Difference between Windows RT and Windows 8

September 28, 2015 by Editorial Team

While both Windows RT and Windows 8 have much in common, they also have their differences, and these differences may influence performance, stability, and even budget. By simply knowing the key differences of each, you can potentially improve your experiences of each of these operating systems.


Windows RT Start Screen

Windows RT

Developed by Microsoft primarily for tablet computer and convertibles (similar to tablets but have a complex joint between the keyboard housing and the display). It is considered to be an edition of Windows 8.x, but only built for 32-bit ARM architecture. Released alongside Windows 8 on October 2012, it is only available as pre-loaded software on said devices by OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer).

“32-bit ARM architecture – An instruction set architecture for computer processors most widely used in mobile devices”

While having almost the same features as Windows 8, the Windows RT was intended to take advantage of its architectural design on its power efficiency. In comparison with other mobile operating systems, it also supports a large number of USB peripherals and accessories and also comes with Microsoft’s Office 2013. Other included software is Xbox Music, Xbox Video Apps, and Bitlocker-based device encryption system (designed to protect data). While it does have features similar to Windows 8, it has its limitations. Windows RT can only execute programs or software that’s digitally signed by Microsoft. It also has a poor software ecosystem that involves incompatibilities with other existing Windows software.

Speaking of incompatibilities, other desktop applications that are officially supported by Windows RT include File Explorer, Internet Explorer, and Office RT, which come with the operating system itself. Other apps can be purchased through Windows Store apps. For its hardware compatibility, a list of over 30,000 devices were said to be supported, which leaves all other devices not compatible with the operating system.

Windows 8

Developed by Microsoft, it introduced major changes to its usual operating system’s platform and user interface (Windows 7). These changes were meant to improve user experience with mobile devices like your tablets and mobile phones. This is because Microsoft joined the competition with mobile operating systems, and so they added a touch-optimized windows shell on the operating system.

For its compatibilities, it has minimal issues with third party software and has no known issues with Microsoft applications. As far as hardware is concerned, it can only run on x86 devices powered by Intel or AMD chips.

Comparison Chart

Windows RTWindows 8
Battery Life lasts between 8-13 hoursBattery Life lasts between 6-8 hours
Will run exclusively with ARM-powered devicesWill run exclusively with x86 devices powered by Intel or AMD chips
Same features as Windows 8 but with limitationsFull-featured Start screen and desktop mode
Can only run programs and apps from Windows Store and its built-in Office 13Can run all software from Windows store and any third-party programs
Prices range from $70 to $200Can’t be purchased as a stand-alone OS, meaning you’ll have to purchase devices with Windows RT pre-installed


While both have similarities with features and functionalities, both also have differences that can mean a better user-experience.

  • Compatibility – Windows RT has more limitations than Windows 8. It is only able to run pre-installed apps and those that can be purchased from the Windows store app, while Windows 8 can run almost any app that’s in the Windows app store and any third-party programs that are compatible with older versions of Windows 8. Aside from that, Windows RT can only run with ARM-powered devices while Windows 8 can run with x86 powered by Intel or AMD chip devices.
  • Prices – Depending on what Windows 8 edition it is, it can vary from $70 to $200. For Windows RT, it comes pre-installed for which you will need to purchase ARM-powered devices such as convertible laptops or tablets.
  • Features – Windows RT has mostly the same features as Windows 8, but has no Windows Media Player or storage space. It does however have Xbox music and Xbox video apps.

If you want to fully utilize the features of Windows 8 and at the same time use third-party programs, you should stick with Windows 8. If you want a mobile device that functions like an iPad but has a Windows OS, then Windows RT would be a better choice. That being said, the differences of both OS will actually be significant depending on your usage of each operating system.


You can refer to the video below for more information on differences between Windows RT and Windows 8.