Download the Free Windows 8 Consumer Preview
On February 29, Microsoft made the beta version of its forthcoming Windows 8 operating system software available to the public. You can download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview for free and install it on a PC or tablet device. Here's what you need to know...
What is Windows 8 Consumer Preview?
The big news about Windows 8 is its touch interface, called Metro. To use Windows 8’s touchscreen interface, you’ll need a tablet or monitor that supports touch. Each app is displayed in its own colorful square tile. Swiping, pinching, flicking, and other gestures familiar to smartphone users navigate Windows 8 as well. There's also a much sharper focus on integrating with the web, social media, and the multimedia experience. See the Windows 8 Consumer Preview page for some screenshots, video and download links.
Want to download Windows 8 and try it out for free? Read on. To run the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, you'll need a PC or tablet that meets the following minimum specs: 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.
If you don’t have a touch screen, don’t despair. The familiar Windows 7 user interface is available on Windows 8 in its own tile. From there, you can use a mouse and keyboard shortcuts to perform tasks that require precision and typing.
Windows 8 offers a new way to log in. The Lock screen that greets you upon bootup can be a picture of your choice. You log in by tracing invisible designs on the touch screen. For instance, you might touch the top of a mountain and trace a finger along a river’s course.
A Microsoft account (formerly Windows Live account) is required to take advantage of Windows 8’s online features. Foremost among them is the new Windows Store, where you can buy Metro apps. You can also sync settings, files, photos, and other data with all of your devices through a Microsoft account and the SkyDrive cloud storage service. Connecting your Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to your Microsoft account makes your friends status updates and other social data instantly available through Windows 8.
Will Windows 8 Be a Success?
I have to admit that I have my doubts about Windows 8. Almost everything about it is radically different from previous desktop versions. While the Metro touch-centric paradigm may be cooler than the "legacy" Windows experience, it’s going to be a huge shock for most users. Many businesses have just completed or are still working on upgrading to Windows 7; it will be years before they will want to go through another painful and expensive upgrade cycle, particularly with a radically steep learning curve.
None the less, Microsoft is betting heavily on Windows 8 to give the company a toehold in the emerging touch-centric mobile device market. With Apple's iPad dominating the space, Microsoft is making a bid to get back in the game. Whether Windows 8 revitalizes Microsoft’s market dominance or flops as badly as Vista did remains to be seen. We'll begin to find out this fall, when the final release of Windows 8 is due out.
Until then, you can download the free Windows 8 Consumer Preview, take it for a test drive, and decide if it's for you. Just be aware that this is still "beta" software, which means that it could contain bugs, might not be compatible with your hardware, or cause you other unanticipated problems. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview FAQ page puts is very bluntly: "Windows 8 Consumer Preview is stable and has been thoroughly tested, but it’s not the finished product. Your PC could crash and you could lose important files." You should also know that there are some important caveats about installing the Consumer Preview on an XP, Vista or Windows 7 system. You can do so, but you might not be able to keep all of your files, programs, and settings. See the FAQ for details.
A good idea is to create a new partition and do a fresh install of Windows 8 there in a dual boot configuration. Even better, install and run it in a virtual machine. See my article What is Virtualization? for some tips on how that works. The point is that you should not install Windows 8 Consumer Preview and use it on your primary computer, as your everyday operating system. Windows 8 Consumer Preview will expire on January 16th 2013, at which time you'll have to uninstall it or purchase a paid license of the final Windows 8 product.
What do you think of the new Windows 8 user interface, and will you be installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 1 Mar 2012
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Download the Free Windows 8 Consumer Preview (Posted: 1 Mar 2012)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved