Should you get a Windows RT or Windows 8 computer?

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 31, 2012
Updated • Aug 31, 2012
Windows, Windows 8

When Windows 7 came along, PC users had to pick one of the available editions that Microsoft made available to the public. The decision impacted the features the operating system shipped with, but not the programs that you could run on it. This is changing with Windows 8 and it is important that people know that before they go out and buy a device they can't fully work with because of this restriction.

In short: Windows RT is a special version of the Windows 8 operating system optimized for ARM hardware. It is ideal for mobile use, and hardware that runs on it usually includes RT in the name. This is a restricted version of Windows 8 that you can't install desktop software on. Desktop software are regular apps that you download and install from the Internet. This includes VLC Media Player, browsers like Firefox or Google Chrome, or software like True Crypt, uTorrent, Open Office or 7-Zip. Developers of those programs may eventually produce a version for Windows RT, but it is likely that you will still miss out on many programs.

Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro devices on the other hand are full desktop operating systems that support the installation of third party applications.

If you buy a device with Windows RT, you are limited to Microsoft's Windows Store for all of your application needs. That's a problem if you are looking for specialized apps or want to install apps that Microsoft does not allow in the store.

This does not necessarily mean that computer's running Windows RT devices are useless, as it depends much on what you need the computer for. If all you do is web surfing, Office work, watching videos, listening to music, playing casual games and other "light" activities, then the device may be all you need to do that. But if you want to do more, like playing modern PC games, installing Steam, or even your favorite web browser - if it is not Internet Explorer - then you need to purchase a computer with Windows 8 instead to do that.

These devices are comparable to Apple's iPad or Android tablets which are also limited to software that is "basic in functionality" when compared to regular desktop software.

Most tablets and devices that ship with Windows RT have RT in their name to make potential customers aware of that. I'd still recommend to verify that by looking at the spec sheet, asking a sales person or doing research on the Internet.


Tutorials & Tips

Previous Post: «
Next Post: «


  1. Kris said on October 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Will I be able to use Chrome on windows RT Surface tablet?

    1. Azariah said on October 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      Go ask uncle google. He should know for sure. I have the Windows 8 RTM release (love my UNI’s MSDN AA access) on my laptop right now running a dual boot and chrome has a Metro interface when set as the default browser. Also given that. Chrome is already functioning on andriod OS’s in both the tablet and phone form factor. I’d bet my ass they’re working on moving it to Windows RT weather or not M$ let them put it up is another matter entirely. :)

  2. Andy said on September 14, 2012 at 3:14 am

    I’m curious. If you replaced Win 7 with 8, would 8 it be the same size on the HD?

    1. Luke said on September 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      I should think so. I’m using the 90-day evaluation trial of Windows 8 Enterprise on my laptop, and the fresh install took up about the same amount of space as when I was running Windows 7 Home Premium – before I put all of my programs and files back on etc.

  3. azariah said on September 1, 2012 at 11:22 am

    What I can’t get is how people are even considering running Windows RT to begin with. It’s going to be seriously restricted and while I have no doubt the hackers are already working on getting other apps from outside the app store installed into it your still in for a very trimmed back experience. On the other Windows 8 offers all of your favorite applications from previous versions plus all of your Windows Store Apps :P Surely you’d go for the best of both worlds approach.

    I also can’t believe people are considering a Windows tablet other than an MS surface. At this point in time I haven’t seen a Slate that even remotely compares to the MS Surface for Windows RT or 8 Pro. Especially Pro! They’re sleek, shiny, with an inbuilt kickstand and your choice of TouchCover or TypeCover. :) All of the pre-release teasers from the other companies have had curved backs with lots of plastic. And pretty lack-luster screens that lack pen input as well. Some had more than the one USB port that MS is offering but I don’t think they were USB3.0 :P

    I’m sold. :D And with the integration that you’re going to get between Win8 and WinPhone8 it’s going to be a killer combination. Hell MS might actually have beat Apple on how easy it will be to transfer files between devices (not hard to do actually but given past history impressive)

    Comment away but this is a done deal for me. I’m even considering putting Win8 on my laptop. And I wasn’t even considering putting Win8 on anything put a touch PC when they first released the teasers. So….. yeah. I like it. I admit it’s not for everyone though but those of us who are freaking bored with the desktop this will be a breath of fresh air.

    “You sir have stooped.” Robert Downy Jr. (as Sherlock Holmes or Tony Stark can’t remember)
    Mmmmmm maybe. :)

  4. Bill said on August 31, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Windows RT – No. I’m not interested in an Android or iOS alternative.

    Windows 8 on a PC – No. Had I been able to avoid Metro without hacking or third party apps then I would have said yes.

    Windows 8 x86 Tablet – Maybe. If it’s 2 inches thick or has less processing power than an Atom then I’ll wait but I’m eagerly anticipating this product line.

  5. insanelyapple said on August 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    Neither. Sticking with Windows 7 and waiting for Windows 9 (or whatever next OS will named) is the best option.

  6. pravin said on August 31, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    You have not mentioned, If I could run RT applications on Windows 8 PC. Or these RT applications are only limited to Windows RT tablets only. If its the case I will miss those applications but I am damn sure that someone will make a hack as soon as its available in the market.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 31, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      RT apps are windows Store apps, so yes, you can play them under Windows 8.

  7. Coyote said on August 31, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I’d like to inject a little forward thinking here.
    The Android market was meant to be the same way but was destined to be cracked wide open thanks to the nature of android. The Apple store, while I don’t have much experience with, is able to be bypassed as well if you jailbreak or what have you. Now Microsoft is saying they want a locked down store…. I give it 2 weeks (before or after release take your best guess) and 3rd party apps will be all over RT, I’d even wager on a way to run desktop programs too.

  8. Jim said on August 31, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I’m in the market for an ultrabook, but I don’t want Win8 on it. If that’s all that’s offered then I’m going to be looking for a downgrade. I don’t need or want a new interface paradigm on my work machine.

    I’m curious about the Surface though. Win8 on those would be OK. I’ve got a Nexus 7, but I’ll grab a Surface too if the price is right.

  9. anony said on August 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    A better question is:

    Do you even need one?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      What would that be?

      1. broader perspective said on August 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm

        competitor’s more mature offering in near future = H+ part one

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on August 31, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I do.

      1. anony said on August 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        Your comparison is flawed.

        I’m not comparing it to older version of the same thing. I’m comparing it to competitor’s more mature offering.

      2. anony said on August 31, 2012 at 2:00 pm

        Anything that only Win RT or WIn 8 can do that other device can’t?

      3. Martin Brinkmann said on August 31, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        Run Windows Store apps? I get your point that you do not really need a Windows 8 PC for work, fun or whatever you do with a PC, but you can pretty much say the same for other devices and hardware. Do you really need an iPhone 4s when you have an iPhone 2? Or an Android device running 4.x when you have one that is running 2.x?

  10. Kai said on August 31, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Windows 8 Pro on Microsoft Surface because I need a light and portable computer with me soon and I don’t want an iPad. But my main workstation will still be the great Windows 7.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 31, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      I may also get a Surface Pro. But after seeing what other manufacturers are releasing, I may switch after all to a different product. As long as it has a built-in or attachable keyboard, it may be my next device.

  11. Rob said on August 31, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    What i would really like to know is, when i have a sdcard full of photo’s, will i be able to copy it to the internal ssd? Like the regular explorer?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 31, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      Yes I think that is possible as you get the traditional desktop and Windows Explorer in the RT version as well.

Leave a Reply

Check the box to consent to your data being stored in line with the guidelines set out in our privacy policy

We love comments and welcome thoughtful and civilized discussion. Rudeness and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please stay on-topic.
Please note that your comment may not appear immediately after you post it.