Fortunately, the hardware requirements for Windows 8 are basically the same as for Windows 7 -- and not all that different from Windows XP. If you're going to test Hyper-V, read the section below for additional hardware needs, and make sure you install the 64-bit version of Windows 8. (Hint: Any Intel i-series processor can handle Hyper-V virtualization.) Realistically, just about any PC that's less than a few years old will work.
Windows 8 can be installed by downloading the ISO file and burning it on a DVD or USB drive. Microsoft has a new installation option, where you install directly from the Web. The Web installer gives you three options: migrate your current programs and files, migrate files only, or perform a clean install. To minimize future problems, a clean install is the only way to go. Keep in mind that if you use the Web install, you won't have an ISO backup handy, thus won't be able to test Reset or Restore.
Starting with Metro Start If you have a touch-enabled piece of hardware, it's easy to dig in and start playing, er, testing. If you're stuck with a mouse, you'll learn sooner or later that you can scroll your mouse across the screen and the tiles move with it; you can also drag the slider at the bottom of the screen or use the PgUp and PgDn keys.
I won't pontificate on the Metro Start screen -- heaven knows there's enough of that going around -- but I'd like to point to some details to consider as you're going through the tiles.
As I noted last week, Windows Live is dead, but to see the full extent of the carnage, you should survey the Metro "preview apps" sitting on the Start screen: Mail, People, Calendar, Messaging, and Photos all have direct analogs in the Windows Live lineup. Finance, Weather, Maps, Music, SkyDrive, and Videos all hook into websites.
The Metro apps have two things in common: First, they aren't quite cooked. Mail doesn't even have a way to attach documents or format text. Photos can't upload or manage albums. Contacts can't put a pic to a name. Yet.
Second, the Metro apps can and will be updated asynchronously with Windows itself. If that sounds like the Windows Live shtick, it is: Microsoft originally created Windows Live to let app development proceed asynchronously with Windows releases. We're seeing the same mechanism here. Microsoft claims, with little conviction, that the Metro apps aren't part of Windows itself.