Microsoft has launched its new operating system, Windows 10. If, like us, you can't wait to get your hands on it, and you're comfortable running pre-release software, then you can download a copy once you join the Windows Insider program.
To join the Insider Program, you will have to log in using a Microsoft Account. If you've been using Windows 8 for any period of time, you should already have one, otherwise just sign up.
Once you've logged in, you'll have to agree to the terms and conditions, which highlight that this is an experimental and early pre-release software, and that you might experience crashes. Indeed, be sure that if you want to test out Windows 10, you do so on a spare computer rather than your main work beast.
After agreeing, you get congratulated, and then you land on a screen that tells you to click a 'Get the upgrade' button. Just scroll down instead and you will see a link to get an ISO file (English 64-bit if your system has more than 4GB of RAM). You will need the ISO file in order to install Windows 10 on a new computer or in a virtual machine. Make a note of the product key as well.
The download for the main version is 3.8GB large, so set aside some of your download quota, about an hour on a fast ADSL2+ connection, and a bit of drive space. Frustratingly, Microsoft details how to use the operating system by burning it to a DVD, but leaves out how to create a bootable USB device.
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If you want to create a bootable USB drive, you'll need a USB stick of at least 8GB (4GB didn't want to work for us, we were about 118MB short). Here are some common steps to follow for preparing the USB stick if you're on a Windows 8 machine:
Open up the Run box, and type CMD to launch the command prompt. You can then run the DISKPART program to partition and format your USB stick. Once the program starts, type list disk to get a list of the drives in your system, and type select disk n where n is the number of your disk.
Next, you have to clean, partition and format the drive, so make sure there is no data on it that you need. Type clean, then create a partition by typing create partition primary. Select the partition you just created by typing select partition 1, type active, and then format it using the command format fs=ntfs quick. The final step is to give it a drive letter by typing assign.
What you need to do now is mount the ISO file. On a system with Windows 8.1 installed, you should be able to just right-click on the ISO file and click the 'mount' option. Otherwise, you will need to use a third-party utility. Once it's mounted, you can transfer all of the ISO file's contents onto the USB stick.
On a Windows 8.1 system, you should be able to just right-click the ISO file to mount it.
Then you will be able to access its contents and copy them to the USB drive you've prepared.
To boot from the USB stick, ensure that your BIOS is set to boot from the USB stick, and your system should then boot into the Windows 10 setup routine.
The following are some photos of the Windows 10 installation procedure. It looks familiar.
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And here are some shots of Windows 10 in action. The overall look is flatter, with no discernible borders around windows, and, of course, the Start menu is back and incorporates elements of the Start Screen.