aNewDomain — The preview version of Windows 8.1 is here and you can install it for free at the Microsoft Store. The company has promised to make its 8.1 Preview available as an ISO, too, now available on the Microsoft website. But unless you’re a journalist or developer who absolutely must deal with this thing, my advice is don’t.
After working to install the 8.1 Preview on several computers, I see this particular beta is especially problematic. During the installation on my first computer, it threw up many different errors. In the end, after several hours, I got a message that said: Sorry we couldn’t complete the update to Windows 8.1 Preview.
Thankfully the installer was smart enough to restore my Windows 8 installation. The installation went more smoothly on my second test computer, but it ended with the same message after 90 minutes.
So my only choice was to try to install the preview with the just-posted ISO.
There are, however, several things to be aware of before you press the Install button if you choose to download Windows 8.1 Preview from the Windows store.
First, remember that this version of 8.1 is a shaky beta preview. It is still a software program in the development stage. Don’t install it on the computer you use every day. Just don’t.
Also note that if you upgrade to 8.1 Preview now, you’ll have to re-install all your apps you didn’t yet download from the Windows Store when the final version of Windows 8.1 arrives later this year. This will be a royal pain.
And if you’re using Windows RT currently, fair warning: If you install the 8.1 Preview and it screws up your system, you won’t be able to restore Windows RT. Don’t do it.
Another caveat. If you have Windows 8 Pro with Media Center and you download the preview through the Windows Store, you can keep Windows Media Center without reinstalling it. But if you install 8.1 Preview using the ISO file, Windows Media will be removed and you’ll need to reinstall it with your original Windows 8 Pro pack or Windows 8 Media Center Pack product key.
That reminds me, If you use the ISO file to get Windows 8.1 Preview, you will not be able to revert back to Windows 8 without reinstalling it.
And be forewarned — my experience so far is that the 8.1 Preview has some trouble with a wireless connection. If possible, perform the installation over a wired connection.
You can check out more details and a myriad of warnings in the Microsoft Preview FAQ.
Is the new Microsoft 8.1 Preview worth the effort? Unless you are a journalist or a developer, my short answer is: No. Wait a few months for the final version and try, try again.
Based in Pinehurst, North Carolina, Sandy Berger is a veteran tech journalist and senior editor at aNewDomain.net covering tech tips and tricks, apps, gadgets and consumer electronics. Email her at Sandy@aNewDomain.net. Follow her on Twitter @sandyberger, +SandyBerger on Google+, and on Facebook.