Re: With 8.1 you barely have to use the "touch interface" if you don't want to
> With 8.1 you barely have to use the "touch interface" if you don't want to
Actually... a few weeks ago I've purchased an entry-level Acer notebook for my kid, with Windows 8 ex works. It was in an after-Xmas sale, and was quite a bargain. A haswell Celeron with 8 GB of RAM... I'm a PC techie, so I know exactly what I'm buying.
Even before I bought that, I knew that I would try to massage Windows 8 (after an upgrade to 8.1) into looking like XP.
The first thing I tried to solve was... get rid of Acer's recovery partitions (like 35 GB total) and repartition the drive to be ~100 GB for the system and the rest for user data. I prefer to handle system backup in my own way, using external storage - and I prefer being able to restore onto a clean drive from the backup. So it took me a while to build an image of WinPE on a USB thumb drive, as a platform for Ghost... from there it was a piece of cake to learn to rebuild the BCD on the EFI partition (typically hidden). Ghost conveniently only backed up the EFI and system partition, and ignored the ACER crud altogether :-)
Not counting the learning process, it took me maybe 3 days almost net time to achieve my goal = to have lean and clean Win 8.1 with XP-ish look and feel. The steps were approximately:
1) uninstall all Acer garbage (leaving only the necessary support for custom keys and the like)
2) update Windows 8 with all available updates
3) clean up other misc garbage, the most noteworthy of which was the WinSXS directory. I did this using DISM.EXE still in Windows 8, which was possibly a mistake. The "component install service" in the background (or watever it's called) tended to eat a whole CPU core doing nothing... but after several hours and like three reboots it was finally finished. I later found out that it probably had a bug in Win8 and was a breeze if done in Windows 8.1... BTW, I managed to reduce WinSXS from 13.8 GB down to 5.6 GB (in several steps)... and, the system backup size dropped from 12 TB down to 6 GB :-)
4) upgrade to Windows 8.1. This also took surprisingly long. It felt like a full Windows reinstall. The installer asked for several reboots, and the percentage counter (ex-hourglass) actually wrapped around several times... it kept saying funny things like "finishing installation", "configuring your system", "registering components", "configuring user settings", "configuring some other stuff" (literally, no kidding!) but finally it was finished...
5) more crapectomy (delete stuff left over from Win8 etc.)
6) install Classic Shell, adjust window border padding, create a "god mode" folder (only to find out that it's actually pretty useless), install kLED as a soft CapsLock+NumLock indicator (the Acer NTB lacks CapsLock+NumLock LEDs), replace the ludicrous pre-logon wallpaper, get rid of some other user interface nonsense...
Somewhere inbeteween I did a total of three backups: one almost ex works, another with a clean install of Windows 8.1 (after basic post-install cleanup), and one last backup of the fully customized install, just a snapshot of the system partition stored on the data partition (for a quick rollback if the kids mess up the system).
It looks and even works (at a basic level) as Windows XP. Some aspects of the user inteface work slightly different - such as, the Windows now dock to screen edges. No problem there. Even when I install some software whose installer expects the old style start menu, the installer still creates its subfolders in the ClassicStartMenu (technically alien to Windows 8) - great job there.
But: the control panels are still Windows 8 style = bloated and incomprehensible, if you're looking for something that was "right there" in Windows XP. The search tool is still absent from the explorer's context menus - you have to use the global search box in the upper end of the Win8 sidebar. The dialogs that you need to deal with when occasionally fiddling with file privileges are just as ugly as they ever have been (they weren't much nicer in XP before the UAC kicked in in Vista).
I'm wondering if I should keep the Windows 8.1 start button, only to have that nifty admin menu on the right mouse button. The left button = direct access to the start screen (even with smaller icons) is little use to me.
There's one last strange quirk, apparently down to the hyper-intelligent touchpad: upon a certain gesture, possibly by sweeping your finger straight across the touchpad horizontally, the Win8 sidebar jumps out and also the big floating date and time appears - and they just glare at you. This typically happens to me unintentionally - and whatever I was doing at the moment gets blocked away by this transparent Win8 decoration. It is disturbing - I have to switch my mental gears and get out of that Windows 8 shrinkwrap to get to work again... I hope it will be as easy as disabling all the intelligence in the touchpad control panel. For the moment I cannot do away with the Win8 sidebar entirely (even if this was possible) because I still need it now and then...
Some of the control panels are metro-only - and THEY ARE A MESS! There's no "apply" button... it's disturbing to me that I cannot explicitly commit the changes I do, or roll back in a harmless way. Typically when I happen to launch some Metro panel by mistake, I immediately kill the ugly pointless beast using Alt+F4. Thanks god at least that still works.
The new-generation start screen with mid-size icons is not a proper Start menu replacement. For one thing, the contents are not the same. Legacy software installs into the classic start menu, but its icons don't appear in the 8.1 start screen. And vice versa. The new start screen with small icons is better than the endless Metro chocolate bar of Windows 8, but still a piece of crap.
I hope my trusty old Acer that I use daily at work (XP-based) survives until Windows 9 - by then I'll have a chance to decide for myself, whether Windows 9 is back on track in the right direction, or what my next step is. If this is everybody's mindset, it's not surprising at all that Windows 8 don't sell.