The Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available for download, making Microsoft's new operating system available to the public for the first time. For those of you who just can't wait to  get your paws on that tile interface and shiny Metro-style Windows 8 Apps, installing it couldn't be easier. Read our step-by-step instructions below (complete with screenshots) to find out where to download and how to install the Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview:

First, head to Microsoft's site to download the Consumer Preview of Windows 8. Click a blue button labeled "Get It Now" to navigate to the download page.

Once you're in the download page, click the button labeled "Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview." You're given the option to subscribe to the latest Windows 8 news and tips by entering your email address and country of residence, but this is optional. After clicking the button, a small bar will appear at the bottom of the page prompting you to either keep or discard the download. Click "Keep."

After clicking "Keep," a dialogue will appear asking you if you wish to run the file or cancel. Click "Run," and the download will begin. Be warned, the download can take quite a while. On our network it took a little more than two hours to download Windows 8.

Once the download is complete, a dialogue will appear informing you that the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is ready to install. You have the option to install Windows 8 on a separate partition, allowing you to use both Windows 8 and your current OS on the same disk, but you have to be careful that you don't install the Consumer Preview over an existing partition. The Verge gives an excellent explanation for how to install the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on another partition. For many users, however, clicking "Install Now" will suffice.

After clicking "Install Now," you're given the option to save your current Windows settings, personal files and applications; just your personal files; or nothing at all. We elected to save as much as possible.

If you choose to save your data, the installer checks to see how much of it is compatible with Windows 8. On our Dell Inspiron 15, most of our data was compatible with Windows 8 and could be successfully transferred.

After clicking "Next," the Windows 8 Consumer Preview will begin installing on your computer. This process can  take quite a long time, depending on your system, so be prepared to wait for a while.

Once you've installed the OS, you'll be asked to personalize Windows 8 by choosing a color for the Start screen, select a wireless network, customize your settings (or use express settings) and then sign in to your PC using your email address (although this last step can be skipped).

Finally, you'll be presented with the iconic Start screen -- you've successfully installed the Windows 8 Consumer Preview on your PC and can start playing around to your heart's content.