4 Best Ways to Try Out Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

/update on Sept.11, 2013/

Windows 8.1 will be officially released to public on Oct. 18, 2013, but Microsoft has decided to open it up early to developers on both MSDN and Technet subscription. It will be a free update to all Windows 8 users. The post below was written a while ago for Windows 8 but also works on version 8.1. These are the best ways to try out the new operating system before completely switching to it.

Unless you have decided to fully jump aboard to use Windows 8 as you primary production system, you need to find a way to try it out in a way that is as close to the real world as possible. And here are 4 of them.

OS

Before you start it, you will need to find a version of Windows 8 that you want to try. There is a 90-day trial Enterprise edition available that doesn’t require a valid product key to activate the full features. And there are full copies available for MSDN and TechNet subscribers. You can skip the product key activation during the installation, if you are worried about the automated activation.

If you are not so sure which edition to pick, this Windows 8 edition comparison should help you decide which edition you might want to go with.

For anyone who don’t know if you will be seriously using it later on, the 90-day trial version is your best bet.

#1 – Load it on your spare hardware

Since the minimum requirement for a Windows 8 is quite low, you have no problem running Windows 8 on a 3-year-old machine. If it runs ok on a machine like Dinosaur it should be able to run fine on most of the computers available on the market. And if you still have one in your garage that you haven’t disposed, time to make a good use of it.

#2 – Native VHD boot side-by-side with your Windows 7 & 8

Windows 8 Dual Boot with Windows 7

As I mentioned many times, if you want to have a dual-boot side by side with your current windows 7 system, Native VHD is the best way of doing it. And here is how you can do it (it’s for Consumer Preview but works the exact same way), and the best thing of it, it’s way easier than the traditional dual-boot. And since it’s only a single VHD file in the end to Windows 7, it can be very easily removed without left a trace to your current system.

#3 – Run it as a VM

Windows 8 in VMware Player

If you are a fan of virtualization, here is the good news. Windows 8 runs beautifully in both VMware Player and Oracle VirtualBox. Here and here are the two posts that can help you set up if you run into a problem. Trying out on a Mac machine? No problem, here is the best way of doing it.

#4 – Run it on a USB drive with Windows To Go

I love this Windows To Go feature in Windows 8. It’s a new feature that puts the whole operating systems with user data onto an external USB storage device that you can easily carry with you. And it’s not so difficult to do, just follow this tutorial for Windows 8¬†and this for Windows 8.1, and you can have one ready within 30 minutes.

The only downside though, is that for Windows 8,you can’t really install any apps on it through Windows Store. But not anymore for Windows 8.1. You can install and run any app on Windows To Go device, just like on your desktop.

Conclusion

The best way of testing out Windows 8 is obviously using it on a touch device like tablet. But since it’s still a bit too luxury to most of us at the moment, I left it out in this post but will review it late on when I have the chance to get my hands on a decent tablet.

Either of the options have the ups and downs. Unless you have a very strong preference, you should try all of them, for not only having fun of it but also seeing the differences in between and how Windows 8 reacts to each of them.

Kent Chen

Microsoft MVP, IT Professional, Developer, Geek, and the co-founder of Next of Windows.

Last updated: 08/04/2014

Posted in: Windows 8
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