We’re very excited to get to the point in the project where we can provide a pre-release version of Windows 8 that is broadly usable by the tech community on a daily basis. We know folks who are anxious to run the Windows 8 Consumer Preview are probably interested in suggestions around what hardware to use. This post provides the technical details behind system recommendations. These are not system requirements, and are not final, but simply a view of what works best for running the Consumer Preview. Grant George, our corporate vice president of Windows Test, authored this post.
--Steven


In the beginning of the Windows 8 project we started with the notion that you should get all that you need for computing from a single PC—that you do not need to choose between two desirable options, but that you can indeed have what you want in a single PC. The Consumer Preview is about saying “of course you can” to all those things you want to be able to do with your PC. You don’t need to choose between consumption and productivity, between portable and powerful, or between touch and keyboard. Windows 8 doesn’t force you to compromise. It isn’t about “modes” of working, but is about seamlessly moving through all the things you want to do on your PC in the way you want to do them.

And the first step in achieving that was making sure Windows 8 works great with the hardware and peripherals you already have. To run the Consumer Preview, we recommend you start with your Windows 7 PC identified by a Windows 7 logo. While some software and devices will require updates provided by the manufacturer, we are committed to supporting any device with a Windows 7 logo. Occasionally the manufacturer will decide that a PC or peripheral is not supported and will say so on their website. However, since we are still in pre-release, not every manufacturer has this information available and so we ask your patience during this testing period. Software utilities such as security, management, and disk tools are normally tied very closely to the specific Windows version for which they were designed and will require updates from the manufacturer.

Whether you have a logo PC or you’ve built your own PC, the recommendations for the Consumer Preview include:

  • 1 GHz or faster processor
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver

This setup gets you going with Windows 8 such that it is functionally equivalent to Windows 7, and as we have talked about previously, you should see measureable improvements in performance in a number of dimensions with a system at this level.

One new element to Windows 8 is the requirement that Metro style applications have a minimum of 1024x768 screen resolution, and 1366x768 for the snap feature. If you attempt to launch a Metro style app with less than this resolution (e.g. 800x600, 1024x600) you will receive an error message. Since the software is in everyone’s hands now, we will follow up with a more detailed blog post where you can learn more about the work we did for scaling across multiple resolutions and why this is a requirement in order to make sure developers can easily build applications that scale well across resolutions. We chose to allow Windows 8 to install even when a system doesn’t meet this requirement because, even without Metro style applications, your Windows 7 workloads on these PCs will improve and you can benefit from all the other features of Windows 8, including enhancements to the desktop. We have made sure that Start and Settings all scale well on 800x600 resolution screens.

Many of you asked about running on a virtual machine. Our recommendation for the Consumer Preview is to run it natively on hardware if you intend to run Windows 8 on hardware when the product is final. Some of you will run virtualized environments for enterprise workloads or specialized purposes, but we strongly recommend that you experience Windows 8 on hardware, as it was designed to run for the majority of consumer experiences. The most important reason is access to the rich experience powered by accelerated graphics, and the fast and fluid operation that you’ll experience when running this way. If you do run in a VM, which is supported as expected, please be sure your screen size meets the minimum requirements.

We previously outlined some of the requirements for touch hardware if you wish to experience Windows 8 in a touch environment (a touch tablet, convertible, all-in-on, or touch-capable monitor). We want to provide a short update on touch below and will post more about this soon. With the Consumer Preview, if you want to support touch, you will need a screen that supports multi-touch.

Although there are a number of existing Windows 7 touch devices and many are fully supported, we do recognize the touch experience of Windows 8 places a greater demand on a high quality experience than could have been foreseen when manufacturers were developing hardware for Windows 7. Our data is showing that a vast majority of Windows 7 touchscreens will perform well for Windows 8. This means that touch drivers continue to load, and you’ll be able to perform basic touch interactions with a reasonable degree of success. The following systems are a few that we have been using widely in our internal testing and self-hosting, although of course, this is not a specific endorsement of these PCs:

  • HP Elitebook 2760p convertible (Note: This PC is 1280x800 and so does not support snap.)
  • ASUS EP121 tablet (Note: his PC is 1280x800 and so does not support snap.)
  • Dell Inspiron Duo convertible
  • Lenovo x220t convertible
  • 3M M2256PW 22” display (Note: The raised bezel can make it harder to swipe along the edges)
  • Samsung Series 7 slate (Note: This PC has two models, one was provided to attendees at //build/ and the other is a commercial release; the latter has slightly different peripherals and firmware.)

It is also worth noting a couple of other features that have specific hardware requirements. (Note: be careful whenever you adjust your BIOS settings.)

  • Secured Boot requires a new UEFI BIOS, which is not available broadly on PCs yet, but is starting to be made available. If your machine does have UEFI, you can enable it via BIOS settings.
  • BitLocker does not require but performs more seamlessly if your PC has a Trusted Platform Module (TPM). Machines that have this sometimes require it to be enabled via BIOS settings. BitLocker To Go requires a USB flash drive that meets performance criteria evaluated at installation time.
  • Hyper-V requires a 64-bit system with second level address translation (SLAT) capabilities and an additional 2 GB of RAM. You can also enable SLAT via a BIOS setting.
  • Some games and other software require graphics capabilities compatible with DirectX 10 or higher (including some games available in the Consumer Preview and in the Windows Store. We will continue to improve the verification of your system prior to downloading or running software with these requirements). Some games and programs might require a graphics card for optimal performance.
  • If you clean install instead of upgrade (see below), you should check your PC manufacturer's website to make sure you install any specific drivers that they provide there. Many laptops will get better battery life with a power-optimized driver that is specific for that PC (often known as ACPI, Power, or Chipset driver).

Oh, and for a lot of things you’ll probably want an active Internet connection! Be sure to check out the metered network support if your connection has limits.

For those of you who have already been running the Windows 8 Developer Preview, you can install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview using the migrate option (just keep personal files), but not the upgrade option (keep personal files, apps, and settings). Or if you prefer, you can of course do a clean installation (keep nothing). The Consumer Preview release does permit upgrading from Windows 7, and will run the integrated upgrade advisor to check on any things you might need to look into. Please keep in mind that there is no rollback after an upgrade installation. We also strongly recommend that you perform a system backup prior to an upgrade, migrate, or clean install of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Also note that the final release of Windows 8 will not support upgrading from any prior Windows 8 "Preview" release, though the migrate option will still be supported. In any upgrade scenario, you can run the Disk Cleanup Wizard to remove the previous installation in order to free up disk space. The download will also support boot from USB for a completely clean installation as well.

Happy downloading and installing! 

Grant George