Windows 8 vs. Windows RT


We are all about to enjoy the biggest change in Windows since Windows 95: with the announcement of Windows 8.  It will come in three key flavors.

  • Windows 8 is the standard version
  • Windows 8 Pro which has more features for power users
  • Windows 8 RT — the RT stands for “Runtime” — this feature is completely new and completely different. Which one will you want to have on your next PC?  Your Windows 8 tablet software such as Microsoft Surface or your current Windows PC?


Release date:

The Windows 8 release date is expected to be in the last week of October, while the Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets are supposed to be arriving in November.



Windows RT is only available pre-installed on devices. However, Windows 8 will be available pre-installed on new PCs, and as stand-alone retail boxes and also as upgrade versions too.




Windows RT is literally priceless, because you cannot purchase it, but the licensing fees to manufacturers should be significantly less than for Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. Windows RT devices are expected to cost less than the Windows 8 ones, and Windows RT users will not have to pay for their copies of Microsoft Office.





You cannot upgrade to Windows RT from anything, because it is a brand new Windows for a previously unsupported platform.

If you are currently on Windows 7 you will be able to upgrade to the normal Windows 8 from Starter, Home Basic or Home Premium, but you will need to perform a clean install if you are running Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows Professional. You can upgrade from any version of Windows 7. Also, as always, 32-bit installations can only be upgraded to 32-bit versions, and 64-bit ones to 64-bit ones.



Hardware Support:




This is the most important difference between Windows RT and Windows 8, Windows RT only runs on ARM-powered devices, while Windows 8 only runs on x86 devices. Windows RT will not run natively on an Intel- or AMD-powered PC, and Windows 8 will not run on an ARM-powered device such as the new Surface tablet.



Both Windows RT and Windows 8 run the new Metro interface, but Windows 8 can also drop down to the traditional Desktop for older apps. Windows RT cannot: while it does have the old Windows Desktop for some of Microsoft’s apps, the desktop will not be available to third-party software.


Software and Compatibility:




There is a big difference, Windows RT comes with Office preinstalled, and Windows 8/Pro does not. However, Windows 8 and Windows Pro are compatible with existing Windows programs and Windows RT is not. Windows RT apps must use the metro interface, but the Windows 8 programs can use the traditional Windows desktop too.


Windows RT can also restrict what API (application programming interfaces) developers use, especially for web browsers.  For example it seems as if there will not be a version of Firefox for Windows RT: as Mozilla’s Harvey Anderson put it, “only Internet Explorer will be able to perform many of the advanced computing functions vital to modern browsers in terms of speed, stability, and security to which users have grown accustomed.”



Windows RT does not get everything you will find in Windows 8. There is no Windows Media Player or Storage Spaces, no Bitlocker encryption (although Windows RT does offer device encryption instead), no Group Policy management or domain support, and Remote Desktop only works in client mode.

The differences are not as dramatic as you might expect but: Windows RT and Windows 8 both get multiple language support, IE10, Xbox Live, Windows Defender, Exchange ActiveSync, Windows’ Play To streaming and virtual private networking.


This article goes through the differences in Windows 8 and Windows RT to help users familiarize themselves for the new experience.  Please call us if you have any questions.