Four things you REALLY need to know about Windows 8 upgrades

Two days ago, Microsoft revealed that it would run an upgrade promotion in most markets that would allow Windows customers to buy a downloadable upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. Joe Wilcox asks if $40 is too much to pay for Windows 8 and current results show that customer opinion is split in half. About 43 percent of all users who participated in the poll stated that they would upgrade for the price, while roughly 42 percent stated they would not.

However, respondents are missing crucial information, because the original announcement at Blogging Windows fails to address certain upgrade-related aspects that Windows customers need to make an educated decision. One requirement will shock many Windows users.

Among the questions not initially answered:

  • Is it possible to install the upgrade on a PC without operating system?
  • Are clean installations an option during the upgrade process?
  • Can users upgrade from public Windows 8 releases that Microsoft has made available?
  • Do Windows 7 Family Pack customers have to purchase three licenses, or just one?

The Answers

1. Is it possible to install the upgrade on a PC without operating system? According to Brandon LeBlanc, Microsoft Communications Manager for the Windows platform, an upgrade requires that a previous version of Windows is installed on the PC. A previous version means any version of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.

This seems to indicate that clean installations using upgrade media are no longer an option. In previous versions of Windows, users could use upgrade media to install the operating system even if no version of Windows was installed on the system.

There is still a possibility that someone will come up with a workaround, but for now we have to assume that this is no longer possible.

2. Are clean installations an option during the upgrade process? LeBlanc mentions that users can select to format the hard drive they want to install Windows 8 Pro on during the upgrade process. This may include the drive the earlier version of Windows was installed on, which is excellent news for users who want to start with a clean fresh operating system. It needs to be mentioned that no data can be migrated from the old operating system to the new if format is selected.

3. Can users upgrade from public Windows 8 releases that Microsoft has made available? Windows users who have installed the Windows 8 Release Preview on a PC can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro using the upgrade just as XP, Vista or 7 users can. Previous beta versions of Windows 8, like the Developer Preview or Consumer Preview, can not be upgraded.

Upgrading from the Windows 8 Release Preview limits the data that can be migrated to personal files, which means that installed apps and settings won't be carried over.

Microsoft did not reveal if additional information needs to be supplied by the user in the case of upgrading the Release Preview to Windows 8 Pro final.

4. Do Windows 7 Family Pack customers have to purchase three licenses, or just one? A Windows 7 Family Pack consists of a single license that customers can install on three different PCs. The question came up whether those customers have to purchase one upgrade license to upgrade all three PCs to Windows 8, or if they have to purchase three licenses instead.

According to LeBlanc, users need to purchase three licenses for $39.99 each if they want to upgrade all three PCs to Windows 8 Pro.

Closing Words

The requirement for an older version of Windows to be installed in order to upgrade to Windows 8 may have consequences for some users. A clean installation now, at a later point in time could, for instance, mean that users would have to install the old operating system first to reinstall Windows 8.

Windows users who upgrade to Windows 8 should make sure they create a recovery DVD at their earliest convenience to avoid this process.

What's your take on the new requirement? Has it changed your upgrade decision?

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