It's time to evaluate Windows 8 for your enterprise

FMIT Labs reviews Windows 8 because you need learn about it in time to be ready for Microsoft's new OS.

It's no secret that Windows 8 is about here. The commercial release of the product is set for October 26. On that date, new computers will be delivered with Windows 8, the Surface Tablet will feature a version of Windows 8 in Windows RT, and other tablet makers will release Windows 8 Professional tablets. In short, like it or not, Windows 8 is coming to your company.

There are some things you should know now regarding Windows 8. First, there are two versions to consider, the Release Preview which is for individual computers, and the Windows 8 Enterprise Evaluation which is for enterprise users. Both versions come in 32-bit and 64-bit releases. When you download the version(s) of Windows 8 you're planning to evaluate, what you actually get is an ISO image. You must use that to create a DVD which will actually be used to perform the installation.

Creating the DVD will take about 20 minutes. However, before you begin the installation, you should either choose a computer that does not contain any critical data, or you should back up the computer you plan to use for evaluation before you begin the install.

Windows 8 (unlike Windows 7) will let you perform an in-place upgrade with any recent version of Windows, although with older versions of Windows, such as XP, it will not automatically transfer applications. The upgrade process will, however, preserve your documents and other application data. If you're using Windows XP, you'll need to reinstall your applications after the Windows 8 installation is complete. However, the upgrade process will preserve your data in a directory called "oldwindows" so you can move your program folders and keep the application reinstall manageable.

If you're installing Windows 8 on a machine that is already running Windows 7, the install should take about 20 minutes, depending on the machine, but it can take longer. The only potential problem is if the hard disk on your computer doesn't have enough space, you'll have to make a choice between making a clean install (and erasing everything on your machine) or clearing off some space before you begin the install.

Once Windows 8 is on your machine, it will take some getting used to. The Start Button that used to reside in the lower left corner at the end of the task bar is gone. In its place, you have a menu bar on the right side of the screen that appears if you hover your mouse pointer over the lower right corner of your screen. You'll see menu choices for settings, devices, etc. You'll also see a menu item for "Search."

If you select the Search menu item, you'll get a search bar just like the one that appeared on earlier versions of Windows. You'll also get a listing of all of your programs, just like the one that used to pop up when you clicked on the Start Button.

You have a choice of two interfaces on the Windows desktop. One is the traditional desktop that looks just like Windows 7 (minus the start button). The other is the tiled interface that looks like what you see on a Windows Phone. You can switch between them. One way is to press <CTRL> <ESC> at the same time. The other is to hover your pointer over the upper or lower left corners of the screen.

Using the Windows 8 Desktop is just like using the Windows 7 desktop--once you get used to hovering your mouse pointer. The tiled interface will scroll when you move your mouse pointer to the edge of the screen. If you have a laptop that can handle gestures, or you have a touchpad such as the Logitech Wireless Touchpad, you can use gestures and swipes just like you would on a tablet.

Getting used to Windows 8 is surprisingly easy. The need to hover your mouse over areas of the screen takes a little getting used to, but after a few minutes of practice becomes intuitive. The ability to use gestures and touches if you have the right hardware makes Windows 8 even better.

While it will probably take some training for your employees to become productive with Windows 8, the transition is fairly painless. But the first thing you need to do is try it for yourself so you're ready on the release date of October 26.

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