Microsoft Windows 8 is the newest member of the Windows operating system line and features major user interface changes over its predecessors.
Windows 8 Release Date
Windows 8 was released to manufacturing on August 1, 2012 and was made available to the public on October 26, 2012.
Windows 8 is preceded by Windows 7 and is currently the most recent version of Windows available.
Windows 8 will eventually have a successor as well, probably Windows 9 in 2015 or 2016.
Windows 8 Editions
Four editions of Windows 8 are available:
- Windows 8 Pro [Check Prices]
- Windows 8
- Windows 8 Enterprise
- Windows RT
Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 are the only two editions available for sale directly to the consumer. Windows 8 Enterprise is the edition intended for large organizations.
All three editions of Windows 8 already mentioned will be available in either 32-bit or 64-bit versions.
A Windows 8 Pro Pack is also available [Check Prices] which will upgrade Windows 8 (the standard version) to Windows 8 Pro.
Windows RT, previously known as Windows on ARM or WOA, is an edition of Windows 8 made specifically for ARM devices. Windows RT is only available to hardware makers for preinstallation and only runs the software included with it or downloaded from the Windows Store.
Windows 8 Licenses
The various consumer editions of Windows 8 are available with either an Upgrade, System Builder, or OEM license.
The Windows 8 Upgrade license can be used to upgrade or clean install over most recent versions of Windows. The huge majority of Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro downloads and boxed software you can purchase are Upgrade licenses.
The Windows 8 System Builder license can be used in the same ways that the Upgrade license can be used, but it may also be installed on an empty hard drive (like on a new computer or virtual machine) or over an older or non-Windows operating system.
A Windows 8 System Builder license will often be referred to as a Personal Use License for System Builder, PUL, Retail, or Full license and will be priced higher than an upgrade version.
Any copy of Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 (standard), or Windows 8 RT that comes preinstalled on a computer come with what's called an OEM license. An OEM Windows 8 license restricts use of the operating system to the computer on which it was installed by the computer manufacturer.
Note: Some Windows 8 System Builder licenses will also be referred to as OEM licenses.
Windows 8 Minimum Requirements
Windows 8 requires the following hardware, at a minimum:
- CPU: 1 GHz (with NX, PAE, and SSE2 support)
- RAM: 1 GB (2 GB for 64-bit versions)
- Hard Drive: 16 GB free space (20 GB free for 64-bit versions)
- Graphics: A GPU that supports a least DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver
Your optical drive will need to support DVD discs if you plan on installing Windows 8 using DVD media.
There are also several additional hardware requirements for Windows 8 when installed on a tablet.
Windows 8 Hardware Limitations
32-bit versions of Windows 8 support up to 4 GB of RAM. The 64-bit version of Windows 8 Pro supports up to 512 GB while the 64-bit version of Windows 8 (standard) supports up to 128 GB.
Windows 8 Pro supports a maximum of 2 physical CPUs and the standard version of Windows 8 just one. In total, up to 32 logical processors are supported in 32-bit versions of Windows 8, while up to 256 logical processors are supported in 64-bit versions.
Windows 8 Updates
There is no service pack available for Windows 8, nor is one planned. Instead of releasing a Windows 8 SP1 as they did with previous versions of Windows, Microsoft will release large, regular updates to Windows 8, incrementing the version number each time.
The first of these updates is scheduled for August, 2013, and will bring Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 (originally codenamed Windows Blue). This update will be free to existing Windows 8 users and will bring feature changes, as well as fixes, to the operating system.
See Latest Microsoft Windows Service Packs & Updates for more information about Windows service packs and major updates.
More About Windows 8
Below are links to some of the more popular Windows 8 walkthroughs and other how-to content on my site:
- How To Clean Install Windows 8
- Where Can I Download Windows 8?
- How To Install Windows 8 From a USB Device
- Updated List of Windows 8 Drivers
- How To Update Drivers in Windows 8
- How To Open Command Prompt in Windows 8
- How To Open Control Panel in Windows 8
- How To Start Windows 8 in Safe Mode
More Windows 8 tutorials can be found on my Windows 8 How-To's, Tutorials, and Walkthroughs page.
My site focuses mainly on maintenance, troubleshooting, and the general "support" of PCs and operating system like Windows 8. However, About.com does have a Windows site that focuses more on general Windows use which you might also find helpful.