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13 Windows 8 features worth knowing about



From a Windows app store to support for new wireless protocols, Windows 8 introduces a host of new features

While home users will have both functions available on their own computers, businesses can set policies for their PCs so that, say, users can do a Refresh themselves but the Reset function requires an IT admin.

“Reset and Refresh functions could be a real boon for IT staff,” says King. “Reset lets administrators easily return PCs to their factory state, stripping out all user data along the way. That would be great when you have to reconfigure or decommission systems. Refresh allows users to quickly restore an ailing PC without removing or damaging any of their data or customizations. Easy to imagine multiple scenarios where this could benefit businesses.”

Verdict: These easy-to-use features will help end users troubleshoot their own computers — a boon for individuals as well as IT support staffers.

Windows to Go
As we all get more mobile, it’s tempting to try to leave our work computer, whether it’s a desktop or laptop, behind. But it’s often hard to duplicate what’s on that computer — including the apps and settings we use every day. The cloud makes it possible to store data or use apps on the Web, but some organizations are hesitant to store any company data on the Internet. And cloud services won’t help if your accounting program is a local install.

Windows to Go should help address that problem. The idea is that IT can load a user’s local install of Windows 8 onto a thumb drive, apps and all; the user can then plug it into any other computer to duplicate her work environment. This is an enterprise process: Windows to Go will be an option in Windows Server 8, not a consumer feature.

“Organizations are increasingly wanting user data and settings and applications to be more portable. Aside from increased productivity for the user to travel securely without a PC, it should also help with future Windows migrations and every time the user gets a new PC,” says Silver.

King can think of other uses for the feature. “Windows to Go will simplify life for employees at the growing number of firms that don’t offer dedicated cubicles or workspaces. An individual could plug his or her Windows to Go USB drive into a random PC and get to work.”

He also notes that it could be used by mobile employees or contract workers who have limited access to company networks. “VMware has been offering a similar product called VMware ACE since 2007, so it’s about time Redmond got into the act,” King says.

Verdict: Mobile workers — and the IT staffers who support them — will find Windows to Go very handy.

The Windows Store
Integrated with Windows 8, the Windows Store will mimic Apple’s Mac App Store, making it easy to find, purchase and install Microsoft-approved apps for the OS. Redmond isn’t brand-new to the app store model: The Windows Phone Marketplace offers mobile apps for Windows Phone 7. One welcome feature of that store: Many apps and games offer a free trial version.

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