I’ve written about the impending release of Windows 8 extensively over the last few months, but that’s been largely on the basis of Microsoft’s own announcements regarding the latest iteration of its operating system software. This month, Microsoft’s taken the same steps it took with Windows 7 and released a “consumer preview” edition of Windows 8 that you can download right this minute if you’re so inclined.
Microsoft’s offering up the ISO of Consumer Edition in both 32 and 64 bit versions as a direct download from its servers for anyone who cares to grab them. If you’re keen, head over to
and choose the language (English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German or Japanese and then whether you want the 64-bit or 32-bit version. Generally speaking that should be the 64-bit version, especially if you’re going to install it on a system with more than 4GB of RAM, as 32-bit Windows can’t “see” any RAM above that limit — actually technically just above 3GB, in fact.
There’s a few caveats there, however; for a start, the 64-bit English download itself weighs in at a hefty 3.3GB, which will take both some time and some serious chunks of your data allowance to actually download. It’s supplied as an ISO image — that’s essentially an archived CD image, although it’s also possible to convert a USB flash drive to perform the same function. From there, it’ll install in much the same way that existing Windows operating systems do, with the only remaining catch being that this is still early software — the full retail version of Windows 8 is expected to ship later in the year — and it’s also time-limited software. When the full version of Windows 8 ships, you should be able to migrate a consumer preview version into the full version of Windows 8, but it’ll cost you whatever Microsoft decides to charge for it. Still, if you’re keen to see what Microsoft’s got just around the corner and have a spare PC — which needs to have the relatively moderate specifications of a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 16-20GB free hard drive space and a DirectX 9 capable graphics card — it’s well worth checking it out. Bear in mind that if you do install the consumer preview onto an existing Windows PC and choose to install the operating system as an “upgrade”, you’ll overwrite the existing operating system — which almost certainly isn’t your best move!