Windows 8, Windows 8 Server Betas Released

Operating systems available for x86/x64 hardware in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Microsoft has released betas of Windows 8 and Windows Server 8.

The beta releases, available for x86/x64 hardware in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, are provided in several languages, including English, simplified Chinese, French, German, and Japanese; they can be downloaded here. The release, called a "consumer preview" by Microsoft, has been updated from the developer preview version of Windows 8 Microsoft announced at its Build conference for developers in September.

The ARM-based version of the Windows 8 beta is not being released at this time to the general public. The version t requires specialized hardware that's not readily available, as Microsoft explained this month.

Microsoft plans to announce the Windows Server 8 beta tomorrow (March 1), although it is available for download today at Microsoft's TechNet portal here. Users of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 can upgrade to the 64-bit Windows Server 8 beta, but thereafter no upgrade can be performed from the beta installation, according to Microsoft's system requirements document (PDF) for Windows Server 8.

Hardware Requirements

Microsoft's view is that a system capable of running Windows 7 will be able to run the Windows 8 beta. Systems require the following hardware features to run the new OS:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: MicrosoftDirectX 9 graphics device or higher

The Windows 8 beta is touch enabled (keyboard and mouse action is still supported), so there are additional hardware requirements to access the touch features of Windows 8. The device's monitor needs to support multitouch, which means it must be capable of supporting five simultaneous touch points, according to a Microsoft Windows team blog.

Microsoft also disclosed a limitation with its "snap apps" feature, which aligns two running applications side by side. The device needs to have a screen resolution of "at least 1366 x 768" for that feature to work. Using a Metro-style app with a smaller screen size will produce an error message, according to the "building Windows 8 blog."

Microsoft described additional details today about the Windows 8 beta. Information is available about using secure boot (which depends on UEFI and is not broadly available yet), BitLocker (it requires a PC with a "trusted platform module"), and Hyper-V. Hyper-V is available on the Windows 8 client but it's for use on 64-bit systems capable of second-level address translation capabilities. Hyper-V for Windows 8 on ARM-based devices isn't available.

The betas are designed for use on test machines and aren't complete products yet. Microsoft cautions that there is "no rollback after an upgrade installation," so users likely will want to use a test machine for the Windows 8 beta.

Users can upgrade from the Windows 8 developer preview, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and even Windows XP to the Windows 8 beta. Each upgrade option has its limitations, as described in Microsoft's FAQ, but all of the upgrades will let the user keep their accounts and files. If installing from media, such as an ISO disk, the upgrade won't keep the installed programs, files, or settings.

Microsoft also released today betas of Visual Studio 11 and the .NET Framework 4.5, as well as VS 11 Team Foundation Server. For details, see this Visual Studio Magazine article.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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