I've been using the Windows 8 Developer Preview now for a few days on three different machines, a desktop, a laptop and a tablet, to get a good overall view of how this beta (early beta) operating system runs on these different devices. Now I feel I'm ready to let you know what I think of this release and if you should install it on your own computer(s).
Let's get a few things out of the way right from the start as these are things you need to know. While this release might stable, being built on Windows 7 Sp1, you should not be using it as your main operating system. It is far from finished and some behaviours can be unpredictable. For example it encountered a problem starting on my laptop this afternoon and declared that Startup Repair was trying to find a solution to the problem. It did, but this involved Windows 8 resetting itself to it's factory default configuration, a new option in the OS, which deleted all the drivers and software I had installed and wiped all the files contained on that partition. In doing this it gave me no feedback at all as to what it was doing. Like I said, it's far from finished!
So let me detail my experiences for each device and you can decide for yourself whether installing it is for you.
Windows 8 needs a lot of work to work effectively on a PC. The best example I can give you is that it's difficult to switch off. On a touch screen you can swipe your finger from the right of the screen inwards and it will bring up the charms menu. Here you click settings, then Shutdown to turn the PC off. Swiping in from the right with your mouse however won't bring up this menu. From the desktop, hovering over the Start Button can bring up the charms menu, but this behaviour entirely depends on what windows are currently taking the focus on your screen, and what mood the OS is in. Suffice to say that the only sure-fire way shut down Windows 8 with a mouse is to first log out and then shut it down at the log in screen, which is a faff.
There's also the issue of how Windows 8 looks on large screens. My desktop has a 23 inch monitor on which the Metro interface, with its large icons, looks a bit ridiculous.
I'm lucky in that my laptop has a multi-touch screen so I don't have the problems with Windows 8 that I do on the desktop. However it still has a high resolution, full HD 17 inch monitor and while the new Metro interface and its icons don't look bad, it's still all abit big. Suffice to say if you don't like people staring over your shoulder, stay well away. If however you have a laptop, even without a touch screen, with a smaller display, perhaps a netbook, you might enjoy giving Windows 8 a try.
You might be unsurprised to hear that the best experience with Windows 8 is to be had on a tablet. For the first time the installer fully supports touch, so there's no need to have a keyboard plugged in at all during the installation of Windows (except perhaps to start from the install DVD if your BIOS doesn't also support touch as mine does). On the 11.6 inch screen of my tablet the new Metro interface is lovely. Suffice to say if you have a Windows 7 tablet I'd urge you to install Windows 8 and try it out.
So mixed experiences then but I doubt any of you will be surprised by the experiences I've had on different types of device. You might be interested in Windows and might just want to experience it in a virtual machine. Well you almost certainly won't be able to use the touch features this way and other features also may not work either. The only way to properly experience Windows 8 is through dual-booting into it.
One last word of advice however, if you use BitLocker to encrypt your hard disks, then a workaround is needed to also encrypt the Windows 8 drives as Bitlocker doesn't support dual-booting as standard. This workaround is fiddly and I haven't got it working happily yet. Should this happen I'll report back here on how to do this.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.