Thursday, September 22, 2011

Features compromised in Windows 8

Last Updated: June 2012 – Updated for Release Preview. For RTM, Microsoft made some last minute removals such as Aero glass transparency and Desktop Gadgets. As I am no longer concerned about Windows 8, I have no plans to maintain an updated list of removed features of Windows 8 RTM.
I wrote the Wikipedia lists of features removed in Windows 7 and Vista articles for the most part. Because each point on Wikipedia requires a reliable source and I don’t feel the need to cite a source for what is the truth, I am focusing on writing this article on my blog instead.

Microsoft Windows has always been a platform that been has been the most backward compatible. We now have about 20-25 years of backward compatibility in Windows. This is what made Windows truly unique and special compared to Apple products or any other vendor for that matter. Apple continually removes features from their products to keep it simple – they don’t want to cater to power users who can effortlessly deal with the complexity – suddenly in some ‘upgrade’ of an Apple product, you lose far more than you gain. This very cruel and unacceptable idea of losing features must be stopped and as a consumer, it is your duty to just say no to removing features. For many many years, Microsoft did not remove much from Windows. This was true backward compatibility, not just of your programs, but also the features that ship with the OS. Most features were all intact up to Windows XP. Starting with Windows Vista, and again in Windows 7, MS has unnecessarily removed many features which they could just have left alone, beginning the tradition that Apple is infamous for. Now with Windows 8, this has taken a turn for the extreme worse.

There are many blogs that talk about what's new in Windows 8 without any objectivity on whether the system has actually improved or regressed, so here's a list of intentional or careless damages in Windows 8 (or features "simplified"). Apparently, Microsoft is not done secretly degrading Explorer, shell features and other parts of Windows in Windows Vista and in Windows 7. Expect Windows 9 to be even more dumbed down. Remember you can put a stop to this if you just say no to Windows 8. We don’t want Microsoft becoming like Apple.

I am not a luddite who likes sticking to old versions of software forever. In fact, I was an early adopter of Windows when migrations used to be smooth and all you had to do was to learn the new stuff. I have done a migration to Windows 7 realizing the importance of a more secure OS, even if none of my feature or usability issues were resolved by Microsoft, only some of them were fixed with great efforts from third parties. Microsoft never fixed them, they just blackmail you continually about XP support ending. Why should I just abandon the features that are there only on XP if they’re useful to me? XP was my idea because carelessly dropping features in this manner causes users a great deal of stress and pain, especially for businesses and power users. This is not just change and refusal to adapt to change. This is regressive change which causes loss of function due to poor quality control of User Experience at Microsoft.
Not many people know about what's gone in Windows 8 because Microsoft does all the damage silently, so please try to spread more awareness about this and let as many people know as you can about how dumbed down (“simplified”) Windows 8 is.

1. Degraded shell and user interface features:

●  Start Menu has been removed. Here's how the Start Menu was superior to the Start Screen:
- No full-screen requirement, it doesn't disturb your workflow and gets out of the way quickly
- Search does not return folder locations
- Search does not return Outlook content like emails etc
- Had quick access to shutdown commands
- Special folders 1 click away and expandable
- Expandable Recent documents
- Start Menu jump lists for pinning recent documents associated with that program
- Frequently used programs list
- Neatly organized All Programs list by folders
- Does not cover the Taskbar and the notification area
- Search results are in a single unified list of Programs, Files and Settings for easy up/down keyboard navigation but still neatly categorized
- Context menu options of our choice not present in Start screen. Whatever limited context menu actions Start Screen has are at the bottom of the screen which means more movement between the tile and the bottom actions
- No context menu options available at all for settings and files on the Start screen
- Launch multiple apps quickly by holding down Shift (Classic Start Menu in Windows XP and Vista had this ability)
- Less items fit on the screen at a time due to the large size which means more scrolling unnecessarily for keyboard and mouse users
- The hot corner has poor discoverability
Classic Shell’s Start Menu is the best replacement (I say this because it is fully customizable, not because I am involved in the project).

●  The menu bar and contextual command bar (toolbar) in Windows Explorer have been removed and replaced by the Ribbon. Here's how the Ribbon is far more inferior:
- Wastes vertical screen estate due to increased height
- Wastes horizontal screen estate by leaving empty space to the right of the commands on each Ribbon tab
- The earlier 'Command bar' (toolbar) of Explorer was contextual, it wasn't static, so all the commands were on a single row, yet had 1-click access, now the commands are at least 1 more click away, hidden in Ribbon tabs and more than 1-click away if you can't remember which Ribbon tab
- The File menu also showed context menu (right click) commands of shell extensions but the File button or the Ribbon tabs do not show these
- The Quick Access Toolbar's usability is poor because it uses 16 x 16 sized icons! (So much for a touch-friendly OS).
- The Ribbon requires a click to activate each tab unlike a menu which activates by 1 click and then you can move through all menus by hover. Thus, the mouse usability of the Ribbon is slower.
- Keyboard usability of the Ribbon is poor because in a menu, the first letter of any menu command or Alt+keyboard combination key is underlined and placed sequentially making it easier to read. On the Ribbon, the keyboard shortcuts aren't shown in a sequential row making them harder to read

Thankfully, the Ribbon can be disabled using Ribbon Disabler but before using it, note that it modifies ExplorerFrame.dll so it can cause untested behavior but so far it appears to work well.

●  The file copy conflict dialog removes one glance access to important file details like size and date which are necessary for the user to make a decision about whether to overwrite or skip. They are now hidden unnecessarily behind 1 additional click or keystroke. Even more additional clicks or keystrokes are required than Windows 7/Vista for UAC protected locations when copying multiple files. The “Snap To” mouse control panel feature is also broken for the new copy dialog.

●  The overlay icon in Explorer to indicate a private folder, which no other user account has access to, is removed.

●  File operations like Rename, Delete can no longer be undone for UAC-protected locations

●  Application installers or apps themselves can no longer programmatically configure, change or query file associations or set themselves during installation as the default for a file type or protocol! File type associations have to be and can only be configured manually by the user from Default Programs Control Panel! The Windows 7 Open With dialog already respected user choice. If a program was associated with a file type from the Open With dialog’s 'Always use the selected program to open this kind of file' option, there was no issue of programs taking over the user's file associations.

●  The Explorer metadata/property handler for some media file types is broken for network shares which means the Details pane won't show or edit those nice properties on network paths.

●  Some commands are missing on the Ribbon which were there on Explorer command bar like Compatibility Files, View Remote Printers etc and others for special folders and namespace extensions. They just forgot to add these to these commands!

●  The ability to boot directly to the desktop and not load the Metro components in memory is not there unless you use the solution by KNARZ (note that it resets the activation status). Items in various startup locations (Registry, startup folder etc) are all loaded with a delay of few seconds with no way to load them instantly.

●  The Lock screen is the place where you can now display custom background instead of the Logon screen, but unlike the Logon screen, there is no way to programmatically change or cycle through a group of images for the Lock screen background so you automatically see a different Lock screen image every time. It must be set manually by the user from PC settings on the Start screen.

●  Explorer status bar removes the ability to show important details. It is now a private undocumented control (DirectUI) so it also doesn't allow Explorer add-ons like Classic Shell to show information like free disk space, total size of items without selection, computer zone, infotip information as it could on a standard status bar control. Status bar being able to show important info just a glance away was a standard long-standing feature of Windows from Windows 95 to Windows 7.

●  Explorer: Ability to enable both Details pane and Preview pane simultaneously in Explorer for display of file metadata as well as preview, or, Details pane to be always shown and only the Preview pane toggled is gone.

●  Flip 3D (Win+Tab) is gone. Win+Tab includes a Metro-style switcher that is just like Alt+Tab, only places the thumbnails vertically. Also, it does not work when only desktop apps are running.

●  The "Compatibility" tab for an application's properties no longer includes 'Windows 2000' and 'Windows NT 4.0' modes. You will be forced to use Application Compatibility Toolkit to set these OS modes if you want to use a GUI. Otherwise, registry editing will now be required just to set compatibility mode for older OS!

●  The AutoPlay dialog removes the checkbox option to always open a particular program based on the file type.

●  The Open With dialog breaks the NoInternetOpenWith and NoFileAssociate Group Policies and is horribly designed. It is a Metro-style floating dialog that looks out of place on the desktop. Browsing for a program not listed in it with the redesigned Open With dialog is cumbersome.

2. Removed appearance and personalization features:

●  The location of the currently applied original wallpaper in a slideshow in no longer stored in a straightforward easily readable value in the registry. It is stored in a hex encoded value at HKCU\Control Panel\Desktop\TranscodedImageCache.

●  Aero Glass transparency is gone and the rich, glossy Aero look has been replaced with a flattened and ugly look. It appears the shader which was used for blur effect in Aero has been replaced by a solid color shader.

●  Advanced Appearance settings which let you adjust colors, sizes and fonts are removed. Although Windows themes and UI elements based on visual styles such as the Aero-based themes ignored some of these settings, some aspects of the visual style-based themes were still customizable with this dialog. To compensate the loss of all of these settings, the Display Control Panel allows changing about 10% of these such as the font sizes of some UI elements.

●  The Windows Basic and Classic themes have been removed. These were the only themes that fully respected the system colors and window metrics (which have also been removed as stated above). All themes are now based on Visual Styles.

●  Due to inability of Desktop Window Manager to be turned off, desktop themes that worked only with the legacy window manager (compositing=off) cannot be used.

●  Sound events for 'Exit Windows', 'Windows Logon' and 'Windows Logoff' are removed.

●  All sound schemes except Windows Default have been removed.

3. Dumbed down/removed Control Panel settings:

●  Windows Update settings for showing notifications and allowing all users to install updates have been removed. Windows Update no longer notifies with a balloon notification that there are new updates available.

●  Running Internet Explorer purely in 64-bit mode is not possible unless Enhanced Protected Mode is enabled which disables all addons. Otherwise, 64-bit IE10 opens 32-bit tabs.

●  Search option to use natural language search has been removed from Folder Options.

●  Global search option to not perform a recursive search initially and search only in the current folder without searching its subfolders has been removed. Search is always performed recursively and the Ribbon has an option to search only the current folder which must be activated each time.

●  Mouse control panel option to allow or disallow themes to change mouse pointers is removed from the GUI.

●  The ''Snap To'' mouse pointer option to move the pointer automatically to the ''default button'' in a dialog is broken on many re-designed system and application dialog boxes and windows in Windows 8 (e.g. the new file copy conflict dialog). The mouse pointer does not move or ''snap to'' the default button in several dialogs which are re-designed.

4. Dumbed down system behavior and administrative tools:

●  You thought the Task Manager is “improved” right? It is improved in certain aspects but it’s also missing far too many features of the old one. The old Task Manager has been completely removed! The new Task Manager is really the a good example of something which Microsoft claims to be “improved” but isn’t really 100% improved. It only looks nicer and attractive but it has serious issues and the old one should either have been kept or the new Task Manager’s design should have been backward compatible.

●  In a dual boot scenario, the ability to directly boot from a cold boot into another OS besides Windows 8 is slowed down because the new Windows 8 boot shell/loader reboots to load the other operating system.

●  Chkdsk when run at startup hides any information about file system repairs besides % complete. This screen with scanning and correction details is gone when Chkdsk runs at startup and replaced by just a “Scanning and repairing errors” message with % complete indicator.

●  Device Manager no longer shows Non-Plug and Play Drivers or non-present devices (devices for which drivers are installed but the device itself does not show until it’s connected/on). The "Devmgr_Show_NonPresent_Devices=1' environment variable has no effect.

●  Security Essentials settings for configuring default actions or real-time protection have been removed. (Security Essentials is now built-in as Windows Defender)

●  MSConfig's Startup tab has been killed and replaced by the Task Manager's Startup tab that doesn't have the 'Location' column which was useful for example to know if the process started from HKCU or HKLM.

●  Many useful tools have been removed from the Windows 8 SDK under the pretext of "obsolescence".

5. Removed and degraded Windows features and components:

●  Built-in (Microsoft provided) DVD playback in Windows Media Player will not be available on the Windows 8 platform even with addition of the Media Center Pack

●  Previous Versions for Shadow Copies is removed. The half-baked replacement is the File History feature which is only for certain file types (documents, music, videos and pictures) in Libraries, desktop and browser favorites. Previous Versions worked for any generic file type in any folder. File History does not even support EFS-encrypted files! File History is supposed to replace both "Previous Versions for Shadow Copies" as well as "Windows Backup and Restore" and it doesn't do 100% of either of the features it replaces! Typical Microsoft style "improvement".

●  Pen, Ink and Touch Input Desktop features which Windows 7 had, including the The Tablet Input Panel (TIP) are no longer included. Some buttons ('num', 'sym' and 'web) are removed from the Handwriting input panel and UI changes to it require more clicks for example to switch from handwriting to keyboard, or access the editing commands (join, split, delete). It is now touch-friendly but no longer stylus-friendly. Desktop tablet features are replaced by a dumbed down touch keyboard.

●  The dumbing down that comes with Internet Explorer 9 and later versions: no dedicated search box with proper search provider functionality, no page title, no progress bar, no privacy/cookie blocked icon, no indicator of Protected Mode and security zone, no status of page rendering errors, no free moving of toolbars, no completed MB for downloads (only %).

●  The "Always keep Windows Media Center on top" and "Start Windows Media Center when Windows starts" options have been removed from Media Center Settings.

●  Windows CardSpace is not installed even after installing .NET 3.0/3.5

●  People Near Me P2P API is removed

●  The good old Desktop games are gone (Can be restored if you know how - just hack the licensing mechanism and they will run)
  •  Chess Titans
  •  FreeCell
  •  Hearts
  •  Solitaire
  •  Spider Solitaire
  •  Minesweeper
  •  Mahjong Titans
  •  Purble Place

●  Windows Gadget Platform is removed because Microsoft wants you to use Windows Store Apps. The online Gadget Gallery hosting the gadgets has also been killed without any warning, even for Windows 7 and Windows Vista users.

● BitLocker has been changed to no longer include Elephant Diffuser, which was used in Windows 7/Vista to ensure that each sector of the disk was uniquely encrypted.

●  Windows DVD Maker is removed

●  Windows Briefcase creation ability is gone from ‘New’ menu (Shell templates) - Can be restored with a simple registry edit

6. Removed and dumbed down networking features and options:

●  The ‘Manage Wireless Networks’ folder (shell:::{1fa9085f-25a2-489b-85d4-86326eedcd87}) that allowed users to set the preferred order of connections or change the wireless adapter for the wireless profile has been removed.

●  The 'Set Up a Connection or Network' wizard removes the options to create a wireless ad hoc connection or a Bluetooth PAN network.

●  Network Map feature and some network profile management UI (setting a network as Private, Public, customizing the network name and icon etc) from Network and Sharing Center is missing

●  Redialing options (redial attempts, time between attempts, idle threshold) for VPN, PPPoE, DSL and dial-up connections are removed. For PPPoE connections, the option to display progress while connecting and whether to include Windows logon domain are also removed.

●  View Available Networks (VAN) UI has been crippled with access to the most important dialog: the Network's Status dialog removed. The VAN UI now covers the notification area icons unnecessarily and the Metro look is out of place on the Aero desktop

●  The VAN UI in Windows 8 also does not display Virtual Wi-Fi (hosted wireless) connections when they are started.

●  The ability to create an ad-hoc wireless network connection has been removed.

●  The Wi-Fi toggle tile is removed from Windows Mobility Center.

7. Legacy features:

●  Protected Storage (PStore) which was the legacy read-only credential store is gone

●  Some Audio Compression Manager (ACM) components are broken resulting in the legacy ACM-based Sound Recorder being unable to do format conversion.

9. Features discontinued but present in Windows 8:

●  Windows 7’s File Backup and Restore and System Image Backup are deprecated. They are present in Windows 8 but may disappear in Windows 9. Again, the half-baked replacement is “File History”. Shell integration of Backup features is removed.

●  Media Center is being made available for this release “as is”. It will also be discontinued in future versions of Windows as Microsoft’s TV strategy moves to the next-generation Xbox console.

●  The command line tools, DiskPart.exe, DiskRAID.exe, and the Disk Management GUI are being deprecated and replaced by the WMIv2-based Windows Storage Management API with the Storage PowerShell command line utility. Dynamic Disks are being deprecated as part of this transition. (GUI for Disk Management deprecated and replaced by command line? - way to go!)
What do Windows XP users moving to Windows 8 lose?
They lose the above features plus all of these:
If you take lots of efforts and third party tools, almost all of the lost functionality from XP to Windows 7 can be restored.
Enough of it already, what else is gone? The trust about Microsoft that they will not remove what you use from the OS is gone. The faith that Microsoft understood GUIs and the importance of UI and feature compatibility is gone. This is not an exhaustive list. You never know what else may be missing. In the new Microsoft operating systems, features only last for few years and then disappear. You can never know what else is going to be killed off and when. They state the Start menu was removed because telemetry told them that people used the Start menu less!! I call it bullshit!! Their telemetry is wrong and cannot be relied upon!!
If you notice more features missing, removed, broken or degraded in Windows 8, you are welcome to notify me. Haven't discovered all the ways in which Microsoft has secretly damaged the OS yet. I am not against changes but notice how Microsoft tries to spin any change they make as “improved” when it’s not. The average user is clueless about what is a productive UI, what changes actually improve the workflow, what changes are regressive. The thinking is that any changes Microsoft has made must be for the better and if you complain about the changes made objectively, the idiots cannot see it.

The OS is severely degraded in many places and newer "replacements" are half-baked or completely absent. And of course the crimes Microsoft committed against power users in Vista and Windows 7 have yet to be officially fixed. It's like a cancer which started with Vista after the people who were proponents of backward compatible design left Microsoft. Their software just gets less and less configurable. They should be sued for not disclosing or documenting these anywhere and selling the OS as an "upgrade" to Windows 7. What is an "upgrade" if it randomly removes options and features from here and there? An upgrade does not mean significant loss of functionality. I wonder if there is a potential legal case against Microsoft for undisclosed removal of features. They are advertising Windows 8 as an "upgrade", not documenting these removed features anywhere and silently removing them, misleading the customer into buying a "downgraded" product.

Why did Microsoft remove so many features in Windows 8, you may ask. If you are a Windows 7 user, you are to blame for this. You upgraded to Windows 7 happily and didn't realize or bother to tell Microsoft not to remove features. Microsoft also removed a ton of features from Windows 7 and from Windows Vista and yet you ignored them or failed to realize that many Windows XP features were missing in Windows 7 and gave them your hard-earned cash. Abominations like these are yet not fixed in Windows 7 even after complaints by hundreds of thousands of users: a deterrent to anyone trying their best to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.

One possible explanation for going on such a huge feature removal spree once again like Vista might be that Microsoft now has to maintain codebases with similar feature-sets across x86 and ARM, so whatever they don't consider porting to ARM is chopped off from x86 too. Other stupid reasons are security, performance, less usage as shown by their stupid telemetry, time and resource constraints on maintaining the feature, to “simplify” it, for battery life reasons on mobile devices, or just because they lost interest in the feature even if people used it and decided not to invest any more into it. Whatever the reason, it results in an experience where the user has to make all sorts of compromises, which is just unacceptable. The decisions behind what feature to cut, what is extremely important and should remain are all being taken incorrectly since Vista.

Windows 8 is not a smooth Windows 7+added value product, it's a disruptive OS causing you to lose features in an "upgrade" all over again. They could have neatly added Metro and the whole WinRT API. Instead, they chose to severely and carelessly degrade many parts of the desktop yet again . It is another attempt at taking over your computer and Microsoft deciding everything about what's best for you. A powerful computer operating system is being reduced to an appliance-like toy OS. Sure you can adjust to the new half-baked Start screen, Ribbon or the new copy dialog, but if all of the UI changes in the OS are for the worse, because the UX team itself has no idea of what interface backward compatibility, usability and productivity means, why bother with the "upgrade"? They are just making changes for the sake of it and will continue to do so in the next release as well.

Maybe the US supreme court can issue an injunction to Microsoft to not secretly reduce the value of its software by sly methods like secretly removing features and then sell it as an "upgrade", especially because Microsoft is a monopoly and its partner ecosystem of planned obsolescence forces you to upgrade Windows operating systems eventually. So if you are a Microsoft customer in the US, sue them for removing essential features from an "upgrade" version because eventually you will be forced to abandon Windows 7 one day because of lack of drivers, security updates and general support from Microsoft.

One thing is for sure. The backward compatibility of Windows features no longer exists under the current management. It's thrown into the Recycle Bin. You can't tell really if a feature you invest in is going to disappear in the next version. Why invest at all in such a changing platform? If they can remove the Start Menu and deprecate Win32, they can do just about anything horrible merely to compete with and copy Apple.

I understand Microsoft's point of view. They want to simplify things for the average user, but how can engineering for the lowest common denominator be the right approach? Every single Windows customer does not want the "simplified" approach, businesses and power users certainly do not want a more dumbed down OS. Why not use the Windows editions to differentiate and make the Professional edition live up to its name?

If these removed features upset you as much as they upset me, and you agree that they are a deal breaker putting a halt to your upgrade plans, then it is time to start telling Microsoft actively to not remove features for whatsoever reason, and develop Windows like they used to before with total backward compatibility as the topmost priority. You should also encourage your friends to send this feedback to Microsoft and make them aware of how this is show-stopper.
Beginning with Windows Vista, Microsoft started including less functionality in some areas than previous versions of Windows, breaking a long held Microsoft tradition valid up to Windows XP. That trend has continued with Windows 7 and Windows 8 (worsened in fact). The Microsoft developers themselves have no clue how an advanced user may be using their OS, while they carelessly delete functionality.
Despite my issues with Windows, I will remain loyal to Microsoft, Windows XP for now, (and Windows 7 for some nice features), as their products have always given incredible value for money. It’s so sad that I can’t get all those features in one single release of Windows. I do not like products from Apple and I will never buy them - they have too short life cycles and remove features as well. Microsoft just needs to realize that they can deliver more bang for the buck, as they always did up to Windows XP, without any compromises in performance or intuitiveness.

I hope there are huge legal ramifications of what Microsoft did with Windows 8 for monopoly abuse as soon as the antitrust oversight ended. Some government, enterprise or their partners or anyone in authority legally forces Microsoft to stop removing features from Windows and forces the abusive monopoly to restore them - there should be an oversight over them so that features that a certain percentage of customers demand are not dropped, ignoring all feedback. Some day, users will forced to upgrade to Windows 8 or its derivatives. If not in the US, the EU has always seen through Microsoft's ways and I sincerely hope it teaches them a lesson. I hope there is some class action lawsuit against Microsoft for selling software with less features as an upgrade and then abusing the power of their monopoly to force us to use it by working with partners to cut off ecosystem support for the older version.

In what might be the last straw for tolerance, Microsoft has also added to its Windows 8 End User License Agreement (EULA), a clause that will prevent you and others from filing a class action lawsuit against them. They know they are committing evil acts by removing features and forcing the upgrade on you by obsoleting the older OS but the US law will now protect this abusive monopoly. For what Microsoft did to your PC with Windows 8, you should boycott Windows 8 and other Microsoft products on tablets and phones as well. Don't choose Microsoft. Given that Windows is so ubiquitous, maybe Microsoft should no longer be its sole developer. Governments should be involved and appoint technical experts who audit and mandate what feature absolutely stays.

With Windows 8, Microsoft has stopped caring about enthusiasts and power users. They only develop products for the masses, who will, I think, happily upgrade and find nothing wrong with the product as long as it gets the job done. Most people don't care about advanced features, or about the product being perfect, or usability, productivity, backward compatible design or any of the issues I complain about. Although you should, if you happen to be reading this and vote with your wallet and not upgrade.

Instead of just getting along with Windows 8, if you refuse to accept Windows 8 as it is, not upgrade to it and tell Microsoft clearly that you will not tolerate any loss of features, that is the only way to let the evil monopoly know that customer is king. The “no compromise” marketing is a big, fat lie.

Now, think for a moment of Windows 8 as an operating system only for fun and games, and not a serious work environment. It suddenly has value. It’s exciting, the Apps are going to be fun. But they could have designed it without harming the desktop. You should resist the temptation to enjoy “Apps” if you want your un-crippled work environment back. If you must have Apps, go for Apple or Android. Just say no to removing features.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pending fixes for Windows 8

So Windows 8 is the next big thing and I like what they are doing with the Start Screen UI for tablets. Steven Sinofsky has been talking about a "no compromise" strategy and mentioned in the keynote how Microsoft has been "listening" and made 1500 product changes since Windows 7 actually shipped. But were any of these changes good enough to make a difference to the warrant an upgrade for the die-hard Windows XP user to actually upgrade? Have they fixed broken or missing features which are still a problem in Windows 7 since Vista shipped? I am beginning to feel Microsoft has lost sight of fundamentals on the desktop side. Ever since Windows Vista shipped, there are a number of broken features in the Explorer shell, Taskbar, Start Menu, Windows Search, Internet Explorer, the new audio stack, Windows Media Player, Virtual PC and the logon screen. This table below lists the features users with Windows XP have that they no longer have when running Windows 8 (or Windows 7 or Vista). I have tried to be as fair as possible. If you have an issue with a feature represented incorrectly, feel free to contact me.

Windows XP
Windows 8
Windows 7
Windows Vista
Workaround / Fix for Windows NT 6.x
Apps can programmatically set file associations
Boot to desktop
Change advanced appearance settings
Windows Flip 3D
View devices on a Network Map
Detailed Chkdsk statistics when run at startup
Previous Versions (Shadow Copies) for local volumes
Explorer: Documented and re-usable Explorer view control
Explorer: Standard status bar control
Explorer: Folder conflict prompt/confirmation
No free GUI but command line robocopy / xcopy tools
Explorer: Set permissions and ownership/audit rights on multiple selected items
No GUI workaround but command line icacls tool
Explorer: Manual refresh or sorting of items
Explorer: Freely arrange items via drag and drop within a folder
Registry hack
Explorer: Extensible metadata property columns in columns
Explorer: Stacking items by properties
Classic Shell
Explorer: Customize folders with a background picture
Explorer: View thumbnails and details for AVI files

Fixed in Windows 8
Explorer: Ctrl+Enter to open selected folder in a new window
Fixed in Windows 7
Explorer: Up One Level button
(Ctrl+clicking Up button doesn’t open parent folder in new window)
Classic Shell, Fixed partially in Windows 8
Explorer: 1-click button to toggle navigation pane
Registry fix for Windows 7, fixed in Windows 8
Explorer: View folder hierarchy up to the top level in the address bar
Classic Shell
Explorer: Display icons from 16-bit binary files
Explorer: Store metadata/tags on the file system for any file
Explorer: Store metadata/tags inside the file itself
Explorer: Operate on more than 15 selected items
Combination of VBScript and ‘Send To’ feature
Explorer: Operate on selected files of different type
(Only verbs added by shell extensions available)
(Only verbs added by shell extensions available)
(Only verbs added by shell extensions available)
Combination of VBScript and ‘Send To’ feature
Explorer: Arrows to indicate subfolders in the navigation pane

(Arrows disappear if navigation pane isn’t focused)
(Arrows disappear if navigation pane isn’t focused)
(Arrows disappear if navigation pane isn’t focused)
Classic Shell
Explorer: Dotted lines connecting folders and subfolders
Classic Shell
Explorer: Display the folder name and icon in the title bar
Classic Shell, fixed in Windows 8
Explorer: Display the full path in the title bar with Windows Aero theme on
Classic Shell, fixed in Windows 8
Explorer: Customize toolbar buttons

(16 x 16 size icons)

Classic Shell, Fixed by Explorer Quick Access Toolbar in Windows 8
Explorer: Customize toolbar button/icon size
Classic Shell
Explorer: Customize whether to show or hide toolbar button text labels
Classic Shell
Explorer: Add a password to a ZIP file or open password-protected ZIP files
Alternative archiving software
Explorer: View images inside a folder in Filmstrip view/Preview pane
Explorer: View up to 4 image thumbnails per folder
Explorer: View total size of files in a folder on the status bar without selecting them all
Classic Shell can fix on Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Explorer: View total size of selected files in a folder on the status bar

(Up to 99 files only)
Classic Shell can fix on Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Explorer: View disk free space on the status bar
Classic Shell can fix on Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Explorer: View security zone information on the status bar
Classic Shell can fix on Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Explorer: View tooltip information of selected file on the status bar
Classic Shell can fix on Windows 7 and Windows Vista
Explorer: Enable Details pane & preview pane simultaneously
Explorer: Tiles view changes metadata properties shown by sort criteria
Registry fix to display static properties
Explorer: View item properties using Alt-Enter in the navigation pane
Classic Shell
Explorer: View network computers by domain or workgroup tree view
Registry fix to add legacy network GUID to Explorer
Explorer: View accurate file timestamps (including seconds) for recently modified files
Change the locale
Explorer: Undo more than one delete operation for files sent to the Recycle Bin
Fixed in Windows 8
Explorer: Show file name in file copy/move dialog
Fixed in Windows 7
Explorer: Associate a file extension with a file type and MIME type
Default Programs Editor or Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Associate a file type with a default application
Explorer: define and edit custom secondary verbs
Default Programs Editor or Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Show extension only for specific file types
Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Customize icon and description per file type
Default Programs Editor or Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Delete file type associations
Default Programs Editor or Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Confirm open after download per file type
Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Configure file types to browse in the same window
Nirsoft FileTypesMan
Explorer: Browse all control panel items in Classic view
Explorer: Load the 32-bit Explorer in 64-bit Windows
Explorer view control: custom positioning, custom ordering, or hyperlinks
Explorer: Position and lock toolbars on a single row
Explorer: Select multiple groups by clicking Ctrl+group header
Explorer: Overlay icon to indicate shared folders
Classic Shell
Explorer: Custom folder view when accessing the folder through a library/special folders
Explorer: Show column headers in all views
Classic Shell
Explorer: Group items using column headers
Explorer: Horizontal scroll bar in navigation pane
Classic Shell
Explorer: No navigation pane scrolling bug
Classic Shell
Explorer: Auto-navigate to folder using keyboard from navigation pane
Classic Shell
Explorer: Keep selection of multiple items across back and forward navigation and after sorting
Taskbar: Separation of running programs from non-running programs
7 Taskbar Tweaker
Taskbar: Floating or docked toolbars (deskbands) on the desktop
 Use any dock or gadget launchers
Taskbar: Click to minimize foreground window when grouping is enabled
Taskbar: Disable button combining
Taskbar: Disable button grouping
7 Taskbar Tweaker
Taskbar: Configure after how many windows to combine
Taskbar: Show number of combined windows
Taskbar: Show power icon for desktops
Taskbar: Network activity animation
Network Activity Indicator
Taskbar: Disable thumbnail previews
7 Taskbar Tweaker
Taskbar: Disable ‘Always on top’
Taskbar: Select multiple taskbar buttons using Ctrl when grouping is disabled
7 Taskbar Tweaker’s Taskbar Inspector
Taskbar: Show all power plans
Taskbar: 1-click access to ethernet, wireless and dial-up network connection status, settings and enable/disable
(Wireless only)
Network Activity Indicator
Taskbar: Per-connection network icon
Taskbar: Double click Printer icon to open printer status
Taskbar: Sound for balloon notifications
Registry fix
Start Menu

(No Classic Start Menu)
Classic Shell Start Menu
Start Menu: Expand ‘Connect To’ and ‘Printers’
Classic Shell
Start Menu: Hold down Shift key to launch multiple items


Classic Shell Start Menu
Shell: Configure Recycle Bin maximum allocated size globally (across all drives)
Shell: Working Downloaded Program Files (ActiveX) folder
Shell: Expandable folders under Send To
Windows Search: Fast real-time non-indexed search
FileLocator Lite
Windows Search: Advanced search builder UI
FileLocator Lite
Windows Search: Index network shares (UNC paths) and FAT32 volumes
(Both x86 and x64)

(x86 only)

(x86 only)

(x86 only)
Windows Search: Perform a case-sensitive search
FileLocator Lite
Windows Search: Search NTFS Alternate data streams
FileLocator Lite
Windows Search: Expand environment variables in search locations/paths
FileLocator Lite
Games Explorer: Customize game shortcuts
Internet Explorer: Fully customizable position of toolbars and address bar
Internet Explorer: Automatically restore previous session
Internet Explorer: Dedicated search box with OpenSearch provider discovery and sound notification
Internet Explorer: Change pinned site shortcut icon
Internet Explorer: Tab list menu button (Ctrl+Shift+Q)
Internet Explorer: Page title and icon in the title bar
Classic Shell
Internet Explorer: Progress of individual downloads on taskbar
Internet Explorer: Progress bar when loading pages
Classic Shell
Internet Explorer: Page loading errors and Done message on status bar
Internet Explorer: Security zone information and Protected Mode in status bar
Classic Shell
Internet Explorer: Cookie blocked and website privacy policy/report
Internet Explorer: Completed MB and progress bar for downloads
Internet Explorer: Download complete notification with only a sound
Internet Explorer: Prompt for location for each download
Internet Explorer: Help files
Logon screen: Press Ctrl+Alt+Del twice to logon to a hidden user account when not in a domain
Logon screen: Select domain names from a drop down list
Logon screen: Bypass Autologon by holding down Shift

Unreliable in Vista
Audio: Output simultaneously to multiple audio devices/endpoints
Audio: Record ‘Stereo Mix’ or ‘What U Hear'’
Audio: Input Monitoring
Audio: Double click to open volume mixer
Audio: Volume mixer window saves position, size and is minimizable
Audio: Adjust per speaker volume from volume mixer
Audio: Select a different MIDI WDM software synth
Audio: Hardware acceleration


Audio: Multi-channel surround sound effects in games (DirectSound 3D HAL)
Graphics Driver Model: Spanned resolutions
Fixed in Windows 8
Startup Hardware Profiles
Hibernate and resume progress indicator
Service Pack slipstreaming
Speed of clean install
Speed of upgrade install
Extremely slow
Extremely slow
Speed of servicing
Extremely fast
Extremely slow
Advanced System Restore settings configurable (through registry)
Help and Support: Index, dual pane navigation, Favorites, History and advanced search options and detailed in-box or online documentation, “What's this" field level help
WordPad: Binary (.DOC) Word document format support
WordPad: Open XML format support
Windows Photo Viewer: Animated GIFs
Alternative photo viewer
Windows Photo Viewer: Printing selective pages of multi-page TIFF files
Alternative TIFF editing/ viewing software
Windows Photo Viewer: Create and edit TIFF annotations
Alternative TIFF viewing/ editing software
Remote Assistance: Voice session and sending invitation via mailto:
Remote Assistance: File transfer and clipboard sharing
NetMeeting / Windows Meeting Space
Windows DreamScene
Offline Files: Command line tools
IIS in Windows client: SMTP and POP3 servers
Virtual PC: Drag and drop sharing

Version 7


Virtual PC: Folder sharing

Version 7


Virtual PC: More configurable options and VM properties
Virtual PC: Physical and virtual parallel ports, virtual floppy disk
Virtual PC: Supported guests with integration components

(Only Windows XP and later)

(Only Windows XP and later)


Windows SteadyState

(x86 only)

(x86 only)

Suggestions for inclusion of new broken or removed features, workarounds and corrections to this table are welcome.