A nice review that covers the essentials of what you should know about the up and coming Windows 8.
As I was relaxing on a warm, sunny afternoon surfing the Web, I came across some information about the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. After verifying that it was free and runnable on my 5-year-old MacBook, I did my happy dance (OK, not really) and set to work installing it.
There are a couple of options for installing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview:
Option 1: Download the free Windows Installer from Microsoft. The Windows 8 installer is pretty straightforward, and up for a free download if you click here. The installer itself takes up hardly any space, and will detect your current settings and any programs that may not work with Windows 8. If no information pops up about a program, it will either work or Microsoft doesn’t have sufficient information on it. Once you go through these preliminary steps, the installer will download Windows 8 Consumer Preview and begin installing it. *NOTE: This method of installation is for Windows only. If you have a Mac and would rather do the installation through Boot Camp, or if you’re a PC person and simply want to do it yourself, follow Option 2.
Option 2: Do it Yourself (Good for Mac Users). This is the option I took (in fact, I did have Windows Vista on the Boot Camp partition, but I’m a fan of clean installations so I decided to do it myself anyways). You can download a free ISO image from Microsoft by clicking here. Select your language, then choose 32-bit or 64-bit operating system (to check, click Start > right-click Computer > Properties). Burn the image to a DVD (a CD will not work because it is too small to contain the whole image) pop it in your machine, and boot up from the DVD.
The Windows installation isn’t too lengthy. It took a while for the installer to load (for me, anyways), but this is something that will probably be fixed for the actual release, which is rumored to be in the ballpark of October 2012 (but don’t quote me on that).
One thing I noticed that was different from previous installations of Windows that I had done was the Live ID account setup. You can sign in with your account or create your own at Setup.
Once you’ve set your preferences and all that, you’ll be greeted with the big new thing about Windows 8: the Start Screen.
At first, I panicked when the Start Screen was all I saw in screenshots and demos of Windows 8. I began to think, “Did they abandon the desktop? The Start menu? The taskbar? The Windows themselves? Did they really stop listening to consumers even after Vista? Is the zombie apocalypse really going to happen in December 2012 and cause the end of the world?”
However, that was not the case, as I was relieved to find. You can still access the desktop, simply by clicking the “Desktop” tile icon on the Start Screen. Phew!
In fact, if you go ahead and do that, the first thing you will probably notice is the absence of the Start button. Where it once was is now just… empty space, and thus a little more room for taskbar icons. To go back to the Start Screen, just hover over the bottom-left corner of the screen and click when the Start Screen preview appears.
The Start Screen is obviously the most major change to Windows. It is simply a nice-looking background with tiles that open up various applications, such as weather, the Microsoft application store, Internet Explorer (why is that still on the market by the way?) and a host of others. To go back to the Start Screen, you can either use the same method described for the Desktop above or click and hold at the top of the screen, and “drag” it to the bottom (in essence, “throwing it away” but not really). The Start Screen is mainly for use on tablets (as it is most friendly to the touch screen user) but it is usable on the desktop with a mouse or trackpad as well.
Another new thing Microsoft introduced is called the “Charms Bar,” which appears if you hover over the right-hand side of the screen. The Charms Bar features a few different items, including sharing tools to share your content or whatever you’re looking at with your friends.
The main problems I personally had with the consumer preview is my sound driver didn’t work (understandable because I was limited on Boot Camp) and a program or two (mainly a game) that I had used on Windows before wasn’t working, but that was also understandable because the game is rather old. There is a feature where you can run it in “XP or Vista” modes, but that feature didn’t work and, if I had to guess, it was either the game’s fault or this specific Windows feature is still under development.
All in all, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is pretty nice. I feel like the actual release will bring a lot of ease of use to future Windows users, and at the same time, still have that old Windows look for the more advanced users. Microsoft really did a good job on this one in my opinion. Especially for a consumer preview, it’s pretty darn good so far, and if it’s going to be even better for the official release, I am really looking forward to it.
Thanks for reading! Post a comment below with questions or anything else.