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Windows 8 may be tempting, but it's nowhere near ready for average consumers. Those who can't resist must assume the worst.

Now that it's released, this article has been superseded by Should I upgrade to Windows 8? - please read that for my current thinking on Windows 8.

This is a question that I want to head off before damage has been done.

No.

No, you should not give Windows 8 a try.

Or, perhaps I'll put it this way: if you have to ask the question, the answer is no. If you're not sure, the answer is no.

I'll explain why I'm taking such a hard line about Windows 8 at this point in time.

Windows 8

As I write this, a Windows 8 "preview" edition has been made available for people to see what's changing in the next version of Windows.

“... running Windows 8 today puts everything on your computer at risk of loss.”

Microsoft's goal in releasing this edition is presumably to get early feedback on proposed changes and there are many changes as Windows 8 appears to be improving its ability to target tablet computers.

I'm also sure that part of the reason for the release is to begin generating buzz about the upcoming version. I'd expect to see more incremental releases as Microsoft continues to ramp up to Windows 8's eventual release.

Why you should stay away from Windows 8 for now

A preview release isn't even a beta release.

In other words, it's going to have problems and it's going to change - possibly in significant ways - before it's formally completed and released.

In other, other words: running Windows 8 today puts everything on your computer at risk of loss. It could have serious security and privacy issues and it could have bugs that would cause significant data loss.

That's not a reflection in any way on Windows 8's eventual quality at release time.

It's the practical reality of one simple fact: Windows 8 isn't finished yet.

It hasn't even reached a stage where Microsoft is comfortable labeling a Beta version and I strongly recommend that you avoid those as well.

Preview and Beta versions aren't meant for daily use and they aren't meant for the average consumer.

Who should try Windows 8?

I believe that the Windows 8 preview release is aimed at two distinct audiences:

  • The press, technology pundits, and people that other people listen to. As I mentioned above, it's about generating buzz for the next version of Windows.

  • Software developers who are working on software that will run on Windows 8 and possibly take advantage of some of its new features. They need to begin writing and testing their applications to make sure that they work and testing Windows 8 itself to make sure that it works.

If you're in one of those two categories - a) you probably wouldn't be asking the question, hence the hard line that I'm taking in this article for everyone else, and b) you'll know how to work with it safely.

If you're not in one of those two categories, you shouldn't be thinking about Windows 8 at this time.

If you can't resist

If you can't contain yourself and absolute must play with this latest version of Windows before it's released, I have only one word of advice:

Backup.

Assume that your machine will crash and that everything on it will be lost.

That's the only safe way to play with pre-release versions of any software, particularly operating systems.

As for me, I'm not going to try. There's enough to do supporting Windows 7 and previous versions that I won't be answering any Windows 8 related issues until much closer to its release.

And I'm not even going to quote current estimates for when that'll be, simply because much like the software itself, it'll change.

Article C4929 - September 14, 2011 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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23 Comments
Robert Waller
September 14, 2011 1:30 PM

I'd just like to reiterate what Leo has said, I sometimes play with Beta versions, and have had disastrous things happen, luckily I always keep backups of backups of everything, I also use a test machine which only has my media software on it, so I can listen to music whilst doing other things on my main computer

Richard Collins
September 14, 2011 5:46 PM

Leo, is it safe to try Windows 98 yet?

I'd avoid it if at all possible. Smile
Leo
15-Sep-2011

Dutch
September 15, 2011 2:25 AM

If the goal is to see the new features Windows 8 has to offer, simply run it in a Virtual Machine. There's no risk going this route... A quick Google for "windows 8 virtual machine" will offer up a plethora of how-to's for those who are not familiar with this process.

Glenn P.
September 20, 2011 9:55 AM

I have to echo Dutch; in fact, I'm astonished that Leo didn't think of using a VM himself, as it seems the (almost) ideal solution.

You'll notice I did  say "almost", though.

Why the caveat?

Well, because the VM (and thus, Win8) has full access to all of your peripherals. It also has access to the Internet, if your modem is on while the VM is active. Both of these merit some degree of caution.

All of that said, with due care, a Virtual Machine should  render Windows 8 reasonably safe to run -- and reasonably safe to crash and burn -- without  seriously affecting the rest of your system.

Just the same...

Backup first!      :)

To address why I didn't mention it - this article's really targetted at the "average" computer user who might be curious and tempted. For them the answer is no. For the more advanced users, absolutely a VM (or dedicated scrificial machine) is the way to go.
Leo
23-Sep-2011

Jack
September 20, 2011 10:13 AM

Leo, Would you mind answering some questions I have on some Windows 8 related issues? I just have about 10 things I need you to help me out with. If you just give me your personal Email it would probably make it much more convenient for me. . Also do you think it was a good idea for me to try it out now? Do you think I should have backed up my work computer before I installed it? I'm in a really big hurry so please make sure you get back with me in a very prompt manner, I'm a very impatient person and I need my data recovered as quickly as possible. Thanks in advance.
Jack

David
September 20, 2011 10:36 AM

Jack you are too funny. You really expect Leo to give you a personal e-mail and answer your Windows 8 questions? Leo does a great job of free public answers and if you want him to write to you personally, be prepared to pay him a substantial consultation fee, IF he even takes you up on it. I doubt that he will. I like getting something for nothing too, but there are plenty of free answers out there if you just look. As far as Windows 8, how can anyone answer questions about a product that is not even released yet? What might be true today will not be in a few months from now or at release time. The questions you put in your comments were basically already answered - yes you should have backed up before you installed.
And no, it's not a good idea to try out Windows 8 now. What's your big hurry on Win 8 anyway? Do you think it is going to give you some big advantage that you don't have now in your current Windows version? It's fun to have something new with all the new bells and whistles, but do you NEED it or is it just a case of WANTING it.

Lester
September 20, 2011 11:19 AM

Even though I'd probably fall into Leo's safe category for users, I don't bother downloading a new operating system until the RC version is out. Too many things change, even in the beta release. But the RC version is usually in a useable form to start doing development with. Even then, I'd use a test computer rather than one with important data on it.

Likekinds
September 20, 2011 12:52 PM

I have downloaded Windows 8 preview version. I have not as yet burned an iso to install. I first wanted to learn more about any possible negative effects (such as you describe).

I've read that this preview version should be installed in a separate partition, so as not to conflict with the contents of the main partition.

After reading your article, I'm not sure that even that is a good idea.

Neil C
September 20, 2011 12:52 PM

Great Post Jack! You sucked David right in! I wonder how many other obviously smart people (like David) won't get it?

Chris
September 20, 2011 1:24 PM

I have a setup that allows me to easily swap hard drives. I installed Windows 8 on a separate hard drive slotted it into its box and have been quite impressed. Even though this is a pre-beta version it has proven very stable and very fast. So if you want to try it go out and buy another hard drive (They're quite cheap) and replace your current drive with it and give it a go. I recommend it to you. Over on Tech Republic there has been a lot of negative responses to Win 8. Don't believe a word of it. Win 8 is easy to adapt to.

Connie
September 20, 2011 1:47 PM
@Jack, A personal email is not necessary and would not get you a faster reply. The best way to contact Leo is through the question form at http://ask-leo.com/ask_leo.html. If you are a subscriber to the newsletter you will receive a link in the newsletter to a form that marks your question a priority.
Hush
September 20, 2011 4:58 PM

I put it on a VM. (just too curious not to). Why hasn't anyone mentioned VM's?

But Leo's right. It will need quite a few changes; the buzz so far is largely quite negative.

Charles
September 20, 2011 5:49 PM

Are you kidding me? Windows *7* is still in beta; never mind 8. Windows 7 is loaded with serious bugs, and Microsoft is kind enough to let us pay to do their field testing.

NewDimTech
September 20, 2011 7:04 PM

I can't believe that no one out here has a throw down laptop or desktop that they are willing to tinker with for a while. I installed Win8 on a Vista model Dell Studio laptop and have been playing with it for almost a week. The install went smoothly, all hardware drivers were installed and working, no problems so far. Not crazy about the Metro interface yet, or the obvious push toward touch screen computing, but what the hell, nothing to lose.

narumanchianji
September 20, 2011 7:39 PM

once you have backed up your existing windows drive, keep your emergency media (usb/cd) ready, make sure that you know where your backup is in the p.c or external source, and then safely install win8 from within booted windows o.s as an UPGRADE. yes you can actually upgrade to win 8 with all the existing applications in tact and working. play for some hours, see and manipulate all options and then at the end of afew hours, use your emergency media and restore back your original windows safely. there is nothing to be afraid of loosing your data. try it.

Saetana
September 20, 2011 9:34 PM

Lovely bit of sarcasm Jack, I also wonder how many people other than David took it the wrong way ;o)

I don't like the sound of Windows 8, the only touchscreen device I have any interest in owning is my smartphone, the thought of touching my desktop monitor with the resultant smears and fingerprints fills me with horror! I love Windows 7 and don't expect to switch for several years now, its the most bug-free Windows to date (and I go back to version 3.1).

Sowri Rajan
September 20, 2011 10:07 PM

I installed on my home computer as well as laptop. It is working alright. I have no issues so far. Internet Explorer 10 is the new thing and of course the touch screen.

Barzhouf
September 21, 2011 12:29 AM

If you install virtualbox ( or any virtualization soft..) there is no danger at all.. and you can play with windows 8.. while working with windows 7 ( or vista.....)

whs
September 22, 2011 5:29 AM

Sorry Leo but I disagree. I am running Win8 and so are a lot of my friends. None of us have really had any serious problems.

As with any experimental system, you should take some steps to protect yourself. I have imaged all the partitions in my system and update the images periodically.

But if you want to go double safe, Run Win8 in Virtual Box. There are plenty of tutorials on the web that show you how to do that.

That being said, I withhold my final judgement about Win8 until later. Up to now, I find it pretty awkward to operate on a PC. The Metro interface is clearly geared to tablets.

Gary Lutz
September 24, 2011 1:34 PM

stumbled accross your comments on win8. I completely agree without even knowing it exists. My experience is that, if the computer didn't come with it, don't upgrade to it. Usualy related to hardware incompatibilities. If the hardware is new enough, still being sold, the vendor might publish updated drivers. Bottom line is that, if it ain't broke don't fix it. Thats all im saying. If you want 8 buy a computer that comes with it. OH NO! I have read stuff to know if this comment will be published. Good idea. Doubt that it will violate any terms but yes!! Good idea!
Ok then. I did try but, ROFLMAO, both links sent me right back to this page. Taking a chance here but, LEO, maybe you should check this out.

http://ask-leo.com/should_i_try_windows_8.html#top

Anonymous Administrator
November 9, 2011 9:14 PM

One could use a virtualization system to safely install and try Windows 8. I would recommend using KVM for Linux, or Xen/VirtualBox to virtualize on Windows.

David Trujillo
March 1, 2012 12:45 AM

I have installed the new Windows 8 trial on a spare computer that's just laying around, and I must say that I'm really impressed. IE 10 finally has a spell check, and all the gadgets are pretty neat to mess around with. As I sit here and say I'm impressed, I don't think a new operating system was needed already. I have computers with Windows 98, Windows XP, windows Vista, windows 7, and now the trial mode of Windows 8, & Ubuntu. I don't really like Ubuntu at all, but that's another story at another time. Too bad windows 98 is a thing of the past, because it, in my opinion was the best operating system. Long story short, I won't run out and buy it if I'm using an OS I'm happy with. Save your money for sure, and enjoy what you already have.

Jerry Noethen
March 13, 2012 9:37 AM

When you installed Win 8 on the spare computer, did the touch screen interface work properly with an older model computer.

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