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The Windows 8 start screen has been perceived as being so much of a nuisance that it has become somewhat common for IT professionals to jump through hoops just to force Windows 8 to boot into the more familiar desktop mode.
With the release of Windows 8.1, Microsoft has set out to appease those who despised the original Windows 8 release by making the transition between the start screen and desktop mode a lot less jarring.
One of the new capabilities that will be built into the operating system is a native mechanism that will allow Windows to be booted directly into desktop mode. Is that a practical solution?
Even though Microsoft might prefer that we all use the Start screen (it is the default, after all), it has made it easy to use the boot-to-desktop feature. If Microsoft wanted to discourage customers from booting to the desktop, it probably would have implemented a feature in a way that required modifying the boot configuration file or perhaps entering an obscure PowerShell command. Microsoft did not do this.
Instead, it is not only possible to enable boot to the desktop through the GUI, but Microsoft has even given us two different ways to do so. For stand-alone machines, the boot-to-desktop feature can be enabled by selecting a simple check box on the Taskbar and Navigation Properties screen. In corporate environments, there is a group policy setting that can be enabled in order to allow desktop booting on an organization-wide basis.
Thankfully, Microsoft has made it easy to enable the boot-to-desktop feature. I think it is also worth considering the practicality of the end-user experience. Are users better off booting directly to the desktop, or is it better to allow them to continue booting into the start screen?
I will be the first to admit that there are about a million different schools of thought on this topic, and I don't think that there is any such thing as a universally right or wrong answer. Having said that, let's take an objective look at the practicality of the end-user experience when the boot-to-desktop feature is used.