TECH ANALYSIS: There's a lot of trepidation about the move to Windows 8, but there needn't be. This isn't another Vista. It's more like a tablet-friendly Windows 7 with tiles.
For some companies, the coming of Windows 8 is a non-event. They're still running Windows XP, regardless of the lack of support, security issues and the never-ending stability problems. But for many companies, security is important and so is performance. And not every company plans to keep using its ancient XP machines forever because they're afraid to change. So for those of you who know that eventually you'll need to support Windows 8, and plan to learn about it. Here's what to expect.
There are two versions of Windows 8 currently available. The one that most people are familiar with is what Microsoft calls the RTM versions, and it's roughly equivalent to what Windows 8 Professional will be when it ships. The other is the Enterprise version, which obviously is intended for deployment in large organizations and has additional features to support enterprise users.
You'll need to download the appropriate ISO file and install it on the machine you're using for evaluation. If you're using a machine that's already running Windows 7, this is a fairly painless process, although it may not be particularly fast. The download and creation of the installation DVD took me about 20 minutes. Your time may vary depending on how fast your Internet connection is and how fast your computer is.
If you're planning to upgrade your existing Windows 7 installation, run the setup application from within Windows. You can also perform a clean install by booting Windows 8 directly from the DVD. If you choose to do the upgrade, the Windows 8 installer will also reinstall your existing applications. It appears that Windows 7 applications will run properly under Windows 8.
You need to pay attention to the configuration of the machine that you plan to use for your Windows 8 evaluation. While Microsoft's minimum configuration is pretty simple, you'll want a reasonably fast hard disk and enough memory to be useful. Fortunately, if your computer doesn't make the grade, the Windows 8 installer will let you know.
I performed an installation of Windows 8 on two different computers to get an idea of the difference in the evaluation experience. One is a 5-year-old HP dv6000 laptop which originally ran Vista and was upgraded to Windows 7. This machine has the typical Windows productivity applications installed, including Microsoft Office 2010.
The other is a machine that was purchased new for this test. It came with Windows 7 installed, but had never been used for anything before the upgrade to Windows 8. Chances are that your evaluation will take place on a computer at your company that has already seen use and that you can afford to take out of service for your testing.
The implementation process on a new machine is painless. Everything goes on and works. It's free of drama. The only significant difference with the older machine was that Windows 8 warned that it wouldn't be able to install the version of Norton Internet Security installed on the machine.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.