Tuesday 6 March 2012

Windows 8 Customer Preview - Not on your old laptop

Not fully cooked
Every once in a while I go the whole hog to test Beta software, this is software that has not yet been released as completed but at a stage where the manufacturer is confident enough to give the wider public a run of the product and obtain feedback that will allow issues, problems, bugs and other unforeseen scenarios to be ironed out.
Last week, Microsoft released the equivalent of a Beta for their next version of Microsoft Windows which they have with marketing aplomb called Windows 8Customer Preview.
Normally, people would think for such a new operating system, there will be such stringent requirements to run it but Microsoft seemed to lower the bar.
Hope at first
Now, Microsoft does suggest that we can install this on the same hardware that powers Windows 7, but is unlikely that many like me will be ready to jettison our main Windows 7 systems or laptops for software that is in flux.
However, if perchance one of our trusty but old workhorses can be brought back from the brink of obsolescence that would be wonderful.
So I looked through the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to see if my workhorse qualifies and this is what Microsoft says I need at the minimum.
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster – I have a Pentium M running at 1.7 GHz
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit) – Planning to run 32-bit, I have 2 GB
Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) – 80GB hard disk with 29GB free, planned a wipe, then install.
Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher – Supports this minimum.
It was my 7 year old laptop generically built by Compal, for many vendors who rebrand it for their line of products.
Backup always
As I am quite fastidious, I did not backup my laptop, I took an image of the disk using an old copy of Symantec Ghost running from my customised BartPE [A pre-installation environment that is a cut-down version of Microsoft Windows XP allow you to perform tasks like accessing your hard disk without the problems of open files.] boot CD streaming it over the network to another server. Backups are critically essential; my main systems get backed up every day.
This laptop however is mainly only used for Skype calls but for this situation, it was only right to take a disk image, just in case.
And so fast
Having obtained the ISO image, I burnt the image to DVD using IMGBurn a really neat and free tool and booted up my laptop with the DVD.
I could not get beyond the initial screen it was a Windows Recovery Environment screen suggesting “Your PC needs to be repaired”; it was an unexpected error with the error code 0xc0000260.
My PC had already passed the assessment test for installing Windows 7, so I thought; it was registering an indeterminate error.
Getting beyond that
I then found out I could run the Setup from within Windows XP Professional if I had Service Pack 3, you can determine that with pressing Window key + R to bring up the Run dialog box and type in WINVER – this will reveal what version of Windows you are running.
So, rebooting my laptop to Windows XP, I inserted the DVD and ran setup, over the next 90 minutes, I had the installation go through and complete. When my laptop restarted, I got that Windows Recovery Environment Error again.
This time I had to search for what Error Code: 0xC0000260 meant when installing Windows 8 Customer Preview.
The long and short of the tale is the code has changed from the version before the Customer Preview where according to comments Windows 8 did install without issues but now certain other checks are being made that makes the installation and start-up fall over at the Windows Recovery Environment.
Solutions and alternatives
The skinny on the matter is this.
Others had issues with installing it on their virtual machines, notably, VMWare and VirtualBox and the suggestion was to enable PAE/NX settings for the Virtual Machine or for hardware enable the PAE feature in BIOS – those features however are not offered on the Pentium M processor on my laptop, you can determine what kind of processor you have with CPU-Z.

In the end, we are waiting to see if Microsoft will offer a way to put new wine in old wine skins allowing us to revive our trusty old laptops with this new-fangled operating system.
Meanwhile, I restored the Ghost disk image back to my laptop and installed Windows 8 Customer Preview on a Virtual Machine created on Hyper-V on one of my other systems, a bit disappointed in the fact that I could not get my laptop a new lease of life but at least I get to experience the look-and-feel of Windows 8 – Quite so different, I’ll say.

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