I’d like to summarize my so far very positive experiences with the Windows 8 Beta („Consumer Preview“) here.
I downloaded and installed the 64-bit en-US version on my XPS15z laptop into a virtual disk (.vhd file). The download was very fast (on an average download rate of 6.2 MB/s!), so it took less than 10 minutes to get it from the Microsoft servers.
Installation was seemless despite the extra hops that need to be taken to get it installed into a .vhd file. I followed the Guide to Installing and Booting Windows 8 Developer Preview off a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) by Scott Hanselman for the Windows 8 Developer Preview and it still works exactly as described with the Beta. The only thing you need to be aware off is that the drive letter where you created the .vhd file upfront might change from C: to D: (in my case).
Windows 8 benefits over Windows 7
1. Hardware Support
Windows 8 seamlessly recognized the most important of the XPS15z’s quite modern hardware components, namely the Intel WLAN adapter, the Atheros Ethernet adapter, and the USB 3.0 host controller. On Windows 7 it was a PITA to get the drivers installed if you have neither access to USB, nor to a network and you don’t have a driver DVD handy.
Also, my network enabled EPSON BX635FWD printer was automatically detected, and the EPSON driver software was automatically installed.
Very nice experience!
2. Out-of-the-box support for mounting .ISO images
No more need to download and install Virtual Clone Drive or alike.
3. Mouse Without Borders
Installation Mouse Without Borders (one of my favorite tools) was a bit bumpy because this software is dependent on the .NET framework 2.0. Windows 8 comes with .NET framework 4.5 preinstalled, but this does not include the older .NET framework 3.5.1 (which includes 2.0). Installation through the „Programs and Features“ applet failed, maybe because Internet was only available through the company proxy.
But I could get .NET framework 3.5.1 by mounting the downloaded Windows 8 installation .ISO image (which was a snap thanks to the integrated .ISO support) and executing the following command:
Dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:NetFX3 /All /Source:F:\sources\sxs /LimitAccess