You can now download Windows 8 RTM as a 90-day trial


— 4:47 PM on August 15, 2012

Windows 8 is here! Well, sort of.

The full, release-to-manufacturing version of Microsoft's new operating system isn't scheduled to hit stores until October 26. However, Microsoft has put up an evaluation version for download on the MSDN Evaluation Center. Anyone with a Windows Live account can get it—no MSDN subscription required. All you have to do is fill a form with your name, e-mail address, country of residence, and preferred language. You're then free to download the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows 8 Enterprise. The downloads weigh in at 2.4GB and 3.3GB, respectively.

After installation, users have 10 days to activate the operating system. They then have another 90 days to evaluate it. A "watermark" in the lower right of the desktop will count down the remaining days. Once the 90 days are up, you're done. "It is not possible to upgrade the evaluation to a licensed working version of Windows 8," says Microsoft. "A clean installation is required."

Well, at least this is a reasonably straightforward way for folks to give the final, production-ready version of Windows 8 a shot. I still haven't decided whether I'll stick with Windows 7 or take the plunge on October 26, so I might try it myself. The new-and-improved desktop is awfully tempting, but I'm wary of the Metro interface Modern UI style and the apparent lack of options to bypass it.

   
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