Update: On February 29th, 2012 Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Everything works out of the box on my aging Asus netbook, including wireless. But I did need to download a driver from Intel in order to adjust the screen resolution so that I could use the Windows Store and Metro style apps.
The Windows 8 Developer Preview is now available for anyone to download and test. Microsoft has stated that any hardware that can run Windows 7 should be able to run Windows 8 as well — even older netbooks, so I decided to put that claim to the test.
I pulled out an old Asus Eee PC 1000H netbook I have lying around, plugged in a USB DVD drive so that I could install the operating system. You can also use a USB flash drive to install the operating system by:
- Downloading the ISO file from Microsoft.
- Downloading and installing the Windows 7 USB/DVD tool.
- Running the USB tool to copy the ISO to your flash drive.
- Plug the flash drive into your netbook and choose the option to boot from USB from the BIOS.
The Asus Eee PC 1000H netbook features a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 single core processor, 1GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive. It has a 10.2 inch, 1024 x 600 pixel display and it was one of the first 10 inch netbooks on the market when it launched in the summer of 2008. I think I paid something like $585 for it at the time.
The first time I booted Windows 8 after the install process was completed, I was asked to create a name for the computer, choose my wireless network, and login with my Windows Live ID. After that was done, I saw the funky new Metro style Start Menu with large tiles labeled with functions including Internet Explorer, Desktop, and Windows Explorer.
The Start Menu was clearly designed for use with a touchscreen display, but the Eee PC 1000H doesn’t have one. But you can move a mouse cursor around to navigate, and dragging the cursor down to the lower left menu brings up what looks like an old-school Start Menu with options for Settings, Devices, Share, and Search. A large clock, battery meter, and WiFi indicator also come up when you’re looking at this menu.
Microsoft requires a higher resolution display for new Metro style apps, which means that you don’t get to use the new full screen version of Internet Explorer that has no toolbars or other menus cluttering the screen. This is a little ass-backward, since users with lower resolution displays are the ones who could most benefit from full screen apps. Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and other apps actually look pretty awful on the Eee PC 1000H, since the Windows 8 toolbars take up so much space.
In order to launch any apps, I had to exit the Metro style Start Menu altogether and use what looked like a classic Windows environment with a desktop, taskbar, and start menu.
The operating system also failed to recognize that I was using a 1024 x 600 pixel display, and instead set the resolution at 800 x 600 pixels.
Since Asus doesn’t currently offer any Windows 8 drivers for this netbook and I was unable to automatically download any using the Windows device manager, it looks like I’m stuck with 800 x 600 pixels for now.
Update: It turns out the Intel VGA driver for Windows 7 works like a charm. You can download it from Intel or from the Asus support page. This should work on most older netbooks with GMA 950 graphics. If you have a netbook with an Intel Atom N450 or newer processor, you should search the Intel site for “GMA 3150″ and download the appropriate graphics driver.
There were a few other quirks as well. While Windows 8 recognized my wireless network right away, it told me I had a limited connection when I logged in. I was able to get a full internet connection by going to desktop mode, right-clicking on the wireless icon, and choosing the “Troubleshoot problems” option. But this option isn’t available if you’re only using the Metro style Start Menu. I also had to do this every time I rebooted the computer.
Update: I downloaded the wireless drivers for this netbook from the Ralink website and after installing the driver and going into the Windows Device Manager and choosing which driver to use (Ralink instead of the default Microsoft driver), I no longer have to click the troubleshoot button every time I want to go online.
The good news is that Windows 8 does boot very quickly. While you won’t get the 8 second boot speed that comes with a faster processor and solid state drive, Windows 8 takes about 20 to 25 seconds to boot on the Eee PC 1000H. It resumes from sleep even more quickly, making it the fastest-booting operating system I’ve ever installed on this netbook.
At this point I wouldn’t recommend anyone use Windows 8 Developer Preview as a replacement for Windows XP, Windows 7, Ubuntu, Joli OS, or any other operating system on your netbook. It is just a preview, after all. But most features do work out of the box, and it’s pretty clear that Microsoft will be able to deliver on its promise of making sure the operating system runs on pretty much any machine that can currently handle Windows 7.
Hopefully Microsoft will also ease up on its screen resolution requirements so that older netbook users can also get the full benefit of Metro style full screen apps.