Saturday, 10 December 2011

Introduction to Windows 8 Developer Preview: Setup

I have been investigating Windows Developer Preview recently, and I thought it fit to share some of my experience. This post is mostly how to get Windows 8 set up, but in the near future I want to post a quick review, and get into programming in Windows 8.

First, lets start with some info on getting your own Windows Developer Preview setup running. The first step is to download it from the Windows Dev Center. As of this writing, there are three downloads that include Windows Developer Preview. There are two downloads, for x86 and x64, as well as one for x64 that includes the developer tools. Hopefully there will soon be a download for the x86 folks who want to use the developer tools. The download you probably want is the first one, 'Windows 8 Developer Preview with developer tools English, 64-bit (x64)'. It is a DVD image of the installation disk for Windows Developer Preview.

Once you have the file downloaded, there are two options. If you have a spare computer that you can wipe and install Windows, I recommend that option. But if you are like me and don't have one, Windows 8 works on a virtual machine. I will explain how to get it set up for those that haven't used one before.

I used VMware Player to run Windows 8. For anyone who wants to use Microsoft Virtual PC, don't. Virtual PC doesn't support x64 operating systems, which is a major barrier in this case. VMware player also has a toolset that installs on the guest OS, and can greatly improve the user experience.

Before you set up the VM, you need to think about how to share your computer's resources between the host and the guest. I recommend at least 4GB of RAM on the host, but you may be able to squeak by with 2GB. I have 4GB, and I ran Windows 8 with 1.5GB of RAM, and it worked fine. I had tried it with 2GB, but that caused my host (Windows 7 for the curious) to almost freeze sometimes. I recommend giving Windows 8 at least 1GB. Disk space shouldn't be an issue. VMware recommends 60GB for Windows 7 x64 (the closest option to Windows 8).

Setting up the VM is easy. in VMware player, click 'Create a New Virtual Machine'. In the first dialog, select 'I will install the operating system later.' In the next dialog, select Windows 7 x64 as the guest OS. The rest is self explanatory. On the last dialog, click 'Customize Hardware...'. There you can set the available memory, processors, drives, etc. Set everything as you would like, and also 'insert' the Windows installation disk. In the CD/DVD settings, select 'Use ISO image file' and enter the path to the ISO file that you downloaded.

Once you have everything tuned to your preference, close the hardware options and click Finish. You are all ready to run Windows 8. Click 'Play virtual machine' and when the machine starts, follow the instructions to set up Windows. Once you are set up, you should see a green screen with a list of apps.

The first thing you want to do if you are using VMware Player is to install the VMware tools. Open the desktop and in the VMware menu (not within Windows 8) select Virtual Machine > Install VMware Tools... This 'inserts' a CD with the VMware tools into the virtual machine. Install the tools from the CD and reboot the VM. Then you are pretty well set up completely.

Feel free to to explore the new Windows. A helpful tip: to shut down the computer, move the mouse to the bottom left corner of the screen and select Settings. This opens a menu that includes power options. I couldn't figure out how to do it myself, so I figured you might not either.

Look for a short review of Windows 8 features soon!

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