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Guide: How to know if your computer can handle Windows 8

Upgrading to a new operating system is almost like preparing for a date. What will he or she look like? Will the personal chemistry match? How compatible are we with each other?

The last question is probably the one that millions of Windows users are asking themselves right now when it comes to Windows 8. The good news is that if you’re running Windows 7 today, the transition to Windows 8 will be relatively painless. At least if we are to believe Microsoft.

According to Microsoft, Windows 8 will be fully backwards compatible with Windows 7, and the largest third-party manufacturers such as Canon, Epson and HP state that they worked closely with Microsoft to ensure that everything “just works” after the upgrade.

No matter what they say, there are always things that cause problems. Since there are so many accessories and programs for Windows, it is impossible that all of them will work right from the start. However, there are ways to avoid any problems.

Check compatibility

We’ve reviewed reports of known hardware issues with Windows 8 and also vacuumed Microsoft’s Windows 8 Compatibility Center, which offers a database of known issues with printers, scanners, sound cards, webcams, keyboards, and mice. What we found was actually encouraging.

microsoft test lab
Microsoft’s printer test lab.

Of all the thousands of products listed in Microsoft’s compatibility center, there were only a handful of products that are not compatible with Windows 8. The information comes from Microsoft’s own test center as well as reports from users who have been involved in testing the new operating system.

On to the bad news

Unlike previous upgrades, Windows 8 has a new interface that will likely require driver updates for many products if you want them to work seamlessly.

An example of that is the driver for one of Epson’s printers that is updated and adapted for Windows 8. Should the driver not be adapted for Windows 8, Microsoft will offer a general driver that probably does not offer all the functions and settings that should be in the original driver.

drivers windows 8
Epson’s own driver on the left and Microsoft’s general driver on the right.

If you have accessories from the big companies, there is less risk of you encountering problems as most have already updated their drivers. If, on the other hand, you have an accessory from a smaller company, the risk is greater that you may encounter problems. There are also no guarantees that the smaller companies will ever update their drivers for older and perhaps less popular products.

Before upgrading from Windows 7

Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant If you are planning to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Microsoft has released a small tool that analyzes your computer and checks if any major problems may occur. The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant tells you if it finds hardware that won’t work in Windows 8.

The tool is available through the browser if you purchase Windows 8 from the Microsoft website.

Warning to those who want to be first out

Desktop users will probably encounter less problems compared to laptop users. The reason is that manufacturers of laptops tend to exercise more control over the drivers that are released. Especially graphics cards for laptops can be a problem for many. This problem can affect even relatively new laptops as laptop manufacturers are known to be slow with new drivers.

If you are at all unsure whether any of your accessories will work or not in Windows 8, you should wait to upgrade and contact the manufacturer to confirm that there are no problems. Many of us are eager to upgrade to a new operating system as soon as it’s released, but it might be a good idea to wait until you know everything will work as it should.

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