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Top 10: Most futile Windows features

In anticipation of Windows 8, we take a look at the features and mistakes that Microsoft needn't bother reprising

With the release of Windows 8 on the horizon, there’s plenty of excitement about what features the latest Microsoft operating system will introduce, particularly the glossy new Metro user interface. It fills the screen with content, dispensing with window frames, borders, menus and other controls; there’s already debate about whether it’s an innovation that’ll change the way we use our desktop or a step too far away from the traditional mouse-pointer and menu interface we’re all familiar with. While we wait for the revolution to happen, we’ve compiled a list of some of Microsoft’s less distinguished innovations.

10. Windows Update

We’ll be the first to tell you that it’s important to keep Windows up-to-date. Window Updates help protect your PC against security flaws, provide your operating system with the tools it needs to defend against security threats and fixes all those little bugs that emerge through the lifetime of your software.

Windows Update

However, there’s nothing more annoying than being forced to reboot your PC when you’re in the middle of something. It’s not uncommon for games to be yanked out of a fire-fight by an alert prompt (above) informing you that the computer absolutely insists on being restarted at some point in the next four hours. We’re happy to update our PC, but we’d at least like the option of being told that an update will be installed at the next reboot and left to do it in our own good time. Currently the only workaround involves meddling with your registry in ways that many users are less than entirely comfortable with.

9. Flip 3D

Flip 3D

Flip 3D is what happens when you press the Windows key + tab in Windows Vista or 7. Pressing tab again allows you to move from one window to the next, providing a glossy alternative to the alt + tab window-switching interface. It looked cool in the advert and looks like it should be useful in real life, but have you ever seen anyone use it? Did you even remember that it existed until we just reminded you?

8. Active Desktop

Microsoft introduced Active Desktop in the good old days, when geeks were geeks and the internet was a wild frontier; the late ’90s, in other words. Active Desktop was designed to integrate your web experience with your desktop, keeping headlines and other web content permanently on-screen and putting you within a mouse click of your favourite news and entertainment websites.

Active Desktop

It was in some ways a remarkably prescient move, anticipating the way that modern users do most of their computing inside their browser. Unfortunately, Microsoft neglected the fact that almost everyone was on dial-up internet that charged by the minute and also failed to curb Active Desktop’s hunger for system resources. The heritage of Active Desktop continued to generate on-screen clutter for decades to come in the form of the Windows Sidebar, Desktop Gadgets and other pointless widgets.

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