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Windows 8 and Windows RT

What You Should Know

If you have a choice between using Windows 7 or using Windows 8/RT, IRT currently recommends using Windows 7 until further compatibility and functionality testing can be done on Microsoft's new operating systems. Until that time, IRT does not support Windows 8 or Windows RT and thus does not recommend upgrading.

However, if you must upgrade or if you are looking to purchase a new computer without the Windows 7 option, there are things you should know about Windows 8 and Windows RT BEFORE you make your purchase.

Microsoft has released what amounts to two new operating systems: Windows 8, and Windows RT. Though they appear similar, they are not. Windows 8 is the full-featured Windows operating system meant for laptops and desktops. Windows RT is designed for mobile devices such as tablets. We strongly suggest that you review the below chart for the key differences between these operating systems, and verify what version of Windows you are buying if you decide to make a purchase.

Windows 8 Windows RT
Hardware Compatibility Windows 8 will only run on x86 (or 64bit) devices using Intel or AMD chips. Some tablets have these more robust chips, but cost proportionally more. Windows RT will only run on ARM-powered (mobile) devices. These tend to be cheaper but less robust devices.
User Interface Full-featured Start Screen and desktop mode (like traditional windows).  

At first look, Windows RT has the same interface as Windows 8. But while Windows RT has a desktop mode, it is far from full-featured. In fact, you can’t run any third-party software on the desktop in Windows RT, not even different Web browsers such as Firefox or Chrome.

Supported Software Windows 8 will be able to run all software from the Windows Store and any third-party programs that you may have used in earlier versions of Windows.

Windows RT only supports apps from the Windows Store and its built-in version of Office 2013. Like other tablet operating systems, you won’t be able to download any software from the Web that is made to run in the desktop environment. Everything you run on Windows RT has to be available in the Windows Store.

Is it work/business friendly? While Windows 8 is a drastic shift from previous versions of Windows, it does support the tools business users need. Windows 8 Pro offers a Remote Desktop server, Active Directory domain support, Encrypting File System, Hyper-V, BitLocker and more.

Windows RT is designed as a business-friendly platform. Because it is so closed off to third-party software, users will have to depend on the built-in Microsoft apps to do work. The built-in RT version of Office 2013 does not come with Outlook. But include Word, Powerpoint and Excel. A Windows RT device like Surface RT could potentially be a good additional business tool, but if you want a full-featured enterprise platform, you’ll need Windows 8.

Recommended for: You should buy Windows 8 if you want to have a full-featured operating system with a useful desktop mode. If you depend on third-party software, then stick to Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The system is built for notebooks, desktop PCs, and convertible devices. If you want a tablet or mobile convertible that functions like the iPad, then a Windows RT device is a good fit. It is enough for somebody who wants basic productivity tools like Office alongside the touch- and mobile-friendly environment. Just remember that Windows RT is limited to apps in the Windows Store, which is not yet very robust.