Windows 8: “Tough Luck, Bub”

Today I purchased and downloaded Windows 8 Pro on my c. 2003 Shuttle SB51G computer. It has a Pentium 4 2.8 GHz CPU. At the end of February 2012, I was able to install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on it. Last June, I tried installing the Windows 8 Release Preview, which didn’t work.

I started the upgrade purchase through the Microsoft site and one of the upgrade adviser warnings said that the NX bit needed to be enabled in the BIOS. I knew that my CPU (Northwood) didn’t have this feature which was also the reason the Windows 8 Consumer Preview wouldn’t install. I still completed the purchase knowing that I would use the license on another computer. The Windows 8 installation procedure went through like everything it was fine. It was, until the reboot:

The message on the reboot said, “Your PC needs to restart. Please hold down the power button.” This same message was displayed after several cold boot attempts. The error code, 0x0000005D, with the parameters 0x030F0207, 0x756E6547, 0x49656E69, 0x6C65746E, as far as I can find, refer to an incompatible CPU.

I think it would have been nicer on Microsoft’s part to say, before I plopped down $39.95, that Windows 8 wouldn’t work with my CPU. I can imagine this happening to a customer reading the hype about Windows 8 and trying the upgrade, paying for it and then getting a cryptic message. It seems to be Microsoft’s way of saying, “Tough luck, bub.”

I restored XP from an image, and my ancient computer is back to being a file server.

Windows 8 on a Macbook

I installed the Microsoft Windows 8 Release Preview (x64) on my Apple Macbook (Late 2006). Over the years I’ve upgraded my Macbook’s hardware – it now has 3 GB RAM, a 120 GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD and a 320 GB Western Digital WD3200BEKT hard disk. I use rEFIt as the boot manager for the two main operating systems that I use, Windows 7 and OS X Lion.

I ran the Windows 8 setup program from an external DVD drive while booted to Windows 7 and the installation took about 25 minutes. Everything worked pretty well except the audio. I could see by the red glow coming from the audio jack that it had to defaulted to the SPDIF (digital) output. I installed the Bootcamp 4.0 IDT Sigmatel audio drivers and the analog sound output started working.

Thanks to Paul Thurrott for the instructions on setting up Windows Media Center, I was able to get the TV tuner working after I installed the Silicon Dust HDHomeRun TV tuner Windows drivers.

Once I got the dual monitor setup working and installed Google Chrome, I realized that Windows 8 is pretty much like Windows 7, except for the Metro interface. It seems that Microsoft’s goal with Windows 8 is to simplify Windows with Metro. The side effect of this is hiding everything that is of use to the power user – which made the learning curve going from Windows 7 to 8 slightly steeper. Fortunately, switching between Metro and the desktop interface is simple. The main problem with the Metro interface for me (besides that you can only see one running app at a time) is that I would never use the apps that are tiled on the main screen.

When I realized it would take me a week to install everything else to get to the equivalent of the working system I had on Windows 7, I did an image restore back to Windows 7.

I’m not so down on Windows 8 now that I’ve used it for a while. Microsoft has made improvements in Windows 8 that are helpful to the power user – Windows Explorer – now called File Explorer – is much more robust, for example. Windows 8 even runs fairly quickly on my 5.5 year old hardware and it only took about 30 seconds to boot. So while it looks like Windows 8 will run well on this legacy system, unfortunately Apple won’t be supporting my MacBook (Late 2006) with it’s next OS, Mountain Lion.