Get a free taste of Windows 8 Consumer Preview
It's not that long until Windows 8 will hit the shelves but if you want to see what all the fuss is about, you can download and install the Release Preview at no cost.
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Before we go any further we should point out the limitations of the Release Preview.
Unless you have a spare computer lying around, the best way to try out the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is to use VirtualBox. We have used VirtualBox 4.1 as you'll find with the link above but some tools in VirtualBox such as changing the screen resolution have worked better with the beta of VirtualBox 4.2 here.
Changing the screen resolution is important because some Apps will only work with resolutions of 1366 x 768 and higher.
The system requirements for the Windows 8 Release Preview are quite modest with a 1Ghz CPU, 1GB of RAM (2GB for the 64bit version), 16GB of hard disk space and a Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics card with a WDDM driver. If you are going to run it in VirtualBox, you will need a significantly more capable computer to deal with running two operating systems at the same time.
The other problem with the Release Preview is that there is no way to update it to the final version of Windows 8 when it is released. The only way to move is to do a complete reinstall. If you choose not to use VirtualBox we'd strongly recommend that you don't leave any important documents on a computer with this version of Windows.
The essentials of Windows 8 are all in place with the Start Screen that replaces the Start Menu of previous versions. It is made up of tiles that can display live information such as unread messages or the latest news.You can bring up the Start Screen at any time by pressing the Windows button on your keyboard.
If you want to search for programs or files as you can in the Start menu now, just start typing on the Start Screen and results will be shown as you type.
The Desktop looks a little different as the Start Button has disappeared. Replacing it are the Charms, a menu that appears on the right hand side of the screen if you hover the mouse over the top right hand corner or press Windows and C together. This lets you search the computer or current app, access the Start Screen or some basic settings.
The Windows 8 Release Preview still has some rough edges (fixed in the RTM version) but it is a great introduction to the new Windows interface. If you're not sure whether you want to hold off for a new computer with Windows 8 this is the way of trying properly before you buy.
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The best way of trying out the new Windows interface
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