Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Installing Windows 8 on the ExoPC Slate

Late last year I was given an ExoPC Slate as a development device in order to port some of my Silverlight physics games. I did a little unboxing and hands-on with the device back then, and it was quite easy to port my Silverlight games to their app store. Note that the ExoPC has an Intel Atom 1.66 GHz processor, which makes it a bit short on battery life (less than 4 hours). However, it does support 64-bit Windows and has the minimum 1366x768 resolution to support the new "snap" feature.

So given yesterday's release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview, I wanted to see how the new multi-touch based version of Windows would work on the ExoPC.

Steps to Install
These steps are for installing Windows 8 on the ExoPC slate, but you could likely use these steps for other Windows 7 slates as well.

  1. Download the Windows 8 Developer Preview with Developer Tools for 64-bit (x64). The ExoPC has at least a 32 GB SSD drive, so you can go for the larger ISO (4.8 GB). You'll have about 14 GB of disk space left after the install.
  2. Find an 8 GB or bigger USB Flash Drive. A 4 GB won't be big enough if you are choosing to install the larger ISO with the developer tools.
  3. Following  the basic steps outlined here, make the USB Drive bootable and copy the contents of the Windows 8 ISO to the USB drive. When you get to Step 7 (using BOOTSECT), you will need to run BOOTSECT from a 64-bit install of Windows 7, since we downloaded the 64-bit version of Windows 8.
  4. Now that you have a bootable USB drive with Windows 8, we can go to the ExoPC slate and plug it in. Reboot the slate and enter the BIOS by tapping on the "Setup" button on the boot screen:

  5. Inside the BIOS, we need to set the boot device to the USB key. Go to the "Save and Exit" menu and select the USB key under Boot Override. Then Save and Exit.

  6. That's it! You should now see the Windows 8 Setup screen, and you can progress through as usual to setup Windows.

Windows 8 touch performance on the ExoPC feels great compared to how it was under Windows 7. The on-screen keyboard and web browsing are fantastic when compared to the old Windows 7 install on the salte. The start-up time from cold boot is about 15 seconds (much better than it was under Windows 7). My next task is to port some of my Silverlight apps to this new platform, so I'll post some of my experiences on that in the future.