Microsoft today revealed that Windows 8 boot is now so fast that when you need to enter the setup menu, by pressing F2/F8 during boot, there is literally no time to do it. "So quickly, in fact, that there is no longer time for anything to interrupt boot."
"When you turn on a Windows 8 PC, there's no longer long enough to detect keystrokes like F2 or F8, much less time to read a message such as "Press F2 for Setup"," writes Chris Clark, program manager, User Experience team. "For the first time in decades, you will no longer be able to interrupt boot and tell your PC to do anything different than what it was already expecting to do," he adds.
In a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD) you can fully boot in less than 7 seconds. "Booting this fast doesn't require special hardware, but it is a feature of new PCs. You'll still see much improved boot times in existing hardware, but in many PCs, the BIOS itself does take significant time. He said that in a test machine with SSD-based UEFI systems, the "F8 window" is always less than 200 milliseconds. No matter how fast your fingers are, there is no way to reliably catch a 200 millisecond event.
Here is a screenshot of the boot options menu on UEFI-based PCs:
"Windows 8 will automatically enter automatic failover behavior which is determined by an algorithm that establishes a baseline over several boots, and take you directly to the boot options menu whenever there is a problem that would otherwise keep your PC from loading Windows," he said.
This even includes cases where it appears (to Windows) that boot has succeeded, but in actuality the PC is unusable. "An example of how this could occur would be a faulty driver installation that is causing the main logon screen to appear completely blank. Windows may not be aware that the screen is blank, but anyone looking at the screen knows this immediately. We now algorithmically detect when this has occurred across multiple boots, and automatically boot directly into the boot options menu inside the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE). Since the source image for WinRE contains drivers and files that are kept separate from the main Windows installation, it's not affected by any software changes and is a reliable environment to begin troubleshooting from the boot options menu," explains Clark.
Clark discuss the various methods to reaching the boot options including:
- The primary method of reaching the boot options is from Advanced startup on the General tab of PC settings. You can get to PC settings from the Settings charm, or by searching from the Start screen using specific search terms, such as boot, startup, safe mode, firmware, BIOS, or several others.
"On the General tab, you'll see a short description of the options that will be available in the boot options menu, as well as a Restart now button. The descriptions shown on this screen are fully dynamic, and will change based on the hardware, firmware, and software available on your specific Windows 8 PC. Pressing the Restart now button under Advanced startup begins the primary pathway to reach the boot options on a fully functional system," he explained.
- For quicker access to boot options menu: from within the shutdown menu. If you hold down the Shift key while clicking Restart, Windows 8 will go through the same sequence of events as if you had clicked Advanced startup from within PC settings. Since you can open the shutdown menu from any part of Windows 8 using the Settings charm, this is an especially quick way to directly reach the boot options menu.
- Finally, there's one other way to trigger the boot options menu during shutdown, and this way has the added bonus of working from Command Prompt. We've added a new flag to shutdown.exe: /o. The /o flag only works in conjunction with /r (for restart), so the full syntax is: Shutdown.exe /r /o
"We added this new flag to shutdown.exe because we wanted to keep this part of Windows consistent and predictable. Not everyone uses Shutdown.exe, but those who do, depend on it for the full set of shutdown-related tasks," he said.
Microsoft will offer those who buy a new Windows 7 PC in the coming months the ability to get a heavily discounted upgrade to Windows 8. According to a report, the company will offer $15 Windows Pro 8 upgrades to those buying a new PC with Windows 7 Home Basic or higher.
Microsoft has offered these kinds of coupons with the past several releases, so it is not a shocker.
Also, a latest tweet confirms the Windows 8 Release Preview is set to June 1st launch.
And, in a speech to the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea today, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that "up to 500 million users will be using a Windows 8 device by the end of 2013."
"It's really, in some senses, a dawning of the rebirth of MS Windows... It's certainly the most important piece of work we've done," Ballmer added.
Ballmer also said that Microsoft will "soon" launch a version of Skype for Windows 8.
Ballmer also spoke about the cloud computing industry today stated, "The number of core (cloud) platforms, around which software developers will do their innovation, is not ever-broadening. It's really a quite smaller and focused number -- Windows, various forms of Linux, the Apple ecosystem."
Finally, 30 to Launch for Windows 8! "Come join us at RocketSpace in San Francisco every Monday night throughout the month of June to build great Windows 8 apps. Throughout the course of this four-part series, guests will have a chance to learn from Microsoft experts about the world's largest opportunity for app developers."
Coming soon - official rules for the Windows 8 events.