Microsoft officially released the Windows 8 Consumer Preview – that’s the Beta version to you and me – last month.
It follows the Developer Preview (Alpha) release and to show its near-readiness for Joe Public, it includes system-wide spell check, a feature you’d have expected years ago.
Not so good is the replacement of the Start button with what is called a “Start preview thumbnail.” This displays a preview of the start screen over an interface that allows you to cycle through all of your open applications. Although this is the beginning ot the Metro-ification (must find a better word) of Windows, this is going to cause consternation among millions of experienced Windows users who just want a quick and simple menu of programs and locations to pick from. We also get the first “Flyout” notifications.
Microsoft has also added the “boot forward” feature. Owing to the vastly improved boot times in Windows 8, it is nearly impossible interrupt the Windows boot with an F8 key to bring up the boot options menu. Boot forward is a feature that lets you set boot options prior to restarting. I can’t decide if this is hilarious, inept or long overdue.
You can run Windows 8 Consumer Preview on physical hardware (if you have a spare box) or in a virtual machine (Virtual PC or VirtualBox or VM-Ware), but we’d advise against replacing your current Windows install with this Beta; it is not, by nature, production-ready.
To download Windows 8 Consumer Preview, select 32- or 64-bit, burn the ISO to a bootable DVD or memory stick. There is a web installer, but this is dependent on your Internet connection. The downloads are available via the Official Links from Microsoft:
- Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview (64-bit)
Sha 1 hash — 1288519C5035BCAC83CBFA23A33038CCF5522749
- Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview (32-bit)
Sha 1 hash — E91ED665B01A46F4344C36D9D88C8BF78E9A1B39
Product Key Essential
If you are installing the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, make sure you get the product key. Unlike previous beta versions, you can’t skip the product key box and provide a key later. If you download an ISO image to create your own installation media, you’ll need to type in a 25-character product key near the start of the install process.
If you use the web installer, a key is generated and filled in automatically for you.
Microsoft has published two keys that anyone can use.
The ISO download page includes this public key:
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview FAQ has a different key:
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview should be good for use until September when it is due to expire. More on Windows 8 Consumer preview soon. AJS