Since my main operating system is Linux Mint and I only use Windows to play games, I hadn't actually bothered upgrading from Windows XP until now. But Saints Row IV is going to require DirectX 10 and so I needed a new operating system. And you know what? It's OK.
I've heard a lot of complaints about the start menu being replaced by the start screen, and to the people making those complaints I have just one question. What the fuck do you use the start menu for anyway? I haven't had a use for it since Windows 98. The quick launch bar was a far better way to use your computer.
I have no idea how Windows Vista or 7 handle quick-launch icons other than that you can make programs stay in the taskbar even when they're closed (which is a horrible idea), but having gone from a quicklaunch bar to a start screen I can say that I'm on board. It's convenient and accessible and keeps my taskbar uncluttered.
Installation was slightly more hassle than Mint (particularly as Windows overwrites the boot loader, so after installation I had to boot from a CD to reinstall GRUB, whereas Mint detected Windows XP when I installed it and asked if I wanted to dual-boot) but most things worked the way I wanted pretty much straight away.
Mint has the advantage in that almost all the software I wanted came pre-installed, but I had to use Ninite to get a bunch of stuff in Windows, but both of them are about as straight-forward to set up and configure. When I've attempted to figure out settings in Windows 7 or Vista I've always found it excruciating, but Windows 8 seems to have made it a much more pleasant experience.
If I were recommending an operating system for general use I would still go with Mint, but if you need Windows then I'd say 8 is the way to go. From what I've seen so far it's way better than Windows 7 or Vista. Plus it apparently runs Saints Row 2 better than any previous operating system, so that's a bonus.