OK, so I’ve gotten far enough into the Windows 8.1 Preview that I’ve learned about two different ways to get hold of the software and run it on a test (or other) PC. On the one hand, you can find an online source (such as MSDN or the Windows 8.1 Preview page), grab the ISO, use a tool like the Windows 7 USB DVD Download tool or Rufus to create a UFD-based installer, and go from there, or on a machine already running Windows 8, you can visit the Preview Page, click “Get it now” and elect to run that installation to Windows 8.1 straight from there.
Yes, there’s already a public download page for the Windows 8.1 Preview, so even those who lack an MSDN subscription can grab-it-and-go!
The update option also comes with a couple of caveats, as anyone wise to the ways of Preview and other Windows beta releases knows already:
- Windows 8.1 Preview is indeed a beta, so you don’t want to install it on a production machine
- It’s often the case when betas are superseded by commercial (OEM or general availability/GA) releases that you may have to reinstall the OS, and wipe out everything on the partition where the preview resided (there are often, but not always, workarounds for this so you can’t count on being able to preserve anything from such an installation).
- Before you install any beta OS on any machine that has a running OS already installed, make an image backup of the prior/current installation. That way, if anything goes wonky, you can always get back to a running installation by booting from a repair, recovery, or install UFD, then restoring that image.
Of course, those same caveats also apply to anyone who elects to take the ISO route instead, though this will give you more opportunities to think and plan ahead of the installation (and let you install to a VM, an alternate partition, or other techniques to prevent over-writing an existing OS installation if that’s your preference, as it probably will be for many curious IT pros and enthusiasts interested in trying out 8.1 without necessarily tying up an entire machine to do so.) Later this weekend, I’ll try out a VM install and report on that experience for Monday’s blog. Stay tuned!