Microsoft took the IT world a little by surprise when it made the Windows 8 Release Preview code available last Thursday (May 30). Ever prepared to take a run at the future, I promptly downloaded the code and upgraded my venerable HP EliteBook 8530w (8GB memory, 256GB SSD) from the previous Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I used the 64-bit version.
I was a little surprised to discover that the upgrade would preserve no settings as the only upgrade that maintains applications and user preferences is from Windows 7. Oh well, it’s always a joy to reinstall every application on a PC after first going through the process of realizing just how many applications and other pieces of random software you’ve accumulated over time.
The good news is that the upgrade process worked smoothly and produced a much more refined version of Windows than the Consumer Preview. For example, sometimes Windows Explorer didn’t refresh information after a file was renamed or deleted, a strange bug as you’d imagine that Explorer has being processing file renames and deletions since Windows 95. In any case, it all works as expected now.
I encountered no problems installing a range of applications from Office 2010 to VMware workstation either. In fact, the only issue that I’ve run into since the upgrade has been the tendency of Skype to take 50% of the available CPU, even after I’d downloaded and installed the latest and greatest code. This seems to be a common problem where Skype insists on keeping a CPU core all to itself. As my PC is a dual-core system, Skype takes 50% – maybe I need a new quad-core machine!
Skype also suffered problems with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview where the application would freeze after making video calls and cause the O/S to become unstable and require a reboot. Skype version 126.96.36.199 appeared to function better on the Consumer Preview but now has the CPU issue.
It’s strange that Microsoft hasn’t been able to coordinate matters internally so that high-profile applications like Skype function smoothly. At least, you’d assume that some sort of coordination takes place now that Microsoft owns Skype, even if, as reported by the New York Times, Skype is being run as a kind of independent fiefdom within Microsoft. The same report quoted Steve Ballmer as saying “We always want Skype to be first and best on Windows…” so clearly there’s some work to do (or better communications) to allow Skype to shine on Windows 8.
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Update 6 June: Apparently Microsoft is well aware of the problems with Skype 5.9 and its insatiable appetite for CPU under Windows 8. A fix is coming, but in the interim, you can install an older version of Skype (download 188.8.131.52 here). This version works well with Windows 8 and takes 3% CPU…