Microsoft announced the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on Wednesday during a side event to the Mobile World Congress at the Hotel Miramar in Barcelona.

Officially called the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the beta version of the latest Windows operating system is now available for a free download.

Microsoft has included a number of key changes in the Consumer Preview build since the Developer Preview, which was released in September last year.

At the event on Wednesday, President of the Windows division Steven Sinofsky, claimed that there have been more than 100,000 changes in this build since the Developer Preview.

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview comes with features like new touch gestures, system-wide spell check, Start preview thumbnail (replacing the start menu) and new Flyout notifications. The OS also has a new feature called boot forward that lets users specifically indicate boot options in advance to rebooting and many other small improvements, both aesthetically and under-the-hood, according to Redmond Pie.

Installation Requirements

Although the Windows 8 beta is quite easy to install, there are some system requirements. According to Microsoft, Windows 8 Consumer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows 7. Here are the details:

  • A 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit) RAM
  • 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) hard disk space
  • Graphics card that supports Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher

There are some additional requirements as well to use certain features.

In order to use touch features, users will require a tablet or monitor that supports multitouch. Apart from the obvious requirement of active Internet connection, users also need to have a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768 to access Windows Store.

In addition, users also require a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768 to snap apps that allow splitting the screen between two apps.

How to Install

CNET has explained two ways to install the Windows 8 beta. The first one is comparatively easier.

Visit the preview page and click on Get it now. After that enter your e-mail and country and click on the download button to get the installer. It will detect the appropriate version for your system automatically.

Now, you can go for overwriting your current OS, or may create a partition with the help of tools like Easeus Partition Master before installing it. You can download Easeus Partition Master here.

The second method of installing the Windows 8 beta is a little harder as it requires users to put the Windows 8 beta on a disc or USB Flash Drive. Follow the steps below:

  • Download and install Microsoft's Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool.
  • Download the proper ISO format for your system, either 32-bit or 64-bit.
  • Insert a USB flash drive having greater storage capacity (8 GB is enough) in a USB port.
  • Run the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool.
  • Browse and locate the Windows 8 ISO source file you just downloaded and click on Next.
  • Now, click on USB device (or DVD if appropriate)
  • Choose your inserted USB flash drive and begin copying.

A bootable USB flash drive will now be created by the tool using the Windows 8 Customer Preview ISO file.

For more insights, watch the video below, provided by CNET.

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