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With Windows 8, Microsoft is reimagining the most basic premises of personal computers. CEO Steve Ballmer recognizes the drastic changes coming in Windows 8, even calling the platform one of the biggest risks taken by the industry giant. The UI changes and fundamental paradigm shifts that Windows 8 brings to the table are making a lot of power users eager to give the platform a trial run, even in its current state as a Developer Preview.
If you want to take the plunge and give Windows 8 a try, there are some things you should know ahead of time. First, the current build of Windows 8 is intended as a Developer Preview. This is pre-beta software, meaning there will be bugs and even major missing features. We don’t recommend installing Windows 8 as your primary system, but we do encourage you to take it for a spin and spend some time tinkering under the hood. And we recommend that you use good backup practices for any data you put on your Windows 8 system, as stability may be an issue.
Whenever you are looking to install new software, especially a new operating system, your first step should be to review the system requirements.
Fortunately, the system requirements for Windows 8 are identical to those for Windows 7. In fact, a baseline Windows 8 installation will consume fewer system resources than a baseline Windows 7 SP1 build. So if you’re already running Windows 7, you’re in good shape. Note, however, that there are special requirements for touch input.
Microsoft has provided both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the Windows 8 Developer Preview installation media, both freely available from MSDN. For best results, you should verify that your media downloaded correctly using the hash provided by Microsoft. The .iso files provided can be easily burned to a DVD using native tools in Windows 7 or your preferred DVD software.
There are a couple of different decisions that must be made before you begin any OS install. The first is whether you want the OS to coexist with another in a dual-boot scenario or if you are simply going to overwrite any existing OS installs. Dual-booting provides you with some flexibility to fall back to an existing platform, but also adds complexity in terms of drive partitioning. The other decision is the method of installation. The typical method for installing an operating system is using a bootable disc, which gives you the ability to install the Windows 8 OS to a second hard drive or partition. The Windows 8 Developer Preview will also allow you to install from within a previous Windows version, providing you the option to retain accounts, files, and settings (if installing from Vista or Windows 7). We’ll walk you through both options.
The most common method for installing a new operating system on your computer is to boot from a setup disc, in this case a DVD. After inserting the disc and choosing to boot from your optical drive, the Windows 8 setup wizard will look very similar to the Windows 7 install. The first screen prompts you to enter your location information in order to configure your keyboard and other locale-specific settings (image above), and the second contains the button to actually begin the installation.
As with most Windows installations, Windows 8 displays Upgrade or Custom (advanced) options. One of the key differences in using the boot-disc installation is that the Upgrade choice is actually a dead-end. To upgrade from a previous install of Windows, you’ll need to use the Windows-based setup utility.The next step in this exercise is choosing the drive or partition for your Windows 8 install (image above). As with Windows 7, you have the option to use empty drive space, reformat an existing partition, or install over an existing Windows instance. If you choose the latter option, system and user files will be placed in the Windows.old directory to be accessed later. Choose your option and hit next—the installer will take over from there.