Microsoft has worked hard on Windows 8 to bring it from its “Developer Preview” stage up to a much more refined “Consumer Preview”. There’s a whole host of new features in the Windows 8 consumer preview that really sets it apart from the developer preview.

Of course, this being a consumer preview you probably all want to install it and take it for a test drive. While I do highly recommend that you do just that, there is a few things that you need to remember before you install it.

Beta Means Beta

While Microsoft hasn’t actually called the consumer preview “beta” as they did with Windows 7, this does not mean that it’s bug-free. You can be assured that there is still plenty of bugs and possible issues in the consumer preview of Windows 8. The consumer preview has been released for a couple of reasons. One of those is to gauge how the public will respond to the new Metro UI and the new OS as a whole. The second is to find more bugs and glitches in it. Microsoft couldn’t possibly hope to find all the bugs on their own, so that’s why the release it to the public. Once you install Windows 8 on your machine, it will be sending back reports to Microsoft with any bugs or issues that it finds.

Also because it’s a beta build, I strongly advise that you do not go and install it as your primary OS. Chances are you have Windows 7 or Windows Vista installed as your main OS. Keep it that way. By all means, install the consumer preview, but install it as a secondary OS or as a virtual machine. Also, be sure to make a backup before you install the Windows 8 consumer preview. You never know how your computer is going to react with the consumer preview, it could run perfectly, or you could find your system constantly crashes because of hardware issues.

This also means that you should not install Windows 8 on top of an existing OS on your computer. If you’ve got the developer preview of Windows 8 installed I highly recommend you perform a clean install over it and don’t attempt an in-place upgrade. The same goes for Windows 7, do not install Windows 8 over it, install it either in a virtual machine, a separate hard drive or a separate partition.

Minimum System Requirements

Microsoft has proudly told us that Windows 8 will not require any more resources than Windows 7, in fact, they say that it can run with less power than Windows 7. However, I’d take these claims with a pinch of salt as you’ll probably find that in order to run properly on a low spec machine you’ll have to disable most of the graphical features.

Regardless of the minimum requirements for Windows 8 are pretty low.

You’ll need

  • A Processor that’s 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • For the 32 bit, you’ll need at least 1 GB of RAM and for the 64 bit, you’ll need 2 GB of RAM.
  • You’ll need 16 GB of hard drive space for the 32-bit or 20 GB for the 64-bit
  • You’ll need graphics that can support Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher

That’s the minimum specs to run Windows 8, however, there are also a few other requirements if you want all of the features

  • Obviously to use the touch features you’ll need either a touchscreen monitor or tablet.
  • If you want to access the Windows Store you’ll need an internet connection but also a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768.
  • If you want to use the Snap feature you’ll need a resolution of at least 1366 x 768.

What Version Do You Need?

Microsoft has got a few different ways for you to install the Windows 8 consumer preview. You have a choice of downloading a 5MB setup file which will download Windows 8 for you. From there you can go about installing it. Or alternatively, and what I prefer to do is grab an ISO image of the OS.

ISO Windows 8 Consumer Preview Images

This way you can burn the ISO image to a DVD or mount it to a USB and install Windows 8 that way. It’s a matter of choice really, but I always like to have a physical copy of Windows so I can use it to repair or reinstall if I need to.

Another thing you need to remember is if you need a 32 bit or a 64-bit version of Windows 8. Nowadays most computers are 64 bit but there is still a few which are 32 bit so be sure to get the right copy of Windows 8.

The 32 bit ISO image is 2.5 GB while the 64 bit ISO image is 3.3 GB.

Microsoft has also made a variety of different languages available for the consumer preview. You can choose from

  • English
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese

And finally, don’t forget to take note of the product key as you’ll need to this to confirm that you’ve a genuine copy of Windows.

Product Key: DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J

You can download Microsoft’s installer here or the ISO images here

Can I Get Rid Of It If I Don’t Like It?

If after you’ve installed Windows 8 and you decide you don’t like it anymore, there’s no uninstall button. If you want to get rid of it you’ll either have to format your drive or reinstall an older operating system over it. This will also mean that you will lose all your files so be sure to perform a backup of important files.

Where Can I Get Help?

If you’re looking for help with the consumer preview you’ll have to look online. The best place to head to is probably Microsoft’s Consumer Preview forum

How Long Can I Use It For?

Unfortunately, you can’t just install the consumer preview and keep it forever. Microsoft would miss out on an awful lot of sales if they did that. The product key that they give you will last until January 15, 2013.

Round Up

That’s about it then. I’ve pretty much covered every aspect of the consumer preview of Windows 8. Now it’s up to you to install it and take it for a spin. It may take some time for you to get used to the new Metro UI and you could be wondering where the start menu has gone, you’ll either love it or hate it. Regardless this is going to be Microsoft’s next operating system so get used to it.