Monday, March 05, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Getting Started

The next version of the Microsoft operating system, Windows 8, has reached what is called "Consumer Preview".  Although defined by Microsoft as pre-release software, the Consumer Preview could also be referred to as a high end beta, with the next installment being RTM (Release to Manufacturing).

Although Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a solid operating system, it is not advisable to install beta software on a production computer.  In other words, if you do not have a spare computer or a partition to dual-boot Windows 8, I strongly advise that you wait until after the final release, create a separate partition (see Create and format a hard disk partition) or test the operating system in a virtual machine.

Rather than replicating the excellent documents already created by experienced and respected bloggers and web sites, I have collected a series of articles and tutorials that will guide your testing of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

System Requirements and Compatibility

Although Microsoft has stated that Windows 8 Consumer Preview works on the same hardware that powers Windows 7, below are the recommended system requirements for running Windows 8 Consumer Preview.  

    Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
    RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
    Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
    Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher

Additional requirements to use certain features:
  •   To use touch, a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch is needed.
  •   To access the Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection plus a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768.
  •   To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768.

If you have a netbook or other computer running Windows 7 that isn't capable of a screen resolution at the levels indicated above, as illustrated by Barb Bowman in Windows 8 Consumer Preview Installed on Eee PC Netbook, you can still run Windows 8!  You may also want to read Paul Thurrott's articles, Some Thoughts About the Windows 8 System Recommendations and The Netbook Experience.

For compatibility concerns, check the Windows 8 Consumer Preview Compatibility Center to find out whether your favorite applications and devices are compatible with Windows 8.  Links on the results page will direct to product Updates, Drivers, and Downloads.

Installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Now that you are ready to install Windows 8 Consumer Preview, it is time to select the best method for how you will be testing the operating system.


Windows 8 Consumer Preview Setup:
Windows 8 Consumer Preview Setup will check to see if your PC can run Windows 8 Consumer Preview and will select the right download. 
Also included in Setup is a compatibility report and upgrade assistance. Built-in tools for creating an ISO or bootable flash drive are available for some previous versions of Windows (excluding Windows XP and earlier).

Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO formats:
Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO files (.iso) are provided as an alternative to using Windows 8 Consumer Preview Setup. ISO files are available for both 32-bit (2.5 GB) and 64-bit (3.3 GB). With the ISO files, use this Microsoft-provided Product Key: DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J


It seems that there is always more than one way to accomplish a task with Microsoft software.  That is the case with installing Windows 8 Customer Preview as well.  Unless you are very experienced, I recommend using the web installer to create a a bootable Windows 8 DVD using the .ISO file or bootable thumb drive or installing in a virtual machine.

Navigating Windows 8

Navigating Windows 8 will require an adjustment.  Take time to read about the new Metro style and learn about the new terminology, such as tiles and charms as well as touch terminology, including swipe and slide.

For an overview, see Windows 8 Features and Terminology.  A more complete resource is The Windows 8 Glossary, used for creating translations.  Filtering by "locked" results in a set of definitions locked by Microsoft.

Metro Style

Metro Style is the name given to the Windows 8 user interface.  It is the new start screen, made up of tiles that represent applications, replacing the Start menu.  It is the first screen shown on start up.

Metro is optimized for touchscreens as well as mice and keyboards.  Derick Campbell (Microsoft Research) has an excellent tutorial on navigating Windows 8.  Dude, Where’s My Windows 8 Start Menu? will go a long way to clearing up your confusion with Metro.

After you have become more comfortable with Windows 8, you will want to locate more advanced functions, such as the control panel, task manager, device manager and other system management tools.  Ed Bott's article will help you locate Shortcuts and surprises in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Whether you have a touch screen or use a keyboard or mouse, navigating Windows 8 will be a change from what you are accustomed to.  A comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts is included in the ars technica article, Old dogs, get ready for new tricks: how to use the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Derick Campbell created an online Word Document which includes a comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts with the corresponding touch and mouse actions.  Consider downloading the file and annotating it with your own notes:  Win8 Shortcuts.


Microsoft Security Essentials has been renamed Windows Defender for Windows 8.  Windows Defender is included in the install of Windows 8 Consumer Preview and enabled by default.  If you prefer to use a different antivirus solution, check the entries in the Compatibility Center.   You may find that your favorite program is not listed yet as compatible, yet, as in the case of ESET Smart Security, 15 out of 16 people reported it compatible with Windows 8.


There are times when things just do not go right.  In the case of Windows 8 Customer Preview, please keep in mind that Windows 8 Consumer Preview is pre-release software.


What can you do if disaster strikes and your Windows 8 installation is totally messed up?

Windows 8 has a new service that returns your PC to its factory clean state by wiping it out and reinstalling Windows.  Reset removes all personal data, apps, and settings and completes a fresh install of Windows 8.

With the Refresh option, you keep all personal data, Metro style apps, and important settings from the PC, as well as a clean copy of Windows 8.
Reset and refresh are accessible through the "PC Settings" app.

Help and Support

Other Resources

Remember - "A day without laughter is a day wasted."
May the wind sing to you and the sun rise in your heart...

1 comment:

Alan said...

reset and refresh are available under recovery in control panel on my computer, I do not have a PC SETTINGS APP on my version