Microsoft is to streamline the installation of Windows 8 over previous versions of the operating system, aiming to reduce the time taken to get the OS onto a new PC.
In another mammoth post on the Building Windows 8 Blog, Christa St. Pierre from Microsoft’s Setup and Deployment team highlighted conflicting needs of different types of users. Namely those that install the OS from the UI of the former OS and those that run set up from boot media.
"Rather than trying to rationalize two fairly different experiences and customer requirements, we chose to maintain two setup user experiences," said St. Pierre.
Windows 8 will offer a ‘streamlined setup’ via an executable (either web delivery or a DVD), and an advanced setup that is accessible via boot media such as a DVD or USB key. The advanced setup will focus on aspects such as partition selection and formatting.
The blog post also described the workings of Microsoft’s web-deployed version of Windows 8 which would first begin a compatibility scan, showing what hardware is expected to work and which will need attention (presumably third party drivers).
An example shot shots the popular virtual optical disk image mounting software VirtualCloneDrive as one of the applications that would be incompatible (or ‘needs your attention’ in Microsoft speak).
In upgrades, Windows 8 will also shove the old operating system into a Windows.old folder, preserved in case a roll back is necessary. Rather than moving files physically, or at least physically in the case of hard drives, Windows 8 will use hard links which will provide a "significant performance gain," Microsoft said.
They’re not joking either. Windows 7 vs Windows 8 upgrade times were compared. A clean install of Windows 7 takes 32 minutes and 21 minutes for Windows 8 but a ‘heavy upgrade’ of 90 apps and 430k files would take a whopping 188 minutes (yes, three hours) but just 46 minutes on Windows 8.
With the new OS optimised for web delivery, Microsoft also turned to making sure the installation files are as small as possible. Using the new system on the old Windows 7 x86 ISO, Windows 8’s delivery system would drop the download from 2.32GB to 1.51GB.
"Customers who choose to install Windows from an online source will have a greatly improved experience over what we’ve delivered in the past, with smaller and faster downloads, as well as increased resiliency and control."
In keeping with Microsoft’s new chatty strategy for Windows 8, St. Pierre appeared in a video (not chatty enough to put somewhere useful like YouTube) demonstrating how booting from USB and unattended installations will work with Windows 8. Link to mp4 file here. There’s a web stream version about two-thirds the way down the massive blog post.