Unlike previous OS upgrades, Windows 8 has a dramatically updated interface that will likely require driver upgrades if you want your peripherals to work seamlessly with the new OS. As a result, to take just one example, Epson updated the printer utility software for its Epson nx430 printer, originally designed for Windows 7. In Windows 8, the Epson print utility has a stylish Metro look (see image, below) and is touch-enabled. But if a manufacturer doesn't provided any customized experience for Windows 8, Microsoft that it will provide a "generic interface" with possibly reduced functions.
Michael Cherry, an analyst with the independent Directions on Microsoft research firm, points out that you're unlikely to run into upgrade compatibility problems with gear from mammoth manufacturers like Epson and Hewlett-Packard. Equipment from smaller peripheral makers is at far greater risk of incompatibility, Cherry says. "If you didn't make money on your hardware peripheral when Windows 7 came out, what incentive do you have to write a new driver that works with Windows 8?," he said.
"Are peripheral makers ready for Windows 8? We'll find out soon," Cherry says. Though he's impressed with Windows 8, Cherry has his own compatibility hiccup to share: He's running Windows 8 on a Samsung tablet and complains that his HP multifunction printer has lost some advanced functions such the ability to display ink levels and perform duplex printing.
Advice when upgrading your desktop or laptop from Windows 7 to 8
If you're considering upgrading your existing system's Windows 7 OS to Windows 8, you should run Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (see image at right) to determine which of your hardware might not work with the new OS. Lists of incompatible hardware will vary, but one component will invariably show up as needing an update: your DVD player. That's because Windows 8 dumped default DVD playback. Microsoft will continue to offer Windows Media Player in all versions of Windows 8; but to play back videos, you'll need to install a fee-based or free third-party option such as the open-source video VLC media player.