In my prior post A Complete Linux Java Environment in Your Hand I described how I created a Puppy Linux personality for my Asus Eee PC 1000HD netbook computer, while preserving its original personality of Microsoft Windows XP Home.

I had been wanting to create a similar personality for Windows 8. However I have been frustrated that Microsoft is not supporting a boot-from-USB option for Windows 8. (A special exception known as Windows To Go is in the works for enterprise licensees, but that does not apply to regular folks.)

Then I ran across the recent article Dual-boot Windows 7 and Windows 8 from TechRepublic. My netbook came with 130 GB of disk space; about half of that was still available. I decided that dual-boot from the hard-disk was the approach for me.

Summary of Steps

I downloaded the ISO image of Windows 8 32-bit Retail using my Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscription. This is the version that will be generally available to the public sometime in October. I also obtained a Windows 8 Pro license key.

Since my netbook has no DVD drive I followed the instructions in How to install Windows 8 using a USB flash drive to convert the DVD image into a bootable installer on a 4 GB USB stick. (Note, I first tried using two different brands of SD-card, but the resulting image was not recognized as bootable by my netbook. The USB stick was able to boot without problem.)

Next I adapted the steps from Dual-boot Windows 7 and Windows 8 to create a new NTFS disk partition on my netbook.

The netbook was factory configured with two disk partitions of approximately 60 GB each, labeled C: and D:. I had more than 40 GB free on the D: drive, so I decided to convert that into a new partition.

Since the netbook runs Windows XP Home Edition, I was not able to use the Disk Management utility to shrink the existing D: partition and to create a new NTFS partition as E:. Instead, I temporarily booted the netbook into Puppy Linux (see A Complete Linux Java Environment in Your Hand). Within Puppy Linux, I used the GParted (Gnome Partition Editor) to perform the partition shrinking and creation. I labeled the newly created partition as “Windows 8” as described in the dual-boot tutorial.

Next I rebooted using my new Windows 8 installation USB stick, and proceeded to install Windows 8 on the new partition per the dual-boot tutorial.

One special note: After the first reboot, the USB stick was still being used as the boot device, and the setup wanted to start over! At this point, I powered down the computer, removed the USB stick, and powered the computer up again. The “mid-installation” reboot then proceeded as intended by Microsoft.

The Result

Now when I cold-boot my netbook this dual-boot selection screen appears after some initial churning:

The normal delay for automatic selection of the default choice is only 30 seconds. I used the Change defaults or choose other options link to raise this to the maximum value of 5 minutes.

In my case the “Earlier Version of Windows” is Windows XP Home Edition. I never want to remove this from my netbook as it has all the factory-installed device drivers that work with the netbook features (1024 x 600 display with support for 1024 x 768 as “scrolling” or “compressed”, multi-touch trackpad, function key volume controls, etc.)

When I select Windows 8, it proceeds to this “lock” screen:

I simply click the mouse (trackpad) to proceed to the login screen:

Then I arrive at the Start screen, complete with live tiles:

At this point, I recommend reviewing The 10 Windows 8 keyboard shortcuts you need to remember.

Screen Size Limitations

This model of the Asus Eee PC 1000HD netbook runs an Intel Celeron M processor with an integrated Intel 915-series graphics chip set. The only drivers for this graphics chip-set are XPDM (compatible with Windows XP). Intel has no plans to develop WDDM drivers for this chip-set. Windows 7 allowed XPDM drivers to run in compatibility mode; Windows 8 has abandoned this option and allows only WDDM drivers.

This installation of Windows 8 is using the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter which is only able to drive the netbook display at 800 x 600 resolution. (This driver has no concept of the native 1024 x 600 “wide-screen Super VGA” format.)

Since we don’t meet the minimum vertical resolution of 768 pixels, we are disallowed from running the new “metropolis” style applications:

Microsoft provides one nice adaption to this limitation: When you try to open a media file such as an MP3 audio file, Windows 8 points out that the default Music touch-pad friendly application cannot run for your screen size, but it immediately offers to change the default application to Media Player. Other file types offer “traditional alternate” launcher applications in this same situation.

Not being able to run “metropolis” style applications is a minor disappointment, but since we are keyboard-based we need to simply get over it and proceed to the “traditional” desktop by pressing the Windows key:

Here is where several previewers have jumped on the absence of the Windows 95 era “Start Menu”. Above you see how you can still collect your own set of desktop icons to launch your frequently used applications.

In the above image, the left-most icons launch applications that are actually installed into this Windows 8 partition. The icons to the right of that are actually copies of icons I fetched from my original Windows XP partition (now known as D: when booted into Windows 8.) I try to use “portable application” versions of utilities, which are those that you install by copying a file folder (and un-install by deleting that folder). These applications need no special Registry entries, so they run just fine in Windows 8 by referencing the executable from the folder that resides on the Windows XP partition. (One trick – to avoid file permission issues for local options files or lock files stored in the application’s folder, I set the “Run as administrator” option on several of these shortcut icons.)

Here is how my disk partitions look from the Windows 8 point of view:

Closing Observations

I was one of the skeptics regarding Windows 8 being useful for traditional keyboard-and-mouse installations. This exercise has quickly converted me into a believer.

“What about when I need to get down and dirty and get into my system administration tools and fiddle around? How do I do that without any Start menu?”

Here is how to setup quick launch icons for all those power applications: Press the Windows key to get to the Start screen, then press Windows-I for Settings. Select the “Tiles” settings and enable Show administrative tools. Now scroll to the far right of the Start screen to see launchers for all the usual suspects:

Regarding living with 800 x 600 pixel resolution on this work-horse netbook: I would have no problem setting one of these devices up as a very portable web browsing appliance for one of my relatives. Tablets may be the current rage, but an easily carried computer the size of a pad of paper with a built-in keyboard that doubles as a hands-free stand for the screen still has plenty of value.