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Can my PC run the Windows 8 beta test build?

Now that it's available for public download, you might be wondering whether your PC or tablet can handle it. Here are some guidelines.

Microsoft today made its Windows 8 beta available for public download.

Now that Microsoft has made the Windows 8 beta (known officially as the "Consumer Preview) available for public download, those wanting to kick the tires may be wondering whether their PCs and tablets can handle it.

The Consumer Preview is close to being "code complete" and looks and feels very much how the final version of Windows 8 will when it launches later this year. The Consumer Preview is meant for anyone who is undaunted by technology to try, though Microsoft isn't advising anyone to load this on their primary PCs without remembering that it is not final code.

Microsoft officials published some guidelines on the official Microsoft Windows Experience blog on February 29 that stipulate which kinds of PCs will be best for those ready to try the Consumer Preview.

Microsoft execs have said previously that if your PC can handle Windows 7 or Windows Vista, it should easily be able to accommodate Windows 8. Today, they made their advice a little more specific. PCs able to run Windows 8 should meet the following (not so difficult) criteria, according to Microsoft:

•1 GHz or faster processor
•1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
•16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
•DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
•1024 x 768 minimum screen resolution

If you want to use the "Snap" feature, which allows you to align two windows side by side, you'll need a PC with a 1366X768 or higher resolution, the post noted. And, of course, if you want to try out the touch capabilities for which Windows 8 is truly optimized, you'll need a laptop, tablet or display that is multi-touch capable.

Microsoft officials published last fall a list of the PCs and tablet models that the Windows team has used in its Windows 8 testing.

It's worth noting also that today's Windows 8 Consumer Preview is meant for x86/x64-based PCs and tablets only. The downloadble bits will not work on ARM-based PCs and tablets, even though Windows 8 is meant to work on both Intel and ARM platforms when it is released. Microsoft officials have said previously that Windows 8 on ARM (WOA) will be tied to particular hardware--the same way that the iPad OS is built into iPads. Microsoft is making test versions of WOA running on test hardware available to pre-selected developers and partners in the coming weeks. But the company isn't making WOA available to the public for testing.