Monday, September 19, 2011

Living on the edge: Using Windows 8 Developer Preview as your primary OS

Jeremy Williams, Sr. Director, Modern Workplace

Alright, so before I begin, I should start out with the disclaimer of, “Kids-Don’t try this at home, or the office (for that matter)”.  I’m telling you it’s a bad idea, Microsoft is telling you it’s a bad idea, and if your mother knew what the title of this post meant she would tell you not to do it either.  [Sorry, the lawyers made me do it]  Oh, and if you don’t want to read about why I’m doing this, skip to the bottom for the instructions on ‘how’.

Now that we have that little unpleasantry out of the way, I can tell you that I’m doing exactly the opposite of my disclaimer :-).  This begs the obvious question, “Why?”

Bleeding edge is where I [and Rightpoint] like to be!  Sure, there’s always some risks to being on the bleeding edge, sometimes you need to hack it a bit to get the functionality you’re looking for, and other times it simply doesn’t work.  However, after doing this (running OS’s far too early) I’ve become quite adept at having a bail-out plan for when that happens.

Also, Windows 8 will be releasing a number of improvements which I really would like to take advantage of (and I can’t wait until it’s RTM):

HyperV- Not only can Windows 8 run Hyper V now, but it has the nice dynamic memory allocation options which allow me to let my VM’s memory footprints grow as needed.  Plus, it supports all of the cool virtual teaming and movements of Hyper V and it’s compatible with the server version [Read: I can build VHDs on the road and then deploy them on proper servers later without having to deal with kludgy server boots or conversion utilities].

Improved Multi Monitor Support – (Finally) Microsoft has taken a nod from MultiMon and others and put a usable taskbar on both monitors

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Microsoft’s new Metro Interface – I’ll admit, it’s a bit weird at first, but I think it’ll grow on me…Using a touch-based interface with a mouse is weird though

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Cool UI tweaks: Pretty lock screens, spanning wallpapers, cool gadgets and ‘snap’ effects, a respectable weather app, alternate wallpapers by monitor, etc.

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Oh yeah, my bail-out plan…  So I’m currently dual booting into my Windows 8 installation; but it’s not the pesky dual-booting of old, I’m booting off of a VHD.  There’s a number of great resources out there for setting this up, but I’ll give you a summary of what I did below (if that’s all you’re looking for, jump to the bold text). 

The nice thing about booting to a VHD is that you don’t need to do any dangerous or annoying partitioning of your disk.  All you need to do is create a VHD, remember it’s location on your disk, and go from there!

I want don’t want to do it on my machine, tell me how!

My source for most of the process (I used a DVD and a few different tweaks, but I want to make sure credit is given where credit is due: Hanselman's Blog (external))

  1. First things first…Back up your files: I have no responsibility for the mistakes you’ll make, or the antics of Windows 8 and you wouldn’t want a catastrophe to hit you and your data
  2. You backed up right?  Good, let’s get started (for-real) now
  3. Download the Windows 8 bits from MSDN
  4. (I’m assuming you’re running Windows 7 as your current OS, by the way)
  5. Right-click on My Computer, select Manage, and then click Disk Management.
  6. After the disk management screen loads, right-click on the ‘Disk Management’ node again and select ‘Create VHD’
  7. Enter in the size and file path to your VHD, I personally dropped mine in here: C:\VHD\Win8.vhd
  8. Go ahead and run a quick format of the disk
  9. Burn your Windows 8 ISO
  10. Restart and boot to the Windows 8 Installer
  11. Get through the install wizard until you have to select a hard drive and then STOP!
  12. Press Shift + F10; this will bring up a command prompt
  13. You’ll want to type in commands similar to the screenshot below, basically you’ll be selecting your disk image and then attaching it as a drive.
  14. image
  15. Go ahead and exit out of all the command windows until you’re back at the Hard Disk Selection
  16. Press Refresh and you’ll see your VHD show up in the list
  17. Select that disk and continue your install as usual
  18. Once your install is complete, you’ll notice that Windows 8 even has a pretty new bootloader that will automatically make the correct entries for you on your dual-boot