A new beta of Windows 8 is out, and you will probably want to take the test drive. See if the Metro interface is interesting or awful (I say it's awful), and if critical software works with it. (Changes to Windows 7 broke some software and device drivers, more so than did the Vista dialect of Windows.)
There's a couple of ways to do this:Windows
- Install it on a spare computer. The problem here is that spare computers tend to be older, and so no great spec-wise.
- Install it on your main computer through a dual-boot process. The problem here is that you have to divide the hard drive into parititions, a process that always, ALWAYS freaks me out -- 'cause I might overwrite good data with a great big blank.
- Boot it from a CD or USB thumbdrive. The problem here is that CDs are really slow for running an operating system; you just get frustrated. USB is faster but still not as fast running off the hard drive.
- Install virtual machine (VM) software, and then run Windows 8 in it. The problem here is that VMs don't replicate your desktop computer environment 100%. Sometimes software won't run, or runs incorrectly.
I have used all four; the first solution is best, because it runs on a real computer (not a simulated one, like for the fourth solution) and doesn't involve the panic of partition dividing. But these days I am low on spare computers (kids, you know), and so I am tending to use the VM approach.
While VM is not ideal, it does have this added benefit: once you install the VM software, it can handle installations of multiple operating systems. For instance, right now I have installs of Windows 2000, Android 4 for X86, Linux Mint 11, and Chrome OS on my computer.
Some other advantages of VMs: when the operating system crashes, it does not take down the entire computer, just the current virtual machine session. Also, you can take "snapshots," which allow you to return to a previous program state instantly.
Running Windows 8 in a VM takes three primary steps:
- Download and install the VM software.
(Also: Download the ISO version of Windows 8.)
- Set up the VM for the operating system, and then install Windows 8.
- Start the new operating system, and then download and install addtional software that makes the VM operate more flexibly.
I happen to use VirtualBox from Oracle, because it is free. You download the Windows version from here: http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/4.1.8/VirtualBox-4.1.8-75467-Win.exe. It is also available for Linux and OS X from https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads.
Install it like any other Windows software.
Download the ISO version of Windows 8 from here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/iso. You can use the 64-bit version, since most CAD software prefers 64- bit.
Start VirtualBox, and then click New. It prompts you to create a new virtual machine. (By the way: this whole VM thing is a feature of the Intel/AMD CPU running in your computer; the software from Oracle, VMware, and Parallels merely takes advantage of it.)
The isntall wizard is self-explanitory; I just warn you about creating a new hard virtual disk: I recommend Dynamically Allocated instead of Fixed Size, because Windows 8 takes up something like 13GB and the default for Fixed Size is only 20GB -- too small to install something like AutoCAD 2012. Once the disk size is fixed, you can't change it. (The solution is to erase the virtual disk, and start all over again.) Give the dynamically allocated drive an initial size of 40GB, which is the size that will be reported to Windows 8 during its installation.
When done creating the new virtual machine, click Settings and bump up the Dispay | Video Memory to the max, 128MB. Turn on 2D and 3D acceleration. All other defaults of settings are fine.
You start the virtual machine by clicking Start. It prompts you for the install disk, which is the ISO file of Windows 8 you downloaded. Follow the prompts for installing Windows 8. (If you need a product key number, use this public one: http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/how-to-get-windows-8-consumer-preview-product-key/.)
With Windows 8 installed, you need to load the VM bonus pack that provides features like support for high resolution monitors and a transparent mode that makes it look like Windows 8 apps are running natively in Windows 7. Important note: you need to install this bonus pack in each and every virtual machine (if you have more than one VM); it's not something you do once. Here's how:
- Download the curiously named Guest Additions module from http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/4.1.8/Oracle_VM_VirtualBox_Extension_Pack-4.1.8-75467.vbox-extpack. You only need to download it once, since it works for every operating system.
- With Windows 8 running in its VM, go to the VirtualBox menu bar, and choose Devices | Install Guest Additions.
Now you'll be able to do nice things, like bump up the resolution of Windows 8 to your monitor's full capability.