OK, so, there I am, minding my own business, testing some new software on a Windows 7 (HP, 64-bit, just in case you want all the details) machine, when, all of a sudden, things don't look or work right. Icons are missing from the desktop. Trying to run Firefox results in a message that it's already running. Items are missing from the start menu. Sure looks like the registry got trounced during an uninstall. Despite the fact that even immature software shouldn't cause such a catastrophe, nothing new going on here so far, and I continually ask myself why anyone would still put up with this nonsense here in the second half of 2013. I switched to the Mac for all mission-critical work about five years ago, and I never have such problems. I also use Ubuntu regularly, and it, too, never behaves like this. The flaw, I continue to contend, is with the fundamental architecture of Windows, which is clearly just plain rubbish.
Of course I tried System Restore, but even after many minutes of clicking away, this would not run properly. It reported that perhaps virus checking was getting in the way. So, I turned off anti-virus, and of course got the same result. I decided to try reloading the OS from a recovery partition (this is an Acer 3830T, so, to be fair, that software was theirs). Lots of time similarly went by, but the recovery software wouldn't install either. The laptop was, for all intents and purposes, a brick.
All this trauma isn't really a big problem, at least in this case, as I only use Windows for certain production apps (on other machines, of course) and archival purposes. This Acer is used only for testing, and isn't regularly backed up. Perhaps I should consider that in the future, but this machine gets re-built a lot regardless given its designated purpose.
But, anyway, test machines being for testing, I downloaded the (free) preview version of Windows 8.1, and installed it just for fun (I do have an odd idea of "fun", don't I?). Keep in mind, the Acer doesn't have a touch screen, so I was skeptical as to how well this might work.
Overall, though - this is perhaps the best version of Windows ever. Yes, I'm sure the underlying architecture is as rickety and unreliable as ever, but it's pretty easy to use. Internet Explorer is still awful; it wouldn't talk to an Aruba 7210 controller, issuing some strange error message; Firefox (on an XP machine) worked just fine here. The Control Panel, Device Manager, and other clunkiness are all still there and haven't really changed since XP. This is perhaps comforting, as I at least have some hope of being able to fix problems as they occur, although such certainly wasn't the case with what got me started down this path. And, on the plus side, I didn't have to load any drivers, and it even found my network-attached printer. Gee, the most Mac-like Windows ever, but that really is overstating things just a bit.
So, then, Windows 8.1 will remain on this machine and become permanent with the actual 8.1 release, whenever that might be. Regardless, there remains zero chance I'll switch back to Windows for anything mission-critical, other than, again, a few specialized applications. I still have fears of another disaster, and a pretty new face is no substitute for reliability.