Must have addons for Windows 8

I recently upgraded both my desktop and MacBook Pro to Windows 8. I was a bit reluctant since I rely heavily on the desktop experience of Windows 7 for work. While the Metro UI is great for tablets, I’ve found it cumbersome to use as a desktop. I started pinning items to the taskbar with Windows 7, so using that same functionality in Windows 8 has made things a lot easier. Here are a few recommendations to make your Windows 8 system more desktop friendly:

1. Windows 7 Style start menu. My preference is Start8 from Stardock. It’s a simple install and works flawlessly. Performance is excellent and with the exception of right-clicking on Computer to get to the System applet in Control Panel, it works exactly as the Windows 7 start menu.

2. Gadgets. I was apparently one of the few users who liked and relied upon gadgets. There’s so many things vying for my attention on my desktop, Gadgets were a great way for me to watch system resources, server response times, twitter updates, and access music quickly. There’s a few solutions available over at, but my favorite is the 8Gadget Pack. It includes a bunch of the Gadgets I already used and it’s a clean install rather than dumping pre-RTM bits on a RTM system. One drawback is that it’s a Vista style sidebar instead of Windows 7 style, but nearly all of my gadgets (All CPU Meter, Drives MeterRemote Desktop Gadget, Server PingTweetz, and my own WAAF Gadget) worked without issue. I couldn’t get the in-box RSS reader to work, but that could be that I’m using Office 2013 preview.

3. Media Center. Again, I must have been one of the few users who loves this feature. While it’s not completely going away in Windows 8, it’s no longer inbox. Furthermore, it’s not available until October 26th – which makes no sense to me. Since I’ve already upgraded my laptop to Windows 8 and I rely on Media Center to connect up my OTA antenna so I can get out of market NFL games from distant stations, I needed a work around. Luckily, Tom Keating has a great blog post describing his attempts Installing Media Center in Windows 8 Pro RTM. While I don’t recommend using a pirated key, this *should* get you by until the 26th when you can revert back to your existing key. I should mention that initially, I had installed using the Windows 8 Pro VL media from my MSDN subscription and that “Add features to Windows 8” is ONLY available in the Retail version. So I had to re-install the OS on both my laptop and desktop using the proper media to get that option to even show up.

4. Acrobat Reader. I thought having an in-box PDF reader would be an awesome addition to Windows 8 – until I found out that it’s Metro only. So that means when I need to open up invoices so I can enter them into an Excel spreadsheet, I have to keep switching between Metro and Desktop. Highly annoying and extremely unproductive. You’ll still need Adobe’s Acrobat Reader if you plan on actually using PDF’s.

Have favorite tools/tweaks for your Windows 8 installation? Post them in the comments section.