Microsoft has outlined how IT professionals will be able to set up Windows 8 using a flash drive, and has also claimed that the installation process will be much quicker than that for earlier versions of Windows.
Windows 8 will play down the need to type in the product key during installation. Those setting up the new version of the OS via the web delivery method will not have to type in the key at all, as it is 'pre-keyed' in the download file for the unique user.
However, IT professionals and other advanced users may want to install Windows 8 from a USB key while leaving the installation process unattended. In a blog post on Monday, Microsoft Setup and Deployment team member Christa St Pierre explained how this can be done.
When putting Windows 8 onto the flash drive, the user will be able to copy-and-paste the product key into an 'unattend answer file', which will itself need to be copied into the root of the USB stick. This will make it possible to leave the installation running without having to be there.
Similarly, the user will be able to use the same file to pre-set the UI language and automatically configure the PC to boot multiple operating systems.
"You could [configure multiple boot options] manually in the Advanced Setup GUI and BCD configuration, but why do that when you can script it? The unattend framework is very flexible and you can instruct Setup to format, create, or modify partitions on the PC's disk(s)," St Pierre wrote.
St Pierre added that advanced setup from a USB drive was not supported in the Windows 8 developer preview build, but would be in the finalised version.
Windows 8, due for release next year, will run on PCs and tablets, working with both the x86 and ARM architectures. It will use a new, touch-centric interface called Metro, which is similar to that found on the Windows Phone platform.
St Pierre said the installation process would also prove heavily revamped. For example, resolving blocking compatibility problems will not force the user to restart the whole setup process.
Upgrade Advisor, Setup and Windows Easy Transfer have all been rolled into one experience. According to St Pierre, an upgrade to Windows 8 can be done using 11 clicks — 82 percent down from the number of clicks needed to perform a Windows 7 upgrade.
"The exact number of steps you need to take to complete the installation varies based on your existing OS, migration choices, install method, and number of blocking issues you need to resolve to get the PC ready for installation, but the experience is greatly simplified for everyone," she said.
Another change can be found in the way Windows 8 will handle the transfer of preserved files from the old OS to the new. While previous Windows installation processes did this file-by-file, the Windows 8 process will move whole folders.
There is just one transport folder, rather than the two needed for the Windows 7 upgrade, and Microsoft has also made various other tweaks to speed the process up.
The result, St Pierre claimed, was that Microsoft had "virtually eliminated" the difference in upgrade times between a clean install and upgrades involving hundreds of thousands of preserved files.