Microsoft is working to streamline the installation process for Windows 8 once its newest operating-system version becomes available to consumers next year. The software giant's Windows setup and deployment team aims to "reduce the time from start to finish," said Steven Sinofsky, the president of Microsoft's Windows business division.
Some PC users will avoid the problem altogether by buying a new PC that ships with Windows 8 pre-installed. According to Microsoft, however, more than 450 million PCs are running Windows 7 that also will be able to run Windows 8, and many systems running Windows Vista and even Windows XP also will be eligible for an upgrade.
"Support for these PCs running different Windows versions is a big challenge in terms of testing all possible upgrade paths, languages, service packs, architectures, and editions," noted Christa St. Pierre, a member of the Windows setup and deployment team.
Microsoft intends to reduce the number of hoops that users must jump through in order to get Windows 8 up and running on their machines. After all, the goal at Microsoft is the same as always: to compel as many PC users as possible to buy the company latest OS upgrade.
The problem is that many PC customers have come to regard an operating-system upgrade as a formidable challenge, either based on their own prior upgrade experiences or those of friends and family members.
In 2010 Microsoft commissioned a study of how people make PC purchase decisions, and also talked to customers to find out more. "Even though many customers wanted to upgrade" to Windows 7, St. Pierre noted, the current setup experience "just wasn't easy enough to make them feel confident in doing so."
With Windows 8, Microsoft intends to offer two upgrade paths: one for people looking to minimize the hassle and a second for those customers who want more control. For the first customer group, Microsoft will provide a streamlined setup that customers can implement by running an .exe file from a DVD or via Web delivery.
"The first group typically runs setup in the user interface (UI) of their current Windows OS -- in other words, they launch it like an app," St. Pierre wrote.
For the second group, which typically runs setup from boot media, the software giant will deliver an advanced setup that runs when the user boots off a DVD or USB key. "Advanced setup is the home of all things familiar to the advanced user, including full support for unattended installation, partition selection, and formatting," St. Pierre said.
Online Install Improvements
Once Windows 8 launches next year, Microsoft intends to heavily promote Web-based installations, though boxed sets also will remain available for purchase in brick-and-mortar stores or from online retailers.
"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," St. Pierre said.
The online installation process for Windows 7 customers was so complicated that it required users to click their way through 60 different screens to complete. With Windows 8, however, the separate compatibility adviser, download manager and install segments for Windows 7 have been condensed into a single, streamlined experience.
"We first determine if your PC, apps, and devices will work in the new OS, note which things you want to keep -- apps, files and/or settings -- and then install the new OS," St. Pierre wrote. What's more, "you can choose to keep all, some, or none of your personal data depending on the OS you're upgrading from, and your personal preferences."