Two milestone releases of Windows 8 and one of Windows Server 2012 leaked to the general public. Milestone 1, Build 7850, was leaked on April 12, 2011. It was the first build where the title of a window was written centered instead of aligned to the left. It was also probably the first appearance of the Metro-style font, and its wallpaper had the text shhh. let's not leak our hard work. However, its detailed build number reveals that the build was created on September 22, 2010. The leaked copy was Enterprise edition, with other editions leaking later. In 2020, it was discovered that Metro existed in this build, after enabling the 'Redpill'. The start screen was very primitive, being a white screen with gray tiles. The charms bar was also included, but was unusable. The OS still reads as "Windows 7". Milestone 2, Build 7955, was leaked on April 25, 2011. The traditional Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) was replaced by a new black screen, although it was later reverted to a different blue color. This build introduced a new ribbon in Windows Explorer. The "Windows 7" logo was temporarily replaced with text displaying "Microsoft Confidential". Both builds 7850 and 7955 leaked alongside Windows Server 2012 build 7959. On June 17, 2011, build 7989 64-bit edition was leaked. It introduced a new boot screen featuring the same Betta fish as the default Windows 7 Beta wallpaper, which was later replaced, and the circling dots as featured in the final (although the final version comes with smaller circling dots throbber). It also had the text Welcome below them, although this was scrapped. The boot screen was not new to this build though - it came from build 7973, a slightly earlier build. It is worth mentioning that most of these leaks "hid" the main Metro UI features that were to come in tweak known as Redlock in order to prevent relevant leaks. A patch named Redpill was necessary to reveal the new Metro UI as well as the redesigned Start Screen, Lock Screen and apps. Several applications have tried to replicate this patch as closely as possible, although one called Redlock is the most accurate, supporting the enabling of builds' Metro UI from 7814-8056. It also worked on the Developer Preview.
The build was released for download later that day in standard 32-bit and 64-bit variants, plus a special 64-bit variant which included SDKs and developer tools (Visual Studio Express and Expression Blend) for developing Metro-style apps. The Windows Store was announced during the presentation, but was not available in this build. According to Microsoft, there were about 535,000 downloads of the developer preview within the first 12 hours of its release. Originally set to expire on March 11, 2012, in February 2012 the Developer Preview's expiry date was changed to January 15, 2013.
On February 29, 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8 Consumer Preview, the beta version of Windows 8, build 8250. Alongside other changes, the build brought over the big change from build 8195: removing the Start button from the taskbar for the first time in a public build since its debut on Windows 95; according to Windows manager Chaitanya Sareen, the Start button was removed to reflect their view that on Windows 8, the desktop was an "app" itself, and not the primary interface of the operating system. Windows president Steven Sinofsky said more than 100,000 changes had been made since the developer version went public. The day after its release, Windows 8 Consumer Preview had been downloaded over one million times. Like the Developer Preview, the Consumer Preview expired on January 15, 2013.
Many other builds may exist or were released until Japan's Developers Day conference when Steven Sinofsky announced that Windows 8 Release Preview (build 8400) would be released during the first week of June. On May 28, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview (Standard Simplified Chinese x64 edition, not China-specific variant, build 8400) was leaked online on various Chinese and BitTorrent websites. On May 31, 2012, Windows 8 Release Preview was released to the public by Microsoft. Major items in the Release Preview included the addition of Sports, Travel, and News apps, along with an integrated variant of Adobe Flash Player in Internet Explorer. Like the Developer Preview and the Consumer Preview, the release preview expired on January 15, 2013.
On August 1, 2012, Windows 8 (build 9200) was released to manufacturing with the build number 6.2.9200.16384. Microsoft planned to hold a launch event on October 25, 2012 and release Windows 8 for general availability on the next day. However, only a day after its release to manufacturing, a copy of the final version of Windows 8 Enterprise N (a variant for European markets which lacks bundled media players to comply with an antitrust ruling) leaked online, followed by leaks of the final versions of Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise a few days later. On August 15, 2012, Windows 8 was made available to download for MSDN and TechNet subscribers. Windows 8 was made available to Software Assurance customers on August 16, 2012. Windows 8 was made available for students with a DreamSpark Premium subscription on August 22, 2012, earlier than advertised. Windows 8 became generally available for download to all MSDN and TechNet customers on August 15 and for retail purchase on October 26, 2012.
Relatively few changes were made from the Release Preview to the final version; these included updated versions of its pre-loaded apps, the renaming of Windows Explorer to File Explorer, the replacement of the Aero Glass theme from Windows Vista and 7 with a new flat and solid-color theme as seen in build 8432, and the addition of new background options for the Start screen, lock screen, and desktop. Prior to its general availability on October 26, 2012, updates were released for some of Windows 8's bundled apps, and a "General Availability Cumulative Update" (which included fixes to improve performance, compatibility, and battery life) was released on Tuesday, October 9, 2012. Microsoft indicated that due to improvements to its testing infrastructure, general improvements of this nature are to be released more frequently through Windows Update instead of being relegated to OEMs and service packs only.
Windows 8 was distributed as a retail box product on DVD, and through a digital download that could be converted into DVD or USB install media. As part of a launch promotion, Microsoft offered Windows 8 Pro upgrades at a discounted price of US$39.99 online, or $69.99 for retail box from its launch until January 31, 2013; afterward the Windows 8 price has been $119.99 and the Pro price $199.99. Those who purchased new PCs pre-loaded with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate between June 2, 2012, and January 31, 2013, could digitally purchase a Windows 8 Pro upgrade for US$14.99. Several PC manufacturers offered rebates and refunds on Windows 8 upgrades obtained through the promotion on select models, such as Hewlett-Packard (in the U.S. and Canada on select models), and Acer (in Europe on selected Ultrabook models). During these promotions, the Windows Media Center add-on for Windows 8 Pro was also offered for free.
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