This is a copy of a blog I posted internally at itgroove, I hope you’ll find it useful.
1. Security This is BIG in 8 (and Server2012). Lots of leveraging of built-in security in IPv6, much easier configuration of IPsec for both internal network communication encryption as well as external encryption. AppLocker and BitLocker are enhanced over Win7. The Windows Firewall is enhanced. Windows Defender now incorporates all of Security Essentials and is fully manageable from various Windows management products (ie System Center). UAC is further massaged to the point where there is NO reason to turn it off, there is also no reason to turn off Firewall (and if you want to use IPsec on network connections then you MUST have Firewall on). There are expanded authentication features built-in including some very interesting options if you are on a tablet (like drawing secret circles on a login screen to authenticate yourself).
2. Diagnostics Greatly enhanced over Win7. No more “Last Known Good Config”, just greatly expanded tools which can be accessed from F8 on boot OR set up to start up on next boot from the Settings menu (from Charms). The tools let you do more things than you could in the past,so possibly less need for third party tools to diagnose. Also, Windows reliability Monitor is greatly enhanced and gives a lot more useful info to start your problem diagnosis. Task Manager is AWESOME and totally rewritten (massive expansion over what we have seen in the past), Resource Monitor expanded as well.
3. Recovery Lots of goodness here. Built in ability to revert your system to “factory” YET still keep all your data and settings as well as revert and blow everything away. New file-level backup works like shadow copy but allows the “copies” to live somewhere off your Win8 machine (server or other network share). Link ability to SkyDrive is built-in.
4. Client Hyper-V Say goodbye to XP mode and hello to Client Hyper-V. This could be the VMware Workstation killer, we’ll have to see. You can do many of the things that can be done with Hyper-V Server and have it all smoothly integrated with your desktop. It supports functionality similar to XP mode so that you can host older applications in an older OS and link through to desktop.
5. Performance Simply put, Win7 on steroids. There is some performance gain that is realized by NOT having the Aero interface but there is lots of performance gain from all the tweaks that Microsoft has made to the kernel. This puppy really motors along.
6. PowerShell 3 Another rocking tool. Greatly expanded over what we saw in Win7 and now with an ISE that makes it much easier to write scripts. The new (an now) scripting tool of choice as you can do ANYTHING with it including GPO work. Get to know it, your lives will be made easier by using it.
7. Device Management Improved over Win7, they have tried to make it easier to manage things like printers that may require loading of 32 and 64 bit drivers when things are shared.
So, there you have it. If you strip Metro out of the mix then Win8 does show solid improvements and enhancements over Win7 while still trying to maintain “core” compatibility with 7. Metro adds its own layer but, to be fair, there are some very nice things built-in to Metro when the Metro apps are deployed for new tasks. The Metro interface to many systems functions still leaves a bit to be desired, though. Using Win8 on a tablet is far more intuitive than on a PC thanks to Metro (which is what you would expect).