10 programs that make Windows 8 better

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 3, 2012
Updated • Sep 3, 2012
Windows, Windows 8

So you have made the jump and installed Windows 8 on a computer, or, you are planning to buy a tablet, laptop or desktop PC running Microsoft's latest operating system. If this is your first contact with the OS, chance is that you will need some time adjusting to the new startpage, missing start menu, and all the smaller changes that come with it. I think we can all agree that Windows 8 is different, and that not only shows when you first boot into the operating system, but also when you try to run programs or tasks that may no longer work out of the box.

The following top list highlights ten applications that you may want to install on your Windows 8 system to either add missing functionality to it, improve existing functionality, or even remove some of the features that you do not want to work with. Lets get started.

DVD Playback

Windows 8 can't play DVDs by default, as Microsoft stripped Windows Media Player of those capabilities. The only native option to get DVD playback integrated again is to get the Media Center Pack / Pro Pack that makes available Windows Media Center which supports disc playback. This still leaves Windows Media Player without the options though.

If you do not want to buy the upgrade, you can instead install DVD player alternatives such as VLC Media Player or SMPlayer, both free and compatible with the Windows 8 operating system.

play dvd vlc media player

Start menu

Windows 8 ships without a start menu. Microsoft more or less has replaced it with the start page the operating system boots into. While that may work for some, others may prefer access to a start menu like interface right on the desktop, so that they do not have to switch over to the start page every time they want to launch a program that is not pinned on the taskbar or available on the desktop as a shortcut.

The best solution for that is Start8 from Stardock, as it makes available both desktop apps and Metro apps in the start menu that looks and feels exactly like the Windows 7 start menu. The only downside is that it is in beta currently, and that it may happen that it will not remain free when it is released. A free alternative is Classic Shell which is also an excellent program.



Microsoft has removed desktop gadget support from Windows 8 during development which puts users who want gadgets functionality in the unique position to get them back with hacks that integrate the components from earlier builds of Windows 8 back into the final version.

Unless you really depend on a gadget, I'd suggest to install a third party solution instead. Rainmeter comes to mind which ships with a number of gadgets installed.

rainmeter desktop

Blue Screens

Blue Screens in Windows 8 display less information about the cause of the crash. While it still displays the error code, part of the technical details of the error have been removed from the screen. To get those back, you need to use a program like Blue Screen View from Nirsoft.

windows 8 blue screen

Aero Glass

Aero Glass has always been a controversial feature. Some users love the transparency it adds to windows in the operating system, while other dislike it with a passion. Microsoft has removed Aero Glass from Windows 8 during development, pretty much in the same way that it removed the desktop gadgets.

Aero Lite Tweaker is a program that adds Aero Glass support back to the Windows 8 operating system. It comes as a price though as you can't reverse the changes that it makes unless you have a backup of sorts at hand.

windows 8 no aero glass

CD/DVD burning

With optical drives making a quite exit for some time now in the computing world, Microsoft has not improved the CD or DVD burning capabilities in Windows 8. If burning files or ISO images is not sufficient for your needs, you need third party software to enhance the capabilities of the operating system in this regard.

ImgBurn is a free alternative that you can use for all your DVD burning needs.


Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer now features a ribbon interface that is minimized by default. What's still missing is two-pane support to make file operations more comfortable. You can check out Explorer alternatives such as Ultra Explorer or Q-Dir.



Windows 8 ships with Windows Defender (which more or less is Microsoft Security Essentials and then some) included. While that's a good start, you may prefer to install additional security software to protect the operating system.

Besides installing an antivirus application like Avast Free Antivirus or AVG Free, you can also install EMET, an exploit mitigation tool from Microsoft on the system. And for the occasional scan, you have got Malwarebytes Anti-malware, Superantispyware or Dr. Web Cure It.

emet 3.5


It is still recommended to use third party backup software to backup data regularly. Windows 8 comes with a new set of features, like cloud synchronization of settings and features, but it is still missing a comfortable backup solution. A free alternative is RecImage which backs up core operating system files and installed applications. It is using the refresh and reset feature of Windows 8, but adds options to keep installed applications on top of it.

recimg manager

Image editor

Paint is still a mediocre image editor, and not really usable for anything besides light image editing operations. It may even not be sufficient for editing screenshots, something that I do on a regular basis. Alternatives are available, such as Paint.net or Gimp which you can use instead.

Closing Words

One of the biggest strengths of the Windows operating system is its third party development scene. It comes up with new and improved applications regularly, so that missing features can be added easily to the OS. This makes Windows 8 not different from previous Microsoft operating systems. Even Windows 7 or Windows XP had their missing features and great third party apps that made them available.

Have anything to add? Post a comment below.


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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):


  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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