Windows 8, Microsoft's latest offering in the desktop operating system arena, is here, or at least a customer preview version of the OS is available for users, who just can't wait to experience the Metro view that presents apps as Live Tiles.

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview was made available for a free download after it was unveiling Wednesday. Despite being a beta version with some reported bugs, the pre-release edition generated over a million downloads in the first day of its availability. In total, the downloads tally for day one was up to over three and a half petabytes of data (about 41GB per second). Well, it does show that the new Windows OS has successfully hit the chord, raising enthusiasm among the user base.

There's no doubt that Windows 8 is different. Thanks to a completely new Metro interface as its primary environment and removal of some familiar elements like the Start menu, the all new Windows 8 bears very less similarity with its predecessors.

Here we've compiled some of the common, yet vital aspects that users need to be aware of while considering Windows 8 an upgrade worth going for. Users must note that it's a preview of Windows 8, and hence further changes may be added to features and the way they are accessed in the final release of the OS.

Push Button Reset

One of major issues that have been annoying PC users is an elusive performance issue in Windows that some call PC rot. It makes Windows-based PCs slows eventually, forcing the users to consider a complete re-installation. In Windows 8, Microsoft apparently fixes the issue by introducing a set of features that are collectively called Push Button Reset.

There are mainly two pieces to Push Button Reset - Refresh and Reset. The one you choose will depend on your needs.

According to Microsoft Windows division president Steven Sinofsky, the refresh function will allow users to test and compare new and old system setups with the help of a new feature called the Windows Assessment Console. It will allow users to refresh their PCs while retaining all of their personal data, Metro-style apps (but not legacy Explorer applications), and settings, reapplying them to Windows 8 after it has been reinstalled.

On the other hand, the reset function helps to reset the PC and start over. It removes all of the user's personal data, apps, and settings from the PC, and then reinstalls Windows to its original value.

How to Find Push Button Reset

There are three ways that will lead you to the Push Button Reset:

PC Settings - Go to Charms Bar, select Settings, then More PC Settings and then navigate to General. You'll now get two options just above the Advanced startup option - Refresh your PC without affecting your files and Reset your PC and start over.

Control Panel Classic - Go to the desktop version of Control Panel, search for recovery and click on it. You'll get options for both Refresh and Reset.

Through Bootable Install Media - While installing Windows 8 through an installation media like a disc or a USB Flash Drive, you can click on Repair your computer instead of Install now to continue on the second Install Windows screen.

It will launch the Windows Recovery Environment, or WinRE that gives access to the Windows 8 recovery tools. For more information on how to create a bootable install media, click here.

Web Sites Not Working?

The Internet Explorer in the Metro interface does not support plug-ins or toolbars. It will affect some Web features like ActiveX, Flash, or Silverlight that rely on plug-ins.

If users try to open a Web site that requires plug-ins, they will get a message on the screen that will give an option to open the site in the desktop version of Internet Explorer, which supports plug-ins and toolbars.

  • Users, who regularly use Web sites that rely on plug-ins, can set the desktop version of the IE as their default. Below are the steps to do this:
  • Select the Desktop tile from the Start screen, and then the Internet Explorer icon from the Taskbar.
  • Got to the Tools icon to reveal Internet Options.
  • Open the Program tab, where you'll get a dropdown menu with the option to open links always in Internet Explorer on the desktop.
  • Check the box below the dropdown menu to open Internet Explorer tiles on the desktop.

Retooled Task Manager and Control Panel

Windows 8 incorporates a new task manager, in which applications will be listed independently from background processes, allowing users to view statistics, such as CPU usage, memory usage and performance for both apps and processes.

Unlike the earlier iterations, the Task Manager in Windows 8 is compact, showing only those desktop and Metro applications which are currently running. Users can right-click on the active application to end all related processes, create dump file, view properties, open its location in Windows Explorer, and even start web search for more detailed information.

While the Processes tab in Windows 7 shows only CPU and Memory usage, the same in Windows 8 includes two complementary columns namely Disk and Network that show disk and network usage for all running applications and processes.

The App History tab is another new addition to the Windows Task Manager. It shows a list of applications launched previously during a session, allowing users to easily switch to any application used before, and view its CPU and Network usage.

Control Panel is also modified in Widows 8 with a sensitive interface that lists categories down the left side and options for those categories on the right. Users can personalize the Lock Screen, manage users and toggle notifications for different apps.

Managing the Apps

The Windows 8 app store creates a kind of incentive for developers to build Metro-style apps. Users will have the availability of both Win32 apps and Metro apps for Windows 8 via Windows Store. Apps are well categorized into groups like Social, Entertainment, Photos, Music & Videos, Books and reference, News, Food, Shopping, and more.

The Start screen shows some of the apps as tiles. In case you can't find what you are looking for, go to the Charms Bar and select search. It will open an Apps screen, which can be scrolled or swiped through. You can also type within the search bar to find apps.

If you want to close apps in the desktop interface, it's the same as in earlier versions of Windows - use the Close button in the title bar, or click on Exit from the File menu. In case of the Metro apps, they just don't need to be closed as Windows 8 would keep them in a Suspended mode in the background.

However, users can close a Metro app. On a touchscreen device, they can drag in and back out from the left edge of the screen to reveal a list of running apps, then drag the icon for the app they want to close to the bottom of the screen.

If a pointing device is in use, users have to move the pointer to the lower left corner to reveal the last app used, then move the pointer up the left edge of the screen to reveal a list of running apps.

To close an app, simply right-click and select Close on the preferred app.