Upgrading to Windows 8
Starting the Windows 8 upgrade online
could prove faster and easier than using a disc. Ian Paul and Gregg Keizer find
PC users will be able to upgrade to Windows
8, the next version of Microsoft's OS, using a download in favour of a disc
purchased from a retailer.
Microsoft said it wants to make
upgrading to Windows 8 from older versions of its desktop OS easier and faster.
"Our aim in improving setup is to
reduce the time from start to finish," said Microsoft's Windows president,
The software firm is following in the
footsteps of Apple, which offered a similar option with the release of OS X
Microsoft is still giving PC users the
option to purchase a Windows 8 DVD, but the firm hopes more people will opt for
the download option. Microsoft did not reveal whether there would be a pricing
difference between online downloads and physical DVD purchases of Windows 8.
Those who opt for online delivery will
still be able to create a bootable thumb drive or DVD to install the new
version of Windows. This might be advisable for those who plan to back up their
files to a second hard drive and do a clean install of Windows 8.
Microsoft claims that starting the
upgrade wizard online and then completing the move to Windows 8 on the desktop
will be "one continuous integrated experience from beginning to end"
Furthermore, Microsoft said this easy
install option doesn't involve entering a 25-digit product key to activate the
software. Instead, the product key will be embedded into the disk image you
download during the setup process.
to Windows 8 online
Microsoft starts the process by
scanning a PC to determine Its compatibility with Windows 8, You can then read
a simplified or detailed report on whether there are any upgrade problems with
your installed software and peripheral devices. The compatibility scan also
allows Microsoft to automatically determine in which language it should deliver
the new OS and whether your PC can support a 32- or 64bit version.
Once this is complete, Windows 8
starts downloading to the PC. Windows 7 users can choose to retain their
complete Windows profile, including their account settings, personal files and
programs, only their personal files or nothing at all, with the latter option
providing a clean slate. Vista users can keep their settings, user accounts and
flies, while XP users are able to retain only their user accounts and files.
The process is said to have 82 percent
fewer screen clicks than a Windows 7 upgrade.
A Windows 7 upgrade requires four
different installation wizards, including the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor and
Windows Easy Transfer, and up to 60 screen clicks to complete. However,
Microsoft has dramatically reduced the maximum number of screen clicks during a
Windows 8 upgrade to just 11. But does cutting back here result in a faster and
streamlined upgrade process?
According Christa St Pierre, a member
of Microsoft's Setup and Deployment team, it certainly does. She said a clean
install - where all files and data are wiped from the drive prior to installing
Windows 8 – should wrap up in 21 minutes, which is 35 percent less time than
the 32 mins Microsoft said it takes Windows 7 to do the same.
For what Microsoft called a
"medium upgrade" - on a system with 213,000 files and 77 applications
installed - Windows 8 is three times faster. An upgrade on such a PC is
completed in just 42 mins, versus Windows 7's 2 hours and 11 mins.
The real time savings are revealed by
machines sporting between 430,000 and 1,4 million files, and 90 to 120
applications. Here, Microsoft claims that Windows 8 was between four and 10
times faster in its initial time trials.
Microsoft hopes that improving its
upgrade process will help convince the users of more than 450 million Windows 7
PCs worldwide to make the switch. It also has designs on the large number of
computer users still running Vista and Windows XP, who may finally be ready to
"We have integrated what was once
many separate steps for people to perform when preparing and starting their
setup into a streamlined user experience, with a fast and reliable setup engine
under the hood," said St Pierre.
"Customers who choose to install
Windows from an online source will have a greatly improved experience over what
we've delivered in the past, with smaller and faster downloads, as well as
increased resiliency and control. We hope you will find these improvements a
great way to start your experience using Windows 8."
Although the final version of Windows
8 is yet to be released - and has no official launch date other than "some
time in 2012" - the Developer Preview is available for download. You can
grab your copy from our website (head to tinyurl.com/3zqh77t for the 32bit
version; tinyurl.com/6xe4Lo2 for 64bit), but note that the Windows 8 Developer
Preview is in development code and should be installed only by experienced
users. PC Advisor accepts no responsibility for any problems incurred.
Steven Sinofsky has described the OS
as a "reimagining of Windows from the chipset to the experience". For
the first time, a Microsoft desktop OS will feature a dual interface. A Classic
desktop is designed for traditional keyboard-and-mouse input, while a touch
interface known as Metro is ideal for use with tablets and other touchscreen
devices. You simply press what used to be the Start button to switch between
Metro borrows heavily from Windows
Phone 7, featuring a series of live tiles that contain real-time data or link
In another first for Windows, the OS
will include an integrated app store, known as the Windows Store, where you can
purchase apps for Metro, and traditional desktop software. Metro-based apps
will work on devices that feature ARM processors, although traditional desktop
programs will not - such software is unable to take advantage of ARM's advanced
features, such as the ability to adjust power states when not in use. Sinofsky
said that it would make little sense to provide a way to run such applications
on ARM processors.
How Windows Store will collect payment
for downloaded apps and whether the service will be available when Windows 8
launches remains to be seen.
claims a PC running Windows 8 will take less than 10 seconds go from powered
down to the Start screen. This speedy bootup is thanks to a new hybrid system
that mixes processes used in cold boots and hibernation mode.
took everything great about Windows 7 and we made it even better," said