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Upgrading to Windows 8 Developer Preview on a Windows 7 laptop

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September 17, 2011, 8:42 IST

Michael Muchmore

We've seen Windows 8 in action on a device built specifically for it, but how does the new OS fare on an older, standard PC instead of on a touch-tablet? Microsoft has made some bold claims about performance improvements, especially when it comes to startup time, and lower memory usage, as well as overall faster operation. The company has also stated that Windows 8 will run on any computer that could run Windows 7. Since Windows 8 Developer Preview is now available for download from dev.windows.com, we decided to put those claims to the test.
 
It probably wouldn't be a good idea to overwrite your main machine with Windows 8, since we've seen more than one bug and several quirks. What's more, Microsoft has plainly stated that it wouldn't offer support to those who install the budding, pre-release OS.
 
The machine we installed Windows 8 on could probably be called "old"—it's a three-year old Dell XPS M1550 with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 3GB of DDR2 RAM, and an nVidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics board. It was fully updated to Windows 7 Service Pack 1.
 
The Install Process
The start of the installation process looks identical to that of Windows 7 and Vista. First you choose your language and keyboard country input method. Only English was available for the OS language in the Developer Preview, but keyboard countries ranged from Afrikaans to Yoruba (Nigeria). After this selection, the only choices were Install Now, and "Repair your computer."
 
After hitting Install now, the timer, and Setup Is Starting appeared. Then I had to accept the license agreement, just as with past Windows installations.
 
Next, I was happy to see that there was an upgrade option, so that I wouldn't have to lose all my documents and apps. After all, Microsoft has been claiming that all Windows 7 apps would run in Windows 8, so an upgrade option makes sense. I was surprised to see it in such an early version of the OS, nevertheless. The upgrade choice did read "The option to upgrade is only available when an existing supported version of Windows is running."
 

Because I wanted to make a new partition, I chose Custom, which did offer that option. Unfortunately, though, none of my existing partitions were able to accept the new Windows OS, because they were Dynamic partitions. Even after I went back to Windows 7 and deleted a partition, Windows still wouldn't install in the resulting unallocated space. So the only option was an upgrade. I crossed my fingers with the hope that all my apps would still work.
 
Interestingly, choosing Repair Your PC led to a Metro-style interface, whereas up to now I'd been in an old-style Windows interface. Windows 8's new Refresh and Reset options were available from here. When I tried the former, it went through the motions, but then told me it couldn't perform the task. Upgrade option, too, uses a different interface from the Custom installation, with the trademark sans serif and plain background. It also checked my system for compatibility, and presented three options: Keep user accounts, personal files and programs that work automatically; just user accounts and personal files; and nothing.
 
Next the installer went through a "Let's see if you have to do anything first" check, with a green progress bar. After this finished, what I needed to do was free up more disk space. The Windows 8 32-bit installer requires 16GB of free space on the target drive. I was finally able to clear out enough unneeded file bloat and was rewarded with the Ready to Install screen.
 
A progression of operations followed, in this order:
  • Preparing System
  • Getting devices ready
  • Getting system ready
  • Preparing
And after a reboot:
  • More Preparing
  • Applying user settings
All this took about 35 minutes. Keep in mind that the 35 minutes is pretty fast for an upgrade as opposed to a "clean" install. Windows 7 took much longer for the upgrade case. I saw the same setup process I'd seen on the Samsung Windows 8 Developer Preview PC. A green screen with metro typeface asked me to pick a Wi-Fi network, but I could choose Skip if I wanted. Next, I had to choose Settings, the same Express settings appeared as for the tablet: automatically update, use the built-in anti-malware, and allow apps to use my location, name, and account picture.
 
Then all I had to do was to log in with a Windows Live account. With Microsoft's move towards integrating cloud-based services like SkyDrive storage this step makes sense, just as it does for the completely
cloud-reliant Google Chrome OS, which also requires you to sign in to an online account. 
 
Read 'Running Windows 8 at Last,' on the next page...
 
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc.
 
 

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