Windows 8 Team Refreshes Install Experience
How many people enjoy installing an operating system? The answer is probably none, especially when it comes to installing Windows. But Microsoft is working to get rid of its famous multistep-installation mayhem in Windows 8, and the Building Windows 8 blog revealed what Microsoft is doing to making upgrading to Windows 8 as easy as possible. Read on for the details …
The blog outlined all the technical pain points Microsoft has addressed to streamline the update and install process, but it breaks down into three new parts:
- Automation and Compatibility: Windows 7 users will be happy to know they don’t actually have to go out and physically buy a copy of Windows 8 to upgrade. According to the blog:
While we will continue to offer boxed DVDs, we are also making it easier than ever to purchase and install online. This includes starting the setup experience online as well, and having one continuous integrated experience from beginning to end. There is also one big advantage that is a favorite of mine. With our web setup experience, we actually “pre-key” the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that you don’t have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install!
That modicum of improvement is followed by the compatibility wizard, which (much like it did back when Windows 7 was new) ensures all a user’s existing applications are compatible with Windows 8 and, if not, explains how to fix them. And the compatibility wizard and pre-key image lead up to the next improvement …
- Only The Parts You Need: Since the preinstall mode can gather information about a user’s computer, there’s no need to install or ask about making a selection for installing and configuring a variety of things that typically can make a Windows install lengthy. That includes language packs, date and time or even which binaries to need to be installed (x86 or x64 options often confuse end users). This apparently has shrunk the install process so much that install media for Windows 8 can be pushed onto a thumb drive, as long as it’s at least 3GB. That means a total Windows 8 upgrade is less than 3GB, which is a huge improvement. The shrink in size also means shorter download times for those upgrading through Microsoft’s web portal (as mentioned above). And less download time is also followed by less upgrade time and less migration time, thanks to …
- Migration Enhancements: I’m unfamiliar with any migration services for any operating system. I’m a firm believer in throwing my data on to an external hard drive and scorching the virtual earth of my computer before installing a new OS. But that’s not always efficient or user friendly. But, according to the blog, Windows 8 migrations have changed, making them simpler and faster thanks to a fancy process explained thus:
In the past, each file that was preserved across upgrade was moved individually. In Windows 8, instead of moving things file-by-file, we move entire folders, drastically reducing the number of file operations required.
Seems like good common sense to me. That migration process has also taken another step in the right direction by eliminating the two-folder holding pattern Windows used to implement for transferring files. Now, everything is dumped into Windows.old and later transferred over by the migration assistant. Microsoft also now uses “hard links” for data on a drive and its location on the drive, so data doesn’t actually have to “move” on the drive to be “moved” to a new location. *nix and OS X users will be familiar with this process, and it’s about time Microsoft used it, especially in a migration upgrade install.
If you can believe it, there are even deeper more technical upgrades under the hood, and the Windows 8 team has painstakingly detailed them all on the blog. But what it all really boils down to is this:
The scenario we presented at the beginning that included four different wizards and up to 60 screens in a Windows 7 upgrade can now be accomplished in one end-to-end experience and as few as 11 clicks, an improvement of 82% fewer clicks in Windows 8.
Without hyping it up too much, I think Windows 8 could very well make Microsoft a “cool” company again if the general public takes to Microsoft’s new charms, streamlining and Metro interface. Microsoft is taking no chances with Windows 8, especially after the debacle that was Windows Vista. Microsoft’s CEO Steve Balmer might even be right — a new day and age of Windows 8 (and its developers) could be coming.