Microsoft Pushes Streamlined Online Distribution for Windows 8
November 22, 2011 5:50 PM
You'll now only need the central installer to migrate files and utilities, plus its faster to boot
Microsoft Corp.'s (
) next generation operating system, Windows 8 has some big shoes to fill, as the successor to the
fastest-selling operating system
in Microsoft's history. It is
currently in Developer Preview
(publicly available) and is set to launch late next year.
Microsoft has already showed off improved features, like a
less painful Windows Update process
decreased OS resource consumption
improved file transfers
showcases how it hopes to streamline the setup/upgrade process in Windows 8.
In Windows 8, Microsoft has folded Windows Upgrade Advisor and Easy Transfer into the central installer. The finished installer spits out a neat compatibility report as the first step in an upgrade process. The report tells you which apps and devices will work with Windows 8 -- and which ones won't.
Windows 8 takes Windows 7's installation utilities and merges them into a single streamlined multifunctional installer. [Image Source: Microsoft]
Assuming the user okays the upgrade, the installation process then begins. Much like Apple, Inc. (
), Microsoft has
moved its distribution primarily online
. While it will still offer boxed DVDs, for Windows 8 is primarily pushing a downloadable purchase. That download has your product key already activated, so it's all set to install without interruption. The download arrives via a robust built-in download manager. The download manager automatically detects the upgrader's language and the applicable upgrade version (32-bit or 64-bit).
The download has also been chopped down. A Windows 7 x86 ISO takes up 2.32 GB of space. By removing redundant files and folders, Windows 8 chops this down greatly. For example, for the x86 installer it is now reduced to 2.10 GB. Using specialized compression it then further crunches this down -- in the x86 case to 1.51 GB. The result is a smaller file that downloads quicker and takes up less hard drive space.
Once downloaded, you now have the chance to install on a secondary partition, with the Setup program helping burn an ISO or make a bootable Flash copy of the Windows installer to carry out the rest of the process. Regardless of your choice, you get to choose what kinds of files you carry over from your previous version of Windows.
Microsoft writes that the types of files that can be transfered over vary based on your OS version:
You can transfer these…
When upgrading from…
User accounts and files
The last step is for Setup to take your choice and finish the installation. In the case of error, e.g. lack of free hard drive space, Microsoft gives you the ability to go off and fix the issue and then return to the Setup.
The installation itself is faster, particularly for systems with lots of files and applications. Microsoft has optimized its installation process by using hard links, rather than physical file moves and a single folder for transfering your applications and files. Whole folders can now be moved, further speeding up the process. The result is a virtual flat line of install time versus the amount "stuff" on your machine:
Microsoft claims you will be able to install Windows 8 in as little as 11 clicks, an 82 percent reduction from Windows 7.
But Microsoft has also beefed up the array of options for IT professionals and power users. Most notably, it now offers the ability to create an unattend installation file that contains key injection and your answers for the setup process (including multi-boot partition installation, etc.). This is somewhat akin to the Linux "kickstart" file.
Windows 8 looks like it finally has progressed to a more logical setup -- a single multi-purpose utility, compressed downloads, unattended install options, hard linking old files and folders, and more.
If you want to try out Windows 8 Developer Preview, we suggest using multi-boot as performance is pretty sluggish in most virtual machines (not to mention it isn't compatible with others, like Microsoft's own Virtual PC). A good guide is posted
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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