Windows 8 will be released on October 26, but Microsoft has been publicising little bits of information about it for several months now. Here’s a handy guide to the Windows 8 editions and system requirements along with a few pointers that will come in handy if you’re planning to upgrade right away.
The stark, minimalist new Windows logo
Microsoft’s dramatically redesigned OS is optimised for touchscreens, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work perfectly well on your existing PC; as long as it meets the minimum system requirements, it will work prefectly fine. You’ll need at least a 1GHz processor (32- or 64-bit), 1GB of RAM (2GB minimum for a 64-bit CPU), 20GB of hard drive space and DirectX 9 graphics. Your screen must be at least 1024 x 768 pixels to display the new Start screen and run “Modern” apps (formerly known as the Metro environment), but you’ll have to live without side-by-side multitasking unless your monitor has a minimum resolution of 1366 x 768. This excludes devices such as the first generation of netbooks, which came with 1024 x 600 pixel screens. You’ll also need an always-on broadband connection to use any of the cloud-connected services including SkyDrive, photo syncing and the People app. You can choose whether to associate Windows with a Microsoft account (create a fresh one or use an existing Hotmail or Live.com ID) or keep things offline and self-contained.
When it comes to buying Windows 8 as a retail package, you’ll have only two choices: the standard edition and a Pro version. This is a huge improvement over Windows 7 and Vista, which came in a number of confusing editions. Windows 8 should provide everything a home user needs, while Windows 8 Pro can connect to a corporate domain and comes with management features designed for office environments. There is no separate Media Center edition, but for some reason Media Center functionality can be added on to only the Pro edition for an extra charge. This table illustrates the differences between the two editions and Windows RT, which will only be available preinstalled on certain tablet and notebook products and will not run any of today’s common Windows software.
Click to see the full-sized table
The primary method of purchasing and installing Windows 8 will be via a digital download from Windows.com. You’ll be able to burn a DVD or create a bootable USB pen drive, though retail boxed DVDs will still be available for those who can’t or don’t want to deal with such a large download. Exact pricing information for India is not yet available, though Microsoft has announced a special promotional price of just $39.99 (approx Rs 2,100) for Windows 8 Pro in 131 countries till January 31, 2013. Media Center will also be free during this time. Anyone who has bought a qualifying Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and the Windows 8 launch date can upgrade for just Rs 699.
Both during and after the promotion, boxed DVDs will be more expensive than a digital download.
Users of Windows XP, Vista and 7 can upgrade to Windows 8 in-place rather than perform a clean install on a freshly formatted hard drive. Depending on how old your version of Windows is, you’ll be able to migrate your settings, personalisations and programs. The only restriction is that users of a Professional or Ultimate edition of an older version can’t do an in-place upgrade to the non-Pro edition of Windows 8. Also, those with a 32-bit edition will have to take the fresh installation route if they want to move to a 64-bit Windows 8. Those currently running the Windows 8 Release Preview or any of the previous preview versions will not be able to upgrade in-place, and there is no word yet about when the previews will expire.
The handy compatibility checker
Even before the bulk of the installation files download, a compatibility checker will tell you if any of your hardware and software is unsupported or might misbehave with Windows 8.
That’s all you need to know before setting out to upgrade to Windows 8! Stay tuned for more coverage of Windows 8’s features as we lead up to the official launch two weeks from now.