12 March 2012

The highly anticipated Windows 8 is now available for download as a Consumer Preview, which is basically a pre-release of the operating system for people. So, Microsoft wants PC enthusiasts to use its new operating system, which is still in the beta stage, leaving scope for further improvements. So, obviously it could be buggy and the feedback would let Microsoft add in some improvements to the existing OS functionality. Microsoft’s announcement was followed by a series of downloads across the globe, already crossing the 1 million mark. We’ve jotted down 10 things you need to know about the new Windows 8 platform.

Who can download the Windows 8 Preview?
It’s a consumer preview, and so available for absolutely everyone. Tech fanatics eagerly waiting to lay their hands, rather fingers on new software or say Windows 8 should give it a try, as they may encounter error and should be knowledgeable to troubleshoot PC problems, if they arise. It is therefore recommended for users willing to try out something new, which isn’t completely ready to use and has a possibility of glitches.


What are the System requirements?
Windows 8 is built on the Windows 7 platform, but promises a lot more than enhanced functionality and performance. However, it’s nice to see that Windows 8 hasn’t changed the hardware requirements much and allows easy upgrade, as the hardware specs are almost similar to those using Windows 7. So, your system requirements are 1GHz or faster processor, 1GB 32-bit or 2GB 64-bit RAM and 16GB 32-bit or 20GB 64-bit hard drive space. Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher meets the graphics card criteria. Besides, to use the touch functionality, one needs a monitor or tablet with multi-touch support. Accessing the Windows Store and downloading apps need a display resolution of 1024 x 768 and to snap apps, Microsoft recommends a display resolution of at least 1366 x 768.

What about the OS Support and duration of the Windows 8 Preview?
One can easily upgrade to the Windows 8 preview from Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP and also from Windows Developer Preview. However, one may or may not be able to retain all files, programs and settings. For instance, upon upgradation to Windows 8 Consumer preview, Windows XP users could lose Windows Settings and Programs Windows 7, while Windows 7 users can retain all their Windows settings and user accounts and files. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is available in English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, and Japanese. Obviously, you can’t go on using the Consumer Preview forever and it does come with an expiry date, which in this case is January 15, 2013. 

How to install Windows 8 Preview?
Microsoft provides downloading options, like an automated installer, which downloads the file directly onto Windows 7. One can download using ISO images and also install using USB flash drive. Microsoft store offers the USB/DVD download tool. While using setup – one has to download 1.5GB 64 bit x64 file, 1.9GB 32-bit x86 and the 5 MB setup file. One can use the ISO image, which can be converted into installation media stored on a DVD or a USB flash drive. It requires one to download a 3.3 GB file for 64 bit x64 and 2.5GB for 32-bit x86 file. Follow the complete process on how to Install a Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Why cant I see the Start button?
Microsoft has ensured a different user experience, giving this version a major facelift. The main screen shows the tiled Metro UI. The icons will be in the form of tiles on the Start or Main Screen. Do not be surprised to see the missing Start button. So, in case an icon is accidentally missing, you need to Search for it and pin it to the Start screen. However, you can choose to deactivate the Metro UI. Microsoft also adds a lock screen, which seems like a tedious task - slide and unlock using the mouse on a desktop monitor, unless you are using a touchscreen display

Why do I need the Microsoft account?
You can use Windows 8 preview using any e-mail id and it needn't necessarily be the Microsoft ID. However, signing in with one's Microsoft account, you can connect the PC to Microsoft’s cloud, allowing one to view their friends’ contact information, status from Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, automatically. One can share photos, docs and other files from SkyDrive, Facebook and Flickr, while your personal settings can be synced to the Preview, and can access Windows Store.

Windows App Store

How to access the Windows Store?
Here is where your Microsoft account will play a vital role – accessing the Windows Store. You need a Microsoft account to access the store and purchase apps. You can view the Apps tile on the Start screen. Once you get to the store, it gives you the option to create a Microsoft account.

Can I use the purchased app on more than one system?
The applications that you buy from the Windows Store can be installed on up to five PCs. You can install it from another PC by going to Windows Store – Settings – Accounts and Preferences – View your Apps – Choose the app to be reinstalled. On installation, a title will be displayed on the Start screen. Those who do not find it, can move to the right edge of the screen, opt for Search App and start searching the downloaded application.

What are the changes in IE 10?
Firstly, Internet Explorer 10 has been included with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview by default and you don’t need to download it separately. As aforesaid, the Metro UI doesn’t come with an obvious 'Start' screen. You will either find IE 10 pinned or will have to pin it to the start screen by searching for IE 10 icon and hitting on ‘Pin to Start.’ You can't install toolbars and add-ons in IE 10, and Microsoft also decided to say good bye to the Favorites option. So, now you will have to, instead pin your favorite websites and also the frequently used websites. However, the traditional Favorites can be accessed, if you open Internet Explorer for the desktop.

How can I help?
Now, the Windows 8 Preview has been released, so that people can use it and send in their feedback about the problems they encounter or suggestions regarding what can be improved. You can send your feedback and queries to Microsoft through the Windows 8 Consumer Preview forum.

Closing the curtain on a few things that one needs to know about Windows 8, watch this space for a detailed preview and performance of the Windows 8 Consumer preview.

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