The search tool in Windows 7 is fairly powerful, letting you search for apps, as well as search inside files and folders.
The new search function in the Windows 8 Modern UI adds to this by letting you search the content inside touch-centric apps. This is a handy feature when you're looking for something inside the Windows Store or for a news topic via the News app.
Third-party apps must add search functionality, so search may not work in all of your apps.
Where to get started: Windows 8 Start screen
For most users, personalization in Windows 7 means pinning apps to the taskbar, changing the desktop wallpaper, and selecting a user-account photo.
In Windows 8, personalization extends to showing you data you've arranged to highlight right from the Start screen's live tiles, including new email, social networking updates, and sports news about your favorite teams.
Where to get started: Charms bar > Change PC settings > General > Advanced startup
A new secure-boot process, enabled by default on all new Windows 8 PCs, will prevent unauthorized operating systems and malware from loading on your machine. The system uses cryptographic signatures to verify that the operating system is authorized to load and that it hasn't been tampered with.
Although some critics welcome the new security enhancement, this feature is controversial. Many digital-rights advocates worry that secure boot will give users less control over their PCs and even less security, arguing that the secure boot process will inevitably be hacked.
So much more
Microsoft has made many more improvements to Windows 8, including improved hardware acceleration for graphics, better printer discovery, and a new enterprise virtualization feature called Windows to Go.
Windows 8 offers something for everyone from nothing-fancy users who just want to handle email, surf the Web, and watch videos, to advanced users with needs such as managing multiple external hard drives and reinstalling Windows.