The next big OS from Microsoft is almost ready and we’ve been anticipating its arrival for a while now. So, the final release is still sometime away, from release but the second major preview that was expected early this year is here. MWC 2012 is almost over and Microsoft has gone ahead and opened up the gates for users to download and try out the new platform.

The first open build – the Windows 8 Developer Preview was made available for download in September 2011. The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a more refined build and is something that should be functional till early 2013. So, let’s quickly look at how to download and install the operating system on your PC. We’ll start by first explaining how to install Windows 8 on a clean system and then, also how to upgrade your Windows 7 operating system to Windows 8 without losing too many settings.

However, before starting, we suggest you backup any important data and applications just in case.

Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview
The first step is of course, to download the operating system. Microsoft has setup a download page from where you can download a tool that will check your hardware and software to see if they’re compatible with Windows 8. If you want more information on the system requirements for Windows 8, head over to one of our news story on the official availability of the preview. The tool then downloads Windows 8 for you. You also have the option to download disc images (ISO images) and burn them on a disc and install it. There are 32-bit and 64-bit builds available on this page. Microsoft has also provided a serial key that can be used to install the operating system.

Burn a copy of Windows 8 on a DVD
Once you’ve downloaded the ISO file, burn it using a disc burning software. If you don’t have one installed, you can always use the default Windows Disc Image Burner that’s part of Windows 7, for example. If you don’t have one, you can download a copy of CDBurnerXP  for free. Microsoft offers other options for installing Windows 8 off a USB stick using their USB/DVD tool. Once you’ve chosen how you want to install Windows 8, the process is pretty common and straight forward. In fact, many of the initial steps are similar to Windows 7.

Downloading Windows 8 from the Microsoft site

Downloading Windows 8 from the Microsoft site

In the case of a clean install, the entire hard drive or at least, one partition ought to be free. Microsoft recommends 16GB of free space if you’re installing the 32-bit version and 20GB if you opt for the 64-bit version.

Setup from an existing Windows installation
If you're doing a clean install of Windows 8, skip this. But assuming that you have Windows already installed, simply insert the burnt DVD and open Windows Explorer. If you have Autorun enabled, the installation setup should start automatically. If it doesn't, double click on the setup.exe in the DVD. The installation will ask you whether you'd like to update the installation before it begins. If you don't want to do this, you can click the Skip button.

Keeping existing Windows settings and data

Keeping existing Windows settings and data

Next, enter the product key provided by Microsoft on their download page. The next step is to choose which items from the existing Windows installation you’d like to keep. Choose one of the following and click Next. The user has the option to save Windows settings and personal documents or just personal documents. If you do not want to save anything, you have the option to do that too. The installation will then begin.

Installing using a bootable disc or USB drive
If you’re going to install Windows from a bootable disc, head into the BIOS and switch the DVD or USB drive as the first boot device. If all goes as per plan, you should be prompted to boot through the DVD or USB.

Manually setting up partitions for Windows 8

Manually setting up partitions for Windows 8

Once you enter the product key, you’re asked to choose whether to install Windows on the entire hard drive or select partition. We recommend using the custom partitioning tool and creating partitions. Select your drive, click on Drive options and choose which partitions you’d like to use for Windows.

We suggest keeping a minimum of 20GB for the 64-bit version but we would suggest making more space in case you’d like to install software on the same partition. Click on Next to start the installation. The files will then start copying to the local hard drive.

First boot after the install

First boot after the install

Once the files are copied, Windows will reboot and start making final preparations. It’ll then start checking all the devices connected to the system.

Post-install steps
The first step is to enter the PC name and an e-mail address for product updates. This e-mail account will be linked to your Windows account. You'll also be asked to choose some basic settings for Windows. You can choose the Express Settings method. 

Setting up default settings for Windows 8, in a jiffy

Setting up default settings for Windows 8, in a jiffy

In the next step, you’ll be asked to enter the password, your name, country and ZIP code. Microsoft also asks for additional information such as your mobile number and an alternate e-mail address for verification reasons. This is also handy in case you lose your password. You’re required to enter at least two bits of information in this step. The last step is to enter your birth date, gender and a text box verification.

Up and running

Windows 8 – Up and running

Once that’s done, you’ll be able to sign into your all new Windows 8 installation! We'll be covering a sequence of articles on Windows 8, so stay tuned.

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