Microsoft has written yet another voluminous blog post about Windows 8, this one concerning the Setup experience. It touches on a number of interesting topics including Microsoft's ongoing efforts to simplify and streamline Setup, a new web delivery method of installing Windows 8, and automated installs.
"Setup is something that gets a lot of attention from us in any Windows release," senior program manager on the Windows Fundamental team Christa St. Pierre writes. "For Windows 8, our goal was to continue to improve reliability while also improving the installation experience and raw performance. Not only did we want it to be rock solid, but also faster and easier to use."
It's definitely faster. While Windows 7 usually installs in a lickedy-split 20 minutes or so, you can be up and running with the Windows 8 Developer Preview in as little as 8 minutes. One thing I've noticed, however, is that the number of steps to install Windows 8 interactively has actually gone up a bit since Windows 7, at least in the Developer Preview.
In any event, it's a big post and worth reading. But here's the high-level overview.
Interactive Setup. This is the part that's changing the most in Windows 8, Microsoft says. Here, as always, Microsoft serves two masters. There are the utterly inexperienced users that simply want to upgrade from the previous OS as easily as possible--an activity that is not possible with the Developer Preview--and the power users who want fine-grained control over what gets installed during a clean install. For this reason, Microsoft will offer two types of Setup in Windows 8, a streamlined version that's triggered by a web- or DVD-based Setup.exe file and an advanced setup that you can launch from the Setup DVD or USB key.
To support the new install type, Microsoft will be offering a new online install option in addition to the more traditional boxed DVD. The post thoroughly describes the new web-based installer, so there's no reason to beat it to death again here. Put simply, you can install inplace or download a file and copy it to USB or DVD, your choice.
"In Windows 8, customers do not have to install a separate download manager, mount the ISO to begin the installation, check the hash of the file for verification post-download, manually clean up unneeded files, or restart a download from the beginning should connectivity be interrupted," St. Pierre writes. "Setup takes care of all of these steps automatically, providing a fast, resilient, and easy setup experience. And again, this is true whether you just want to run a quick upgrade on an existing installation, or to create boot media for an advanced setup experience – either with GUI or unattended."
Advanced Setup. This type of Setup equates roughly to interactive Setup today: You buy Windows 8 on DVD or download it from the web and copy the files to a bootable DVD or USB for later installation. "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 notes.
Unattended Setup. The Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) is being renamed to Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK), just to keep things interesting, but St. Pierre says that not much else is changing. You can find out more on the MSDN web site (for subscribers only) or TechNet web site (public).
"With Windows 8 setup we have greatly improved both speed and ease of use, while still retaining all of the advanced setup functionality that many customers will demand." St. Pierre concludes. "We have integrated what was once many separate steps for people to perform when preparing and starting their setup into a streamlined user experience, with a fast and reliable setup engine under the hood. 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. We hope that you will find these improvements to be a great way to start your experience using Windows 8."
I hope so too, and further hope we'll be able to test the streamlined Setup type when the Beta hits.