8 tips to make your Windows 8 upgrade a more pleasant experience

On the whole, you can expect a Windows 8 installation to go without a hitch, but don't let this lull you into a false sense of security that things can't go wrong, they can.

It seems that a lot of you have taken the opportunity to download and install Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8, now that it's available from a number of different places . While for most of you the installation and setting up process seems to have been trouble-free, some of you have run into difficulties.

The good news is that I've not come across or heard of any major Windows 8 showstoppers yet. This is good, but remember that it is early days for Windows 8 and the driver and software support that you enjoy for Windows 7, Vista or XP will not be present for Windows 8 yet.

By choosing to run Windows 8 now, you are an early adopter that likes to live right on the cutting edge.

If you've run into problems, or want to get a heads-up on what some of the problems other have encountered, then read on.

Tip 1: Hardware requirements

The minimum hardware requirements for Windows 8 aren't all that great: 1 GHz or faster processor, 1GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit) of RAM, and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver -- but it goes without saying that if your hardware doesn't match up to this then you shouldn't be installing Windows 8 on it.

If your hardware doesn't match up to these minimum specs, it's not a new operating system you need, rather new hardware.

Tip 2: Consider the system

Windows 8 has been designed by Microsoft to work on a broad range of devices, including desktops, notebooks and tablets. However, there's one class of device that I believe isn't well suited to the new operating system, and that is netbooks. The small screen on these devices makes them unsuitable for Windows 8 in my opinion unless you're really used to working on a cramped screen.

Tip 3: Backup

I know you're excited to take Windows 8 for a spin, but please contain your enthusiasm long enough to create a full backup of your system.

As robust and as well tested Windows 8 is, if for whatever reason your installation goes bad, you can find yourself on a fast track to a world of hurt with no off-ramp if you don't have a backup to rely on.

Do yourself a favor and run a backup before you think about upgrading the software.

Tip 4: Dodgy downloads and defective discs

Some of the most annoying Windows 8 installation problems can be traced back to quite boring causes such as dodgy downloads and defective DVD discs.

Since we're all having to download the Windows 8 ISO files direct from Microsoft, there's a lot of scope for problems, especially if you're burning that ISO to a disc or copying the files to a USB flash drive in order to make use of it.

If you're a TechNet or MSDN subscriber then you can check the file against the checksum provided, but if you download the 90-day evaluation for developers then you don't get this option.

Tip 5: Updated drivers and software

While Windows 8 is compatible with a broad range of hardware and software, there's no guarantee that everything that you own will work. It's a very good idea to search out updated software and drivers before you embark on an upgrade.

It's particularly important that you check that your security software is compatible with the new operating system -- in fact, if you're upgrading an existing system, it's a good idea to uninstall your security software first to avoid any problems.

Tip 6: Clean start

While Microsoft offers users the ability to upgrade older versions of Windows up to Windows 8. When it works, it's a fantastic timesaver, but there are times when it just won't work. This is when you have to bite the bullet, wipe your system and start from scratch.

Remember that when you do this you will need to have the installers for all your software, along with all the information for configuring your system, such as license keys and passwords.

There's no end of reasons why you might need to wipe your system before upgrading to Windows 8. Just a few that I've come across recently include incompatible drivers, software misconfiguration, the presence of GPT-style partitions, and malware.

Tip 7: If at first you don't succeed...

I've lost count of the number of Windows 8 installations I've carried out, and while most went according to plan, some threw up odd error messages or crashed for no apparent reason.

While this is certainly annoying, rather than trying to figure out what went wrong, the first thing I did was try the installation again, and more often than not, it will work perfectly the next time around.

Tip 8: Patience is a virtue

Windows 8 has only just entered the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage. This means that the big name hardware makers have only had the final code in their possession for a few days, and this won't have given them the time to get drivers for everything out of the door just yet.

A good example of this are the touchpads and media keys found on notebooks. These require driver support, and unless you're lucky enough to have a driver that will work on Windows 8, then you're going to have to wait for the OEM to release new drivers. As far as touchpads are concerned, Windows will support most of these, but it will be basic support and any advanced features will be unavailable until you get the correct driver.

If your hardware is new then there's a good chance that there will be Windows 8 compatible drivers. If your hardware is more mature, you might be out of luck.