By now, you should be aware that the Windows 8.1 Preview is publicly available. New software always creates a buzz and I've watched and listened to folks online downloading and installing the update for the last 24 hours. Surprising to me, though, is that there are a good percentage of the masses still confused or naïve about the drawbacks for installing the update. The newness and excitement seems to have blinded a lot of people to the fact that this is actually BETA software.

Some time ago, Microsoft stopped using the term "BETA" and replaced it with the word "Preview." This doesn't mean that a Preview release is any different. A Preview release is still unpolished and unfinished code, and may cause issues in some cases. There's no promise that the BETA bits won't change considerably when the product is actually, officially released.

No question, having the latest and greatest BETA software is cool. As geeks, there's a strong desire to be even geekier and try to one-up co-workers. Installing and running BETA software is definitely one of those Mario World-style power-ups, and I've heard it can turn a Paladin into Dragon Fighter quicker than an Orc can chew through human bone. I'm as geeky as the next guy, but, there are distinct reasons you may not want to install the Windows 8.1 Preview release, particularly if your intent is to install it on a piece of hardware that you count on for day-to-day tasks.

Here's the top reasons why you shouldn't download and install the Windows 8.1 Preview Release:

  • Its BETA software– As mentioned above, BETA software can cause issues, not work entirely, and cause you to spend more time cleaning up the software than utilizing it. BETA software can also cause damage to files, so it's important to have backups in the event of disaster.
  • You don't have access to test equipment– DO NOT install the Windows 8.1 Preview Release on production equipment. If you only have a single PC that you use and count on, the Preview Release is probably not for you. Again: BETA.
  • You're worried about being able to restore your device if running Windows RT– Microsoft says: "If you're running Windows RT you won't be able to restore Windows RT after you install Windows RT 8.1 Preview. You'll be able to upgrade to the final version of Windows RT 8.1."
  • You're concerned about where to get support if the installation fails– Microsoft states: "If installation of Windows RT 8.1 Preview fails on your PC, you may need to contact your PC manufacturer."
  • You want to upgrade from Windows Vista or Windows XP – The Windows 8.1 Preview Release will upgrade Windows 7, Windows RT, and Windows 8 ONLY. For Windows Vista and Windows XP, a clean installation must be performed.
  • You want to retain your files, settings and apps– If upgrading from Windows RT or Windows 8, the installation will keep Windows settings, personal files, and most apps. But, if upgrading from Windows 7, the only items it will retain are your personal files. This means, for Windows 7, that you'll spend a lot of time after installation reinstalling your applications. And, of course, Windows Vista and Windows XP will retain nothing since a clean installation is required.
  • You believe you can just uninstall the Preview – Microsoft does not support uninstalling the Windows 8.1 Preview. In fact, Windows 8 is the only version where you mightbe successful using the Windows 8 refresh option to go back, but only if you used the Windows Store installation method, and not the ISO. The Preview will NOT uninstall for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows RT.

Microsoft does NOT provide technical support services for prerelease software, including Windows 8.1 Preview. They do provide a couple areas where you can go to ask questions and hope to receive answers from the community, MVPs, or Microsoft moderators:

So, you might be wondering what my plans are for the Windows 8.1 Preview release. Will I install it after knowing about all of the gotchas?

I own an Acer tablet, a Surface RT, a Surface Pro, and a beefy Dell desktop, all running Windows 8. My plan is to install the Preview on the Acer tablet and the Surface RT because they are not critical to my work. The Dell and the Surface Pro, I'll leave alone, because I use the Dell constantly when in the office, and the Surface Pro when traveling. I've had too many bad experiences with BETA software over the years that I've learned that curbing my geek excitement is key to a happy, productive life.

Choose sensibility over excitement.