How to upgrade to Windows 8


If your organisation decides that it's ready to switch to Windows 8 and has verified that it meets the technical requirements to do so, it is time to make an upgrade plan. This article will walk you through steps to take before and during an install.

This article is geared toward the accidental techie who is comfortable installing software and who has only a handful of computers (fewer than 10) to upgrade. Those looking for tips on virtualised environments, unattended installs, or network-wide mass deployment can find support on Microsoft TechNet Windows 8 Technical Library Roadmap.

Before You Begin

When Microsoft released Windows 7, we outlined a checklist of easy computing steps to ensure a painless upgrade from Vista or XP. Even though Windows 8 might look like a completely new operating system, these steps are still relevant for moving from Windows 7. Before you start upgrading your organisation's systems to Windows 8, make sure to go through the checklist.

Getting Windows 8

You have various options through which to obtain Windows 8 software:

  • Obtain through CTXchange. Organisations eligible under the Microsoft Donation Program can request upgrade versions of Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise. Note that you cannot upgrade from any Home edition of Windows 7. See a summary of Volume Licensing Product Use Rights for specific licensing details. The full, base version of Windows 8 Pro is also available at CTXchange via Microsoft's Get Genuine program. The full version is only available to eligible organisations that cannot use the Upgrade version and is limited to 50 licenses of any combination of Get Genuine products. More information about all Windows 8 products can be found on CTXchange’s Windows 8 page.
  • New donation request. If you've never requested software via CTXchange's Microsoft Donation Program, read this overview of the program and find out if your organisation is eligible.
  • Upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise using Software Assurance. If you have requested a Microsoft PC operating system donation with Software Assurance within the past two years, you are eligible for a free upgrade to the latest operating system through the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center, where you can download the installation files. For more information, see the section on Software Assurance on the CTXchange website as well as our Microsoft Volume Licensing page.
  • Download ISO files. CTXchange encourages organisations to go green and download installation software rather than have discs sent to you. Learn how to download software from Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Centre and how to install Microsoft Windows from downloaded ISO files.
  • Obtain from a charity reseller. If your organisation isn't eligible to request Microsoft donations, or if you've already requested your 50-license allocation for the Windows OS title group, you can try obtaining Microsoft software via charity reseller or a discounted software program. For more information, read TechSoup's A Quick Guide to Discounted Software Programs.


Installing Windows 8


Once you decide to make the switch to Windows 8, you have a few options for deploying it. If you are upgrading from Windows 7, you can do an in-place upgrade. Your system settings, as well as your installed applications and user settings, are preserved. This requires minimal reconfiguration, and you won’t need to re-install your programs after you've upgraded.

You can also opt to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 through a custom install, which is also known as a "clean" install. This means your programs, files, and settings are not preserved. You will need to back up your files and programs before upgrading and then re-install them afterwards.

If you're upgrading from Windows Vista or XP, the line between in-place upgrade and custom install becomes a bit blurred. Depending on which operating system you're upgrading from, you will have a choice of what you can keep when you move over to the various versions of Windows 8. The following chart outlines what you can keep when upgrading from one version to another.

Current operating system

New operating system

What you can keep

Windows 7 Professional, and Ultimate

Windows 8 Pro

  • In-place upgrade: programs
  • Windows settings
  • User accounts and files

Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise

Windows 8 Enterprise

  • In-place upgrade: programs
  • Windows settings
  • User accounts and files

Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 or 21

Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro

Personal files and Windows settings

Windows XP with Service Pack 3

Windows 8 or Windows Pro

Personal files only

1If you are running Windows Vista RTM (release to manufacturing), you can keep your personal files only if you upgrade to Windows 8. We highly recommend downloading a free patch from Windows Update before upgrading so you can keep your Windows settings as well.


32-Bit or 64-Bit?

If you're questioning whether you should get a 32-bit or 64-bit version, Microsoft makes it fairly easy on you. You can upgrade to a 32-bit version of Windows 8 only if you’re running a 32-bit version of Windows. And it is the same for 64-bit versions; you can’t go from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version of Windows 8 or vice versa.

Once you've decided on an installation method, the actual process of installing Windows 8 is simple. The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant will warn you about hardware and software compatibility issues on your system. If you have a program that's not compatible, the Upgrade Assistant will remove it and restart the installation. Make sure to have your product key handy, as you'll need it to complete the installation.

Next, you have a choice of color themes for Windows 8 as well the opportunity to name your PC. Don't like the color you picked? You'll have more customisation options after you finish installing Windows 8. You will also be asked to pick between Express settings or Custom settings. For most users, Express settings are adequate, but be sure to read through the list of settings you'll opt into. Finally, you will be asked to enter your Microsoft account information. If you don't have an account already, you can sign up for one from the prompt screen.

And you're done! You are now running the brand-new Windows 8.



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