After a download of the Windows 8 Customer Preview made available earlier today, I have been messing around with it in a VM. If you’d like to check it out for yourself, you can download the ISO and setup a VM with VirtualBox, all for free. The basic Windows 8 x64 install will use up at least 18.5 GB of hard drive space, so size your VM accordingly. For Windows 8, you will need to ensure that your BIOS is configured to support virtualization though by enabling VT-X or AMD-V. Since it’s only a Consumer Preview, I would not recommend installing the OS directly on your computer either.
Check out the images after the jump that will walk you through the Windows 8 experience if you don’t want to test it out for yourself.
Booting from the .iso and installing Windows 8 was very similar to the Windows 7 experience, actually a lot of things are not that different from Windows 7.
If you will pardon me as we fast forward through the usual setting up a partition, expanding the Windows image, and copying files, we can get to the more interesting things. Like this little fish guy that we’ll see again later.
From the very beginning, you start customizing your PC. You can use the slider to choose the color background you want from some dark colors and here is where you name your PC for the first time as well.
You have the option of choosing the quick settings and being done with the setup quickly or going the customize route to see everything in detail. Since I wanted to see what our options were, I chose the custom route.
Windows Update behavior and IE/Windows SmartScreen Filter settings…
Send info to Microsoft about your experiences to help improve the process?
Use Windows Error Reporting, troubleshooting packs, and IE Compatibility views? Let apps access your account info and location?
You can sign into your PC with a Windows Live account to store your settings and sync across PCs.
You have two options for signing into your PC: using a Microsoft account or setting up a local account. There is no mention of a domain account, though the consumer preview will allow you to join a domain. This will be an interesting area to see if problems arise in the enterprise. Do people want their work and home PCs synced? I can see it useful for somethings but I see more problems with user accounts filling up or taking really long to load because it is syncing large files across the Internet. Think roaming profiles were bad?
Create your account to log into the PC. Administrator is already taken and the account is disabled.
Hit the Finish button and you’ll see the new progress bar. It’s this little ring of circles that go around in the ring but seem to fall with gravity.
You won’t have to sign in the first time (you did just create your password a second ago) and you’ll be brought to the Metro Start menu. You can slide it around, launch apps you want to open, or go to the Desktop.
Immediately following when you sign in, you can only get to the Desktop by clicking the Desktop rectangle. After that, you can open and close the Start menu with the Windows Key but it will not close the Start Menu immediately upon logging in.
The more familiar desktop, and the promised fish. This is where the title question comes into play: Where’s the Start button? It’s not in the lower-left corner.
Actually, it is. If you put your mouse in the lower 10×10 pixels or so, the Start button will pop up and you can click it to be taken to the Metro Start Menu.
Perhaps it’s because of the virtual machine but it’s a small bullseye to get that Start button to appear. I foresee using the Windows key on the keyboard a lot more with Windows 8. Fortunately, you can hit the Windows key to get into the Start menu and just start typing in order to find what you are looking for.
On a side note, Windows 8 consumer preview comes with the Internet Explorer consumer preview. Take that for a test spin as well.
Windows 8 also comes with Pinball FX 2 which requests you sign in with an Xbox Live account for Xbox Live for Windows features.
By default, Windows 8 has a lock screen on it that you have to flick up in order to log into the computer. It might back sense on a tablet but it’s pretty annoying with a mouse. Perhaps there is a trick to it but for now, it just gets in the way. At least it is more useful than previous lock screens by showing the date and time.
Once you flick up the lock screen you can log in. After you start typing your password, a button will appear that will allow you to click it and it will show you the text behind the dots so you can verify you entered your password correctly.
Also of note, the . trick still works to log into a local account with Windows 8.
One last annoyance: Perhaps I’m missing it but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to shut down or restart a computer. From what I can tell, the process involves hitting the Windows key to get to the Metro Start menu, clicking your user name and choosing Sign out. You then have to flick up the lock screen and you have a power button in the bottom right corner of the sign-in screen. When you click that button a little option pops up to choose between Shut down and Restart. Click your option and the computer will finally power down.
There has gotta be an easier way to do a very frequent task like restarting.
All in all, it looks promising – not that different from Windows 7 but some definite quirks to get used to or hope that they get ironed out before the final release.