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It's pretty easy to install something like Classic Shell (or one of the free equivalents) on Win 8 and in my experience (rolling out Win 8 Pro company-wide to almost 60 users) there have been almost zero complaints about Win 8 when Classic Shell is enabled. If you try to give somebody Win 8 without a start button, though, roughly 100% of people say "What the f*ck is this crap? I can't use this!"
Maybe a slight exaggeration, but not by much.
I think you might have read something about the limit to the number of multitasking Metro (full-screen touch-interface) apps, not Windows programs. MS would be insane to limit the number of Windows programs you can run at once.
In fact, the number of Metro apps you can run at once increased with Win 8.1 from Win 8.0.
I have Windows 8 on a notebook and I find it unintuitive and confusing after having used every other version of Windows including 3.1. Also the touch interface is NOT needed on a desktop computer and there should be a way to dispense with it; I believe there is in 8.1.
It is very quick to boot though.
Zzzone.net -- you should install Classic Shell. It helps you avoid most of the unpleasant aspects of Win 8 and makes it function more like Win 7 as far as user interface. I install this on all the new Windows 8 machines at work, and everyone who users it asks me to help them set up the same thing if they get a Win 8 machine at home.
It's free, and I endorse it. Just stay away from the Start screen and the Metro apps completely, if you don't like them.
Win7 is actually a slightly slower operating system than XP. The big increase in speed you're seeing is because of the hot rod hardware you're using now. XP machines might start to have more and more problems as Microsoft stops updating them with security patches, and newer software insists on a more recent OS in order to install.
Enjoy your new machine. Like you, I'm just in the process of getting ready to switch my primary computer from an old, reliable machine to an entirely new one.
Windows 7 have superior memory management. This reason alone is worth upgrading.
It is true the file copy is slow on windows 7 but there is programs like extremecopy etc...that will make file coppying fullspeed.
7zip is faster then winrar..
Windows 8 is faster on very old machines (and new) compared to windows xp.
So there is now absolutely no reason be stuck with XP anymore.
Windows 8 work better for DAW computers...Lower DPC latency etc
XP will soon stop offering free security updates... they will only be available for people who pay for 1 year subscription...
Everyone must do backups!
Also I should explain my above comment about Win7 being slower than XP. That's not a criticism of the OS - I actually think Win7 is a much better, more stable and modern operating system than XP. It's just that newer operating systems are inevitably larger and more complex. Installing your OS on an SSD drive probably makes the biggest difference of all, though your machine is faster in several respects (processor, RAM, video card) than anything that was available in 2008.
You've inspired me to do the overnight backup this evening.