Microsoft's Windows 8 beta is now available as a free download, which means that it's time to figure out how to install it.
Officially called the Consumer Preview, the
beta is actually quite simple to install. There are some requirements, though. Most
computers ought to be able to handle Windows 8. You'll want to have:
a 1 gigahertz or faster processor
1 gig of RAM for 32-bit or 2 gigs for 64-bit
a 16 gig hard drive for 32-bit, or 20 gigs for 64-bit
a graphics card that supports Microsoft DirectX 9 or higher
There are also some extras that won't work without certain specifics. As shocking as this sounds, the touch features will require a touch screen monitor or
tablet. Accessing the Windows Store requires an Internet connection, obviously, but also a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768. And to Snap apps, which lets you split the screen between two apps, you'll need a resolution of at least 1366 x 768.
To get started, go to preview.windows.com.
The first is simple. Click "Get it now," enter your e-mail and country if you'd like, and begin downloading the installer. It will automatically detect the appropriate version for your system. From there, you can either overwrite your current operating system, or set up a partition using a tool like Easeus Partition Master (download) before installing it.
The second is harder but not extremely difficult. You're going to put the Windows 8 beta on a disc or thumb drive. From the same Windows site, click the ISO link here and fill in your information. Choose the appropriate version for your system, either 32-bit or 64-bit. You've also got localization for Chinese, French, German, and Japanese. No love for Basque speakers, sadly.
Download the proper ISO for your system. If you're on XP, you'll have to use a separate program to convert the ISO to an installer. Most DVD burners include this.
For Vista and Windows 7 users, you can use the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool from the Microsoft Store. (To get the tool, scroll halfway down the page to the link.)
Download the program, run it, and point it towards the Windows 8 ISO source file you just downloaded. Then choose USB Device or DVD as appropriate, insert the USB key or DVD, and begin copying.
Love it or hate it, you know you want to see Windows 8 for yourself.
Microsoft's tool lets you convert a USB key or DVD into an ISO installer.
Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)