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Windows 8

Reviewing Windows 8 Developer Preview - Page 4

By: Arie Slob

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Microsoft is adding several security features to Windows 8. While some of these have been added to Windows 7 via updates, they now are standard on Windows 8 (Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and memory heap randomization).

A new addition is Windows 8's support for UEFI 2.3.1 secured boot technology (which requires Bios support). This prevents early booting malware from interfering with antivirus products before they load into memory. If you want to read up on it, read the MSDN blog entry Protecting the pre-OS environment with UEFI.

Windows 8 also adds the SmartScreen filtering to Windows Explorer. SmartScreen filtering was originally introduced in Internet Explorer and adding it to Windows Explorer means it can now protect your PC from file-based attack not just from Internet Explorer, but it will check any file that's been downloaded from the Internet.

SmartScreen uses a marker placed on files at download time to trigger a reputation check. All major web browsers and many mail clients, and IM services already add this marker, known as the "mark of the web," to downloaded files.

In Windows 8, SmartScreen will only notify you when you run an application that has not yet established a reputation and therefore is a higher risk.

In Windows 8, Microsoft is finally adding anti-virus software directly to the OS, in the form of anti-virus capabilities under the Windows Defender name. It looks the same as Microsoft Security Essentials, but is no longer a separate download. One of the reasons Microsoft wanted to add a fully functioning anti-virus solution to Windows is that they see that a huge portion of Windows users never update the free (trial) versions of various anti-virus products that ship with OEM computers, so after a few months when the free trial expires a large portion of computers remain unprotected.

PC Recovery & Repair

Windows 8 introduces two new options to recover your system: Refresh and Reset. With Refresh you basically reload Windows without losing your data or apps you downloaded from the Windows store.

I did run a Refresh (Figure), and on my laptop it took 24 minutes. It did require me to re-install some of the drivers (graphics, WiFi), but the process places a web page on the Desktop listing the apps that were removed by the refresh (Figure).

A Reset will remove all your files, apps and data, basically returning the machine to the (pristine) state it was in when you first got it. According to Microsoft this should be used when you give away your PC.

Other Improvements

I've already mentioned the huge improvement in startup times. While a speedy startup is nice, I know most users couldn't care less: some may start their PC at the start of their (work) day, only to switch it off in the evening, others never do, just letting Windows enter a sleep state & wake it up again when they need it. That said, it is a sign that Windows 8 will consume less resources then Windows 7. So any hardware capable of running Windows 7 will happily run Windows 8.

Another improvement is the addition of a 'class driver' for printers. Just like a general keyboard driver, you should be able to plug in any printer and it should work without you having to locate your driver disk.

Windows Store

Microsoft is developing an online Windows Store to let developers showcase & sell apps for Windows 8. According to Microsoft you will be able to browse and compare thousands of apps. For many apps, you can try before buying and once you purchase an app, you can install it on up to five Windows 8 PCs.

Microsoft hasn't announced a date that the Windows Store will be open for business.


This build is called "Developer Preview" for a reason: it is to encourage developers to start writing Metro applications, and to remind users that there will be a Windows tablet option to compete with iPad / Android.

Because this is a preview, I don't think it is useful to look too closely at details or performance. This is sure to change in later builds - instead just look at the potential and the big picture. I think Windows 8 looks promising and has some exciting new features.

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