Getting started with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Getting started with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Summary: You've got questions about the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I've got answers. Here's what you need to know before you begin testing.


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Where do I get a product key?

If you install Windows 8 Consumer Preview using the Web-based setup program, you won't need to enter a product key—the setup program automatically provides the product key.

If you download an ISO and make your own installation media, you will need to supply a product key. The ISO download page includes this public key:


The Windows 8 Consumer Preview FAQ has a different key:


You’ll need to type this code in when prompted.

What about installing Windows in a virtual machine?

I don’t recommend testing Windows 8 in a virtual machine, You’ll get the best results if you run on physical hardware. VMs are most useful if you want to document the setup process or if you want to run an unfamiliar app in a sandbox.

Windows 8 will not run on Windows Virtual PC. It will run on most third-party virtualization platforms, although you should check with the developer of that software first for any needed patches or setup instructions.

Can I upgrade the Windows 8 Developer Preview to the Consumer Preview?

Yes. However, the upgrade will not migrate any installed programs or files.

Which Windows 7 touch hardware will work with Windows 8?

This Windows 8 blog post contains a list of hardware that the Windows development team has used widely, although they caution that the list is not an endorsement. The following text is taken directly from that post:

  • HP Elitebook 2760p convertible (Note: This PC is 1280x800 and so does not support snap.)
  • ASUS EP121 tablet (Note: this 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.)

Where do I get support?

For general questions: Windows 8 Consumer Preview forum.

For IE issues: Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview forum.

For questions and issues related to business features: IT pro forums.

Can I uninstall Windows 8 Consumer Preview?

No, if you want to restore your previous operating system, you need to do so from the original installation disks or from a backup you made before the upgrade.

You made that backup, right?

How do I turn off the Metro style Start screen and use the classic Start menu?

You can’t. Although there was a registry hack that worked in the Developer Preview, it is not available in this release. My colleague Mary Jo Foley wrote about a promising Group Policy setting (available via the Local Group Policy Editor, Gpedit.msc). Unfortunately, this option is intended for use with the Windows Server 8 Beta only. In my limited testing so far, it doesn’t work with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Even if it did work as described, the effect would simply be to skip the Start screen and go directly to the Windows desktop at startup—you can do that yourself with a single click. This Group Policy setting doesn’t change the behavior of the Start screen in any other way.

Does the Consumer Preview have an expiration date?

Yes. This release will stop working on January 15, 2013. That should be long after both the release to manufacturing and General Availability dates.

How do I customize the Windows 8 Start screen?

I’ll have step-by-step instructions to help you with the most common tasks in a follow-up post.

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Software, Windows

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  • Windows 8 "Chicago"

    So after playing around with the beta bits, I have to say, I hate the Start Menu. It's unintuitive, ugly to look at, and it takes extra clicks just to find any of my programs! What is Microsoft thinking!?

    Hopefully, Microsoft will give us the option to switch off the Start Menu and go back to the Program Manager. Microsoft, I want my Program Manager back!

    All kidding aside, after a day of use at school, I can say that the CP has been quite fun to use and explore. It's still a little rough around the edges - I really think Microsoft needs a better, more forward place for the shut down options, and it seems we're still in search of that elusive unified Control Panel (Now we have two!), but all in all, it's a pretty solid release. The Metro Start Screen isn't as big of an issue as people make it out to be. If consumers can easily adapt to the many Android UIs and iOS UI, then they can easily adapt to the new screen.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • The Start Screen

      is much more tolerable after the user adjusts it to his liking, which he'll have to spend a bit of time doing (and figuring out how to do, though it's not all that bad). But at least the user has more control over tweaking this screen to his liking than on Android or iPad.
      Michael Kelly
    • Wow. 5 downvotes?

      I thought my joke was rather funny. :/
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • So did I!

        And, that's saying something, Cylon Centurion. If my recollection of your comments is correct, you tend to be, shall we say, patient and accommodating of things-Microsoft (not that you're Loverock Davidson).

        I, to be honest, tend not to be a big MS fan, but I absolutely agree that "change" is the issue, regardless whether the new UI is better or worse or whatever.

        But I did LOL when I think back to the trauma of "no more program manager? One start "button"...?!" way back in the day. Now we have to find a way to carry on and cope with life without a start button.

        The horror...the horror.
        Non-techie Talk
      • @Non-techie Talk

        Thank you! :D

        Personally, the way I look at things is this: Microsoft has had Windows since home computing began. They were there from the start. Fundamentally, Windows hasn't changed all that much since then.
        What's happening now is Microsoft is going back and now preparing Windows and it's many services for a new and upcoming generation of computing. And when you think about that, Metro makes sense.
        Would you wanna use the old start menu with a Kinect based PC? How about an all in one tablet?

        There's a new generation of computing, and this is only Microsoft adapting to it. While I agree that the desktop will be with us for many more years yet, Windows 8 plays nice with a wide range of hardware without the need to maintain two operating systems.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • It took me a few minutes...

      But I figured out what MS was going for. You aren't supposed to be digging through your start menu (much like you aren't supposed to be digging through your start menu in 7). The point is to find by typing. Type a letter, at the Metro home, of an app you are looking for, as you continue to type, your list dwindles down.

      So far Windows 8 has been a big hit with myself and those I have shown it to on my Aspire laptop. There are a few bugs yet (like switch user killed my external screen and locked the computer), but this new interface is definitely starting to grow on me. They still need to make the classic desktop look a little less Windows seveny though...
      • Cool. Because we were all so much more productive

        back in the days of DOS when you had to type in your application names
      • @baggins

        Well, I apologize if typing "ph" on your desktop for PhotoShop confuses you more than digging through a tree by clicking "start" -> "All Programs" -> "Adobe CS5.5" -> "Photoshop CS5.5", but I think generations past you will not share your sentiment.
    • Metro Dashboard with keyboard and mouse

      I have been using the Developer Preview since September of last year, and I find that the improvements for keyboard and mouse in the Consumer Preview is very nice.

      I hear lots of complaints about how Metro is unusable from a keyboard and mouse and find that the complaints are without merit. If you have ever watched a person who lacks dexterity try to navigate multiple levels of flyout menus from the start button, it is painful to watch.

      The metro start screen will be much more accessible for most people. Why people want to keep the start menu crammed into lower 1/8th of screen real estate is mysterious. For years in business we have been searching for a "Dashboard" that can present relevant information, organized the way the user wants to see it...The metro "dashboard" is a pretty good start in that direction.

      People need to recognize that Windows 8 is a bridge OS. If you have watched any of the Microsoft Research videos that show what computing will look like in the future, you realize that we can't get there in one hop. Windows 8 will help us migrate that the same time, Microsoft is aware of its user base and does an excellent job with backwards compatibility.

      I think the criticisms of the vocal minority are getting old. I am utterly shocked at how difficult it is for supposedly techno-savvy people to learn new features and how they love to hang on to the old way of doing things.....if we left the world to these people, we would still be using punch cards and dumb terminals if not riding in horse drawn carriages and drawing water from a well. Sheesh, don't call yourselves technical enthusiasts.
      • Tech Savvy

        Tech-savvy people cling to techno-savvy interfaces, no matter how unintuitive they may seem. That's what you're witnessing here.

        This is why you don't leave a UI design in the hands of a typical developer. He'll be the only one that can understand it in the end.

        I'm tech savvy, but I enjoy and appreciate the beauty in simplicity. This is what I feel Windows 8 has brought to the table.
      • Metro

        I have to agree with gomigomijunk on this. When I tried the Developer Preview I didn't like it at all. The improvements in the Consumer Preview have completely changed my opinion of the O/S. The new way of working with the new Start Menu (metro) is a huge improvement over previous versions of Windows. The machine I have it running on is a home built desktop that is several years old and it is having no problems running the O/S. I'm using a trackball and keyboard to navigate and have had absolutely no problems finding what I need on my computer or accomplishing my daily tasks.
    • A few keyboard shortcuts

      and everything is right where you need it. Pin anything you really need to the taskbar, does't slow me down at all.
    • It's Very Intuitive!

      Unintuitive? You don't know what you're talking about! I'm 63 years old but found it very easy and pleasant to use! Except maybe for shutting down the machine for the first time but which Bing solved for me in seconds! But I also discovered later on that there's no need to shut down because it puts the machine into hibernation after some time of unuse!

      The funny thing though is that the initial download scan told me my 10-year old Canon printer won't run anymore in Windows 8 but guess what - it runs very well even without installing the driver for it!
    • Program Manager

      Well if you move your mouse to the far up/down right corner and move your mouse up/down, "charms" will come up. Just click on search, search your programs, administrative tools, etc under settings, and there you go! I know back in Windows 7 all you had to do was click on the start button and search what you wanted, but you can also do that with Windows 8 too.
  • Mouse-Only

    Please talk even more about testing with mouse and keyboard only, no touch screen, especially for customizing the Start screen.

    Also, even though you say, for some reason, not to use a VM for testing, I imagine that is what 75%+ of us are doing. And for Server 8, that's probably what 95% of us are doing, and yet we still have to deal with the Start screen on that platform too.


    [Update: I meant 75% of us who are beta testing, not final end users or even hobbyists. And for servers, installing as a VM is the default these days, so 95% both now and after RTM I still think is realistic.]
    • 75% is a little steep

      I highly doubt 75% of the people using Windows 8 are running it in a VM. I am but I'm also running it on hardware.

      And 95% for Server 8? That's insane. I thought about it but considering Hyper-V 3 is probably the feature I'm most interested in from Server 8 it would be silly to install it into an existing virtual environment. Make it pretty hard to test those features for sure.
      • Final tests

        of the final software will be more likely to be on hardware, however an early beta test like this does not warrant those kind of resources when all we are really interested in doing is getting a feel of how the OS works. Later on I will try the software out on real hardware, but for the time being my hard drive is too full and I don't want to scrap my Windows 7 partition for a test, so until I get a new hard drive I'll just noodle around on a VM.
        Michael Kelly
      • @MK

        I agree that some, maybe even half of the installs, will be on a VM. But I find it hard to believe 3/4 of all users will. And I probably wouldn't have commented but the 95% VM server installation really caught my eye. Hypver V 3 is one of the biggest features with the new OS.
  • The resolution issue is one worth noting

    There are a lot of not-all-that-old laptops out there that max out at 1280 x 800. And very few current tablets are even at 1024 x 768, and though of course you can't install Windows on those that will mean OEMs will have to churn out tablets at a much higher resolution than they have been doing if they want full support.
    Michael Kelly
    • I doubt this will be a problem

      Today, most new notebooks are 1366x768 or better and, by the time Windows 8 ships, I expect that most Android tablets will be at 1366x768 (16:9) just to try to keep up with the iPad 3, which is rumored to have a resolution of 2048x1534 (4:3). 16:9 is best suited for video and 4:3 is best suited for reading.
      M Wagner