Get ready, beta testers. Microsoft Thursday debuted Windows 8 Release Preview, which is one of the last steps before a final release of Windows 8 this fall. Versions of the operating system are available for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems.
Here's what Microsoft says is new or enhanced over previous beta releases:
- New Bing-powered apps, including ones for travel, news, and sports
- Improvements to Mail, Photos, and People apps
- Increased Start personalization
- Better multi-monitor support
- Better Windows Store navigation
- New family safety and security functionality
- Enhanced touch support for Internet Explorer 10
As with past betas of Windows 8, Microsoft advises users to not install the operating system on a computer used for day-to-day work. There's also no going back without wiping your hard drive.
You can't downgrade from Windows 8 since it cannot access the recovery partition of your hard drive. If you need to downgrade, ensure you have recovery disks readily available.
If you are already running Windows 8 Consumer Preview or Developer Preview, Microsoft says you can upgrade to Release Preview. There's a downside to upgrading, though: you cannot keep any of your files.
To run Windows 8 Release Preview, your test computer will need a processor with a clock speed of 1GHz or greater, 1GB (32-bit version), or 2GB (64-bit version) of RAM, at least 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit) of available hard drive space, and a graphics card that supports DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver.
For select features, you will also need multitouch support, Internet access, and a screen resolution of at least 1024 pixels by 768 pixels.
Where to Download Windows 8 Release Preview
If you meet these requirements, head over to the download page on Microsoft's site and enter your e-mail and country. Since the free Release Preview is available in 14 languages, chances are you'll find a version of the software available for your region.
Clicking "Download" will start the download of the "Windows 8 Release Preview Setup." Running this application automates most of the set-up process, and selects the appropriate version of the preview for your machine. If you're a bit more daring and technologically savvy, Microsoft has provided direct links to ISO files.
These must be turned into installation media that are burned to a DVD drive or copied to a USB flash drive in order to complete the install. That's the installation process in a nutshell, but again--be wary. This is preview software, so keep mission critical work off your test PC.
Have you installed Windows 8 Release Preview? Did you previously install the Consumer Preview? Let us know your thoughts on this latest release and anything you notice that needs a little work.