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Free 90-day trial of Windows 8 arrives; I’m updating a Windows 7 tablet

Although Windows 8 and new devices that run it won’t hit stores until Oct. 26, Microsoft is ready to show off the new software. Earlier this month, the company released the final version of its operating system to computer makers, and on Wednesday it followed up with a download for evaluation. Anyone can grab the software and use it for 90 days at no charge.

The final builds are available for download here, but my life was made a little easier: Today I received a USB stick from Microsoft with an installation that won’t expire, along with a license to review the software. A few weeks ago, the company also sent me a loaner kit comprised of a Samsung Windows 7 slate, dock, keyboard and mouse, all of which turns the tablet into a full desktop solution. I’ll be upgrading Windows on that device for my tests and putting aside my daily device; current a Google Chromebook.

Granted, I’m very interested in trying out the new Microsoft Surface tablet, as well as new Windows RT slates from Asus, Samsung, Lenovo and Dell, so my testing will really be on the software, not the hardware. From my usage so far on a netbook, the new Windows 8 interface will likely appeal more to those with a touchscreen device, but it is usable with mouse and keyboard.

For those who take advantage of the free Windows 8 evaluation, Microsoft recommends running it in a virtual machine or on its own partition on your PC because this edition can’t be upgraded to the full version. This is simply a first-look for a short amount of time and it’s a smart move by Microsoft: The company can build buzz early for its new operating system in advance of the actual launch.

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