A Quick Look at Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Windows 8 Consumer preview is now available for download, and having some spare time, I decided to download it and give it a try on my old Dell Inspiron laptop. I had tried the Windows 8 Developer Preview back in September 2011 with mixed results. For one, I had no sound since the Developer Preview came with very few drivers. For another, the performance was sluggish, even on this Windows xp era laptop with 2GB of RAM. So I quickly uninstalled it and went back to Windows 7.

This time around, I had higher hopes since a lot of work has been done (and is yet to be done) on Windows 8 since last fall.

Where can I download Windows 8 Consumer Preview?

I should mention that I downloaded the full Windows 8 x86 ISO through my TechNet subscription. Most will install Windows 8 Consumer Preview via this site: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/download. However, you can also download the ISO images from this site: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/iso (Also see: “What is an ISO File and How Do You Open it Quickly?” elsewhere on this site)

Installing Windows 8 Clean

Since I use this laptop mainly as a test PC, I decided to go with a clean install, meaning one that wipes the existing Windows version without saving any existing files or settings. I must say that installation of Windows 8 was the smoothest install I have yet experienced. I inserted the DVD I created form the ISO, rebooted the laptop and then hit enter when promted to boot from the DVD. The initial part of installation was Windows 8 gathering some information about my PC, then it asked me what kind of install I wanted to perform. This DVD also acts as a repair disc, so there are options for that and more tools available on another screen. Once the install method is selected, the required files are copied to the hard drive and unpacked.

Soon a screen will prompt you for a Windows 8 key, then others for background personalization, computer name, login credentials (I used my Hotmail address and password) and wireless setup. That’s pretty much all the interaction setup requires of you. Then, in a few more minutes setup is done and Windows 8 is ready to use.

Above is the new Start page for Windows 8 with links (“Tiles”) to certain apps it thinks are important to have there. This type of screen will be familiar to anyone who uses a smartphone, iPad or tablet running Android or anything other than Windows. You’ll notice that there is a tile for Desktop, which will take you to the familiar Windows desktop we all know and love. These tiles can be rearranged, moved and deleted if you wish. You can also add tiles for other apps (please don’t call them programs any more!) you may want to have handy there. Personally, being old-school, I will probably stick with the desktop, but if you have a touch-screen device, then the Start screen is more likely for you.

One nice thing about the Start screen is that there are calendar, email and weather tiles which are personalized for you. Here’s a look at the weather app (after clicking on the tile):

Pretty neat! The email tile takes me to Hotmail, but it only shows mail in my Inbox; clicking on any of the other folders shows no mail in them for some reason. Maybe it was not fully synchronised yet?

Conclusions

Good news: my sound card works! While it still feels a little ‘rough’, this Windows 8 Consumer Preview makes me wish I had a Windows 8 tablet. I don’t see windows 8 being a must-have on a desktop PC or a non touchscreen laptop; it may be better to stick with Windows 7 in that case. If you are interested in trying out this Consumer Preview, keep in mind that you will need to reinstall your previous version of Windows from a recovery partition or other form of backup, like a disc image.

System Requirements

Windows 8 Consumer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows 7:

  • 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
  • To use touch, you need a tablet or monitor that supports multitouch
  • To access Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768
  • To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768