/reset as a feature:

In Windows 8 Beta, there will also be a tool that you can use to create a bootable USB flash drive, in case even the copy of Windows RE on the hard drive won't start. You'll be able to start your PC with the USB drive, and fix problems by refreshing your PC or performing advanced troubleshooting. And if your PC comes with a hidden recovery partition, you'll even have the option to remove it and reclaim disk space once you've created the USB drive.

Microsoft even includes a DOS command-line tool that lets you set up your own Refresh image. Quaint -- it's almost like bundling a tool in your new BMW that lets you personalize buggy whips.

This story, "Windows 8: Bogged down by baggage," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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