After 23 days in waiting, I finally received my Windows 8 Pro install disc in the mail this past weekend. Actually, the package contained two discs, one DVD for 32-bit and another for 64-bit. I created a new 80 GB partition on my computer and installed Win8 64-bit. It installed in very little time, only taking about 10-15 minutes for the whole thing. That part was easy. I went about the business of getting it updated and activated before I attempted to install Battlefield 3.
Windows Update ran and found 22 important updates, totaling 324 MB. After it attempted to install those, it said that the updates failed and it rebooted and reverted the system changes. I cringed. I don’t know what that was about. After that snafu, I went to Windows Update in the control panel and manually selected various updates in small chunks. All of them installed without issue. Odd.
I then tried activating Windows with my product number and it wouldn’t let me. I was not surprised by this. I had read online that activation only works when you are upgrading in place, not creating a clean install. That is ridiculous and all part of Microsoft’s annoying upgrade pricing, but this is well documented. I soon discovered that I could change a small value in the system registry and it would activate. It did. Whew. You can find a link to those instructions here.
My Windows 8 install experience was fine, barring the complications I just mentioned. I have not experienced any system crash like I did when I installed my last copy. This time, I immediately installed the Apple Boot Camp driver package to avoid any driver-related failures. (More on those lackluster drivers later.)
Now I come to the rough part — I installed Battlefield. After two install DVDs and a long time later, the game was on my system. The game had a slew of updates that were required after install. The download package was a whopping 7 GB. That took a while. After it installed all of the updates, it then wanted to download the expansion packs that have come since the original game was released. Those expansion packs contain a lot of map data. They totaled another 7 GB that I had to download. Again, that took a while. All in all, I had to download over 14 GB of data to have a complete install of this game.
Battlefield was able to run, but when it reached the game deployment screen, it gave me a nasty message about my graphics driver not being current enough. I wasn’t able to proceed. I could see the game menu but my mouse and keyboard could do nothing to make it go. I fiddled with this for quite a long time.
I set out to get new drivers for my graphics card. My computer is an iMac and the card is an AMD Radeon HD 6750. (AMD bought ATI a while back.) Apple provides drivers for the hardware on Windows via it’s Boot Camp software. That is all good and well, but the latest version of it doesn’t support Windows 8. It uses Win7 drivers for everything, which seem to work fine (at least on the surface.) I had no issues with the graphics display in Windows itself, but Battlefield wouldn’t tolerate it.
Here comes the rub, and the bulk of my problems. I went to AMD’s website and tried to download drivers that should work. They didn’t. I think Apple has done something to the hardware to mask it somehow. The AMD detection software (running on Windows) was not able to determine my graphics card. Hence, it wouldn’t provide me with a driver. The best I could do was use a Microsoft driver for my card that was as current as June 2012. That’s nice, but Battlefield still said it wasn’t good enough. I then found a way to download AMD drivers for my card elsewhere on the web. But when I went to update the driver in the system device manager, Windows reported it was not compatible with Windows 8 and it aborted every time. After countless hours of wrangling, I gave up and threw in the towel. I’d had enough!
I went for a long bike ride. After several hours away from my problem, I sat back down and tinkered with it again. I ended up reading user forums online for an hour and a half on issues similar to what I was experiencing. I found a guy who had the exact same problem with the same computer as mine. Someone had provided him with a link to the specific AMD driver that was needed to make it work. I tried it myself and lo and behold, it worked. It freakin’ worked! Windows 8 accepted it as valid, as did Battlefield.
The number of hoops I’ve had to jump through to play this game is absurd. I would never have done this from the start if I had known what I was in for. I’m almost tempted to advise everyone that if you want a hassle-free gaming experience, stick with Playstation and XBOX. PC gaming isn’t for the faint of heart.
My biggest concern about running Battlefield on Win8 is that I’ve read mixed reviews on the gaming performance. People have reported lagging and memory leaks. Fortunately, I have not experienced any of those problems. I’ve played the game twice on Win8 and it seems to perform better than it did on Win7. That is probably due largely in part that it is able to make use of my full amount of installed RAM. At any rate, I can say that in my usage, game performance has not been a problem. It’s a miracle.
As for my early reaction to Windows 8 itself, I’ll say that it is pretty nice. The interface is something I could get used to in time. I’m only going to use it for games, so I’m not installing any programs on it, not even Dropbox or an anti-virus. It is strictly for games and I want it to run at maximum speed. Having said that, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to delve into the tiled Start screen and customize things. It has potential. I’ve only had it for a few days so I’m not going to write any more about the operating system itself until I’ve had some time to experiment with it more.
I want to give a plug to Paul Thurrott’s website called WinSuperSite.com. He really knows his stuff. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Windows Weekly on Leo Laporte’s TWiT network. Everything you need to know about upgrading and installing Windows can be found on Paul’s site. I only wish I had read it before I started this whole process. It would have saved me a lot of pain and hassle.