Those of you interested in taking the current flavor of Windows 8 for a spin can now download and install the Developer Preview edition.
Being demoed at Microsoft's Build conference this week, the Developer Preview is a prebeta version showing off the operating system at its current stage. Though technically designed for developers, no registration is required, so anyone can download and install it.
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The Windows 8 Preview is being offered in three different packages--a 64-bit version with various developer tools, a 64-bit version of just the operating system, and a 32-bit version of the OS.
All three come as ISO files--image files of the contents of a CD or DVD. Since each of the packages is several gigabytes in size, you'll need a DVD if you want to burn the files to a disc.
In Windows 7, you can burn the ISO file to a DVD by double-clicking it to open the Windows Disc Image Burner. For older operating systems, you can use a tool such as ISO Recorder to burn the file. Alternatively, you can use such utilities as Virtual CloneDrive or Daemon Tools to "mount" the ISO file as a drive, eliminating the need to burn it onto a disc.
Since this is a prebeta version, you'll want to install the OS on a spare PC or in a virtual environment so that it doesn't interfere with your production or work machine.
Those of you who want to know what you're getting into before you attempt to install the Developer Preview can check out a hands-on early look at Windows 8 from CNET's Seth Rosenblatt.
What's next after the Developer Preview?
Speaking at the Build conference yesterday, Steven Sinofsky, senior vice president of Microsoft's Windows division, confirmed earlier reports that Windows 8 will next segue into one beta version, followed by one Release Candidate. Assuming all goes well, we can then expect the final RTM (release to manufacturing) edition sometime after that.
Sinofsky didn't reveal a specific timeframe for the beta or Release Candidate. However, the company has been expected to launch the beta at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in January, according to WinRumors.