Migrating to a new operating system is a bit like getting ready for a first date. What will she look like? Will he be easy to get along with? Will the two of you be compatible? That last question is the precise question that millions of PC owners must consider on October 26, when they think about upgrading their machines to Windows 8.
The good news: Unlike the painful upgrade that many users experienced when moving from Windows XP to Vista, the move from Windows 7 to 8 should be much easierat least that's what Microsoft is promising. Windows 8 will be backward-compatible with Windows 7, says Microsoft COO Kevin Turner. And PC manufacturers and device makers such as Canon, Epson, and Hewlett-Packard tell PCWorld that they've been working closely with Microsoft to ensure that gear "just works" when plugged in.
"Windows 8 ships with more than 450 Hewlett-Packard printing products supported," a HP spokesperson says. HP drivers will be bundled with Windows 8, and, if you can't find the right one for your HP printer directly in the OS, the Windows Update utility should be able to help you track it down. In addition, HP will offer a Printer Install Wizard for anyone who needs extra help.
Nonetheless, Windows 8 presents unique challenges for peripherals that must work with the touch-centric interface found on tablets, hybrids, and other newfangled devices. Will your Windows 8 tablet transfer print jobs to your laser printer problem-free? Will the advanced features on your webcam get hosed in the upgrade?
Surveying the Windows 8 compatibility landscape
PCWorld took an exhaustive look at reports of hardware compatibility and incompatibility with the latest Windows 8 Release Preview. We combed through Microsoft's Compatibility Center for Windows 8 Release Preview database of known problems with printers, scanners, sound cards, webcams, keyboards, and mice. What we found on Microsoft's site was encouraging.
Of the thousands of hardware devices listed there, only a handful of products were tagged as incompatible (see the list near the bottom of this story). The Compatibility Center for Windows 8 Release Preview gathered the data from its own research, but it also considers feedback from Windows 8 Release Preview users.
And now for the bad news...
Unlike previous OS upgrades, Windows 8 has a dramatically updated interface that will likely require driver upgrades if you want your peripherals to work seamlessly with the new OS. As a result, to take just one example, Epson updated the printer utility software for its Epson nx430 printer, originally designed for Windows 7. In Windows 8, the Epson print utility has a stylish Metro look (see image, below) and is touch-enabled. But if a manufacturer doesn't provided any customized experience for Windows 8, Microsoft that it will provide a "generic interface" with possibly reduced functions.
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