On Feb. 29, 2012, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft officially launched the consumer preview version of its new Windows 8 operating system. For those who have been waiting, it’s available to download.

According to Kent Walter on the Windows Experience blog, Windows 8 is compatible with tablets, laptops and desktops. No need for anyone to go out and buy a new tablet PC in order to enjoy what Windows 8 has to offer. Those who plan on giving the consumer preview a try should be forewarned that this beta version is not for everyone.

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that although the consumer preview of Windows 8 is more complete than the developer preview that launched in September 2011 was, it still isn’t 100% and, more likely than not, will have some glitches.

Those who aren’t computer savvy and don’t know someone who is might want to reconsider downloading Windows 8 to their computers. There’s no tech support attached to previews of new software; however, there is a Windows 8 Consumer Preview forum and an FAQ page where anyone intrepid enough to risk downloading this preview might be able to find help.

Anyone who already has Windows 7 should have no problem running the Windows 8 consumer preview. For those who are uncertain, there is a checklist of requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster processor
  • 1 GB of RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB of RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB of available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Direct X9 graphics device with WDDM or higher driver
  • 1024 x 768 minimum screen resolution

For those who know their way around computers, the Windows 8 consumer preview has arrived. For the rest, it’s probably better to wait until the completed version launches, presumably, later on this year.

We always recommend installing new software like this into a test environment first and never onto your production systems.  Use all BETA software with caution and always have a good backup.