Win8 vs. Windows RT: What to know before you buy

Woody Leonhard

During recent travels around the western U.S., I asked many computer salespeople about Windows 8 — and was truly shocked at inaccurate information provided about the new OS.

Few knew the key differences between versions, and almost all offered “advice” that was way off the mark.

On October 26, Microsoft will release two distinctly different versions of its latest OS — Windows 8 and Windows RT. Do you know the difference? Try tackling these seemingly simple, real-world questions. I’ll provide the correct answers (they might surprise you) to these questions and others further below. They should help you make the right Windows choice — especially if you’re interested in a new Windows-based tablet.

  • Is it true I have to buy all apps for my new Surface tablet from Microsoft’s Windows Store?
  • Will all Windows Store apps work on the new Microsoft Surface tablets?
  • I use LastPass to manage all my passwords. Will LastPass work with Lenovo’s IdeaPad tablets and notebooks?
  • Are there significant differences between Office 2013 and Office 2013 RT?
  • My new Windows tablet came with Word 2013 preinstalled. Can I print documents from Word on my HP LaserJet?
  • Can I sync SkyDrive files with my new Surface tablet?
  • Can I run Outlook on the new Microsoft Surface tablets? How about Windows Live Mail or Windows Photo Gallery?

Significant differences separate RT and Win8

Back in August, I wrote a Top Story that delved into the ways Windows 8 differed from Windows RT. Here’s how I summarized those differences:

“Windows RT is the version of Windows 8 that doesn’t run Windows programs.”

That’s really the heart of the matter — and it’s the source of ongoing confusion for consumers, sales clerks, and others who really should know what you can — and can’t — do with the two OSes.

In a July column, “Win8 + Windows RT + WinRT = mass confusion,” I chided Microsoft for its extraordinarily poor choice of terminology. I urged the Redmondians to get the confusion sorted out so consumers can make an easily understood, informed decision about Win8 and Windows RT — on both traditional PCs and tablets. But as best I can tell, Microsoft has done virtually nothing to make the distinctions clear.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2012-10-25:

Woody Leonhard

About Woody Leonhard

Woody Leonhard is a Windows Secrets senior editor and a senior contributing editor at InfoWorld. His latest book, the comprehensive 1,080-page Windows 8 All-In-One For Dummies, delves into all the Win8 nooks and crannies. His many writings tell it like it is — whether Microsoft likes it or not.