Try Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a Mac with VirtualBox
You probably know by now that Windows 8 Consumer Preview was released recently. This is what Microsoft is betting their future on, combining their traditional desktop experience with the all new tiled Metro interface, aimed at tablets and portable computers.
Thanks to virtualization, anyone can try Windows 8 easily right on top of their current operating system. This makes it easy to both install and also remove later when you’re done with it. While this article is intended for Mac users, VirtualBox will run in Linux, Solaris, and Windows as well, so you can take this to just about any platform.
Everything is free and there is little risk to trying this out. If you’ve been curious about Windows 8 this is the easiest way to get direct experience with it. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO – free – put the ISO on the desktop or somewhere easy to find since you will be referencing this later
- Download VirtualBox – free – go ahead and install this after you’ve finished downloading, it’s a standard application installer
Be sure to match the version of VirtualBox to the version of Windows 8 Consumer Preview that you download, if you get one in 64-bit, get both in 64-bit, same goes with 32-bit versions.
For the best performance, you’ll want to use a reasonably new computer with at least 4GB of RAM. As usual, VM’s are much faster running off of an SSD, but it isn’t a requirement.
Installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview in VirtualBox
- Launch VirtualBox and create a new virtual machine. Name it and select Windows and Windows 8 as the operating system and version
- Set RAM as 2GB and create a new virtual hard disk, set it to be 20GB, choose VDI as type, and set to dynamic allocation
- Save the virtual machine and click “Create”
- Back at the VirtualBox screen, select the Windows 8 VM and click “Start” to boot
- At the “Select Installation Media” screen, click the folder icon on the right and locate the previously downloaded Windows 8 ISO as the media source
- Boot Windows 8 and select your language preferences, click on “Install” and then use the following product key from Microsoft: DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J
- At the installation type menu, choose “Custom: Install Windows only”, select the virtual hard disk, and click “Next”
- Windows 8 will install and automatically reboot when finished, set up a login and you are on your way
Really the best part about Windows 8 is the Metro interface. The redesigned user interface is obviously suited for tablets and touch surfaces, but it works with a mouse and trackpad too to get a feel for things. Put VirtualBox into full-screen mode for the best experience here, and remember this is a Consumer Preview (public beta) and it’s currently lacking multitouch support so not everything will be identical to the final version.
If you want access to the Windows 8 App Store, you’ll need a Microsoft login through hotmail, MSN, or just create one when necessary. You’ll find a handful of free apps available to play around with, including some popular games.
You’ll notice that even in the traditional desktop mode there are some major changes, most notably there is no Start menu, making this the first major UX change for Windows since Windows 95 really.
All in all it’s an interesting operating system to check out, but I’ll be staying with a Mac.
If you saw us cover this before, you’ll find the latest version of VirtualBox makes installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview much easier than the original Developer Preview, and there is practically no configuration required to get everything working. Nice!