Windows 8

A few days ago I tweeted about having moved to Windows 8 Consumer Preview as main Operating System. So far still really happy with it.

Windows 8

My previous OS was Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V for virtualizing my SharePoint development environments. I had tweaked Windows Server as much as possible to be more of a desktop OS than server OS, but the fact remained that it just hadn’t optimized audio and video drivers. Surely they’re adequate to perform basic tasks, but there still was a little bit mouse and audio stuttering when a YouTube started playing, let alone playing a recent game such as Modern Warfare 3 or Skyrim. For those I kept a Windows 7 dual boot environment around.

Hyper-V 3.0

The main driver to move to Windows 8 for me was to have Hyper-V. Mind you that it’s not a straightforward path to migrate your Windows Server 2008 R2 images. I tried the export and import feature; it complained about not being able to use Saved State but it kindly asked me if it could delete that, I said yes. The import went fine but still I could start up a snapshot due to some obscure error. Perhaps this is a beta issue and will be fixed in RTM.

I decided to make a copy of the entire VMDISK folder and then just create new Virtual Machines in Windows 8, linking to existing disks (.vhd and .avhd). Nothing new here but note that you can use the “Edit Disk” functionality to merge a snapshot disk with its parent disk.

So I now had “base” images of all my machines in Windows 8 and booted them up. The next thing you’ll probably do is install the new Hyper-V Integration Tools in each virtual machine. This will upgrade the HAL in the VM.

Hyper-V networking has changed in 3.0 as well, using network bridging to overcome some issues from the past. This new Network Adapter will be seen as a new NIC in the VM as well, so you’ll have to reconfigure any static IP’s you had before.

A final thing is Windows Activation. Since you’re using a new HAL in the virtual machines, Windows will need to reactivate.

After that you can shut down the machines and make a base snapshot to start each new project on.

Note: the general experience might improve in the RTM version, but if you’re using Hyper-V then you’re probably tech savvy enough to migrate the more difficult way Winking smile


A lot has been said about the Metro UI already. In Windows 8 there are two UI modes: Metro and Desktop (as I call them). Metro is the thing for mobile devices, slates and is very slick and touch driven (even if you can still operate it with a mouse and keyboard). Desktop mode is what we all know from Windows 7 and before.

Applications come in two forms; either it’s a Metro app (downloaded through the App Store), or a Desktop app (every piece of Windows software that is known to man). You can have a split screen of two apps.

Split Screen

The Start menu has been removed in favor of the Metro Start Page.

Metro Start Page

A lot of the navigation now happens by moving the mouse to a screen corner

  • Top Left will show the Metro Task Manager for app switching or dragging split screen
  • Bottom Left (where the Start Menu used to be) jumps to the Start Page
  • Top Right or Bottom Right will bring up the Settings Menu

Start Menu

I had the Windows 8 Developer Preview and there were some tools that allowed you to disable some Metro features so that you basically only had Desktop Mode (with Start Menu). It seems Microsoft is really pushing Metro and none of the tools to date allow this on the Consumer Preview.

I’m fine with using Metro since it’s a lot like my Windows Phone. I can get used to the Start Page by rearranging tiles, but in Desktop mode I do want my Start Menu back !!

ViStart to the rescue. Designed for Windows XP it renders the Vista or Win7 Start Menu with most functionalities you’d use it for. During some shutdowns it throws a buffer overrun or other error, but in general it works really great on Windows 8 and should Microsoft decide to permanently drop the Start Menu then this is your friend!


The road goes on

It’s been only a few days since I installed it. I’m very pleased with overall performing and hope it will remain stable. Should things go wrong then I have an image of my previous OS at hand.


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