Features like Secure Boot, Hyper-V virtualization, and touch-screen computing need the right combination of hardware, software, and settings to work as advertised.
Windows 8 Beta: Visual Tour
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Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available for public download, but Microsoft is warning that users won't get a real feel for what the OS can do unless they have the right hardware, settings, and configurations. The company has published a blog that spells out what's needed in order to experience many of Windows 8's unique features.
Windows 8 will run on most PCs capable of running Windows XP and Vista, but Microsoft said that the best experiences will be had on systems that were built to run Windows 7. "We are committed to supporting any device with a Windows 7 logo," said George Grant, Microsoft's corporate VP for Windows, in the blog pot.
In terms of minimum system requirements, Grant recommends the following setup: a 1-GHz or faster processor, 1 GB of RAM for 32-bit computers and 2 GB for 64-bit machines, 16 GB or 20 GB of hard disk space for 32 and 64-bit systems, respectively, and a DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM 1.0 driver or higher.
"This setup gets you going with Windows 8 such that it is functionally equivalent to Windows 7," said Grant.
Windows 8 enables two views of the desktop--the classic, icon-based view, and the Metro view, which presents apps as Live Tiles that can be launched for mobile-style, full-screen viewing. In Metro, a feature called Snap lets users run and display two apps at the same time. Grant warns that systems must have a minimum screen resolution of 1024 x 768 to run Metro, and 1366 x 768 to use Snap.
"If you attempt to launch a Metro-style app with less than this resolution (e.g. 800 x 600) you will receive an error message," said Grant. There is, however, a workaround that can be implemented through a Registry edit that overrides Windows 8's determination that a system is not Snap capable.
To keep their existing configurations intact, many users that have downloaded Windows 8 Consumer Preview are running it on virtual machines. But Grant warns that such a setup could significantly hamper performance. "We strongly recommend you run Windows 8 on hardware, as it was designed to run for the majority of consumer experiences," said Grant.
"The most important reason is access to the rich experience powered by accelerated graphics, and the fast and fluid operation that you'll experience when running this way," Grant said.
As for the actual hardware that users should run, Grant said most systems that support touch on Windows 7 will also do so with Windows 8 Consumer Preview, but added that certain models that Microsoft has used for internal testing run touch particularly well. Those include the Dell Inspiron Duo, Lenovo x220t, and Samsung Series 7 slate.
Secure Boot, a new security feature in Windows 8 that protects PCs at the firmware level, requires UEFI BIOS to run, which is only found on the newest PCs. Another security feature, BitLocker, will run best on PCs equipped with the Trusted Platform Module, which may need to be enabled in the BIOS settings. Hyper-V virtualization needs a 64-bit system with second level address translation (SLAT) and an extra 2 GB of RAM.
Finally, Grant recommends that users back up all key data before upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Consumer Preview. "Please keep in mind that there is no rollback after an upgrade installation," said Grant.
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