8 tips to make your Windows 8 upgrade a more pleasant experience

8 tips to make your Windows 8 upgrade a more pleasant experience

Summary: On the whole, you can expect a Windows 8 installation to go without a hitch, but don't let this lull you into a false sense of security that things can't go wrong, they can.


It seems that a lot of you have taken the opportunity to download and install Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8, now that it's available from a number of different places. While for most of you the installation and setting up process seems to have been trouble-free, some of you have run into difficulties.

The good news is that I've not come across or heard of any major Windows 8 showstoppers yet. This is good, but remember that it is early days for Windows 8 and the driver and software support that you enjoy for Windows 7, Vista or XP will not be present for Windows 8 yet.

By choosing to run Windows 8 now, you are an early adopter that likes to live right on the cutting edge.

If you've run into problems, or want to get a heads-up on what some of the problems other have encountered, then read on.

Tip 1: Hardware requirements

The minimum hardware requirements for Windows 8 aren't all that great: 1 GHz or faster processor, 1GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit) of RAM, and a DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver -- but it goes without saying that if your hardware doesn't match up to this then you shouldn't be installing Windows 8 on it.

If your hardware doesn't match up to these minimum specs, it's not a new operating system you need, rather new hardware.

Tip 2: Consider the system

Windows 8 has been designed by Microsoft to work on a broad range of devices, including desktops, notebooks and tablets. However, there's one class of device that I believe isn't well suited to the new operating system, and that is netbooks. The small screen on these devices makes them unsuitable for Windows 8 in my opinion unless you're really used to working on a cramped screen.

Tip 3: Backup

I know you're excited to take Windows 8 for a spin, but please contain your enthusiasm long enough to create a full backup of your system.

As robust and as well tested Windows 8 is, if for whatever reason your installation goes bad, you can find yourself on a fast track to a world of hurt with no off-ramp if you don't have a backup to rely on.

Do yourself a favor and run a backup before you think about upgrading the software.

Tip 4: Dodgy downloads and defective discs

Some of the most annoying Windows 8 installation problems can be traced back to quite boring causes such as dodgy downloads and defective DVD discs.

Since we're all having to download the Windows 8 ISO files direct from Microsoft, there's a lot of scope for problems, especially if you're burning that ISO to a disc or copying the files to a USB flash drive in order to make use of it.

If you're a TechNet or MSDN subscriber then you can check the file against the checksum provided, but if you download the 90-day evaluation for developers then you don't get this option.

Tip 5: Updated drivers and software

While Windows 8 is compatible with a broad range of hardware and software, there's no guarantee that everything that you own will work. It's a very good idea to search out updated software and drivers before you embark on an upgrade.

It's particularly important that you check that your security software is compatible with the new operating system -- in fact, if you're upgrading an existing system, it's a good idea to uninstall your security software first to avoid any problems.

Tip 6: Clean start

While Microsoft offers users the ability to upgrade older versions of Windows up to Windows 8. When it works, it's a fantastic timesaver, but there are times when it just won't work. This is when you have to bite the bullet, wipe your system and start from scratch.

Remember that when you do this you will need to have the installers for all your software, along with all the information for configuring your system, such as license keys and passwords.

There's no end of reasons why you might need to wipe your system before upgrading to Windows 8. Just a few that I've come across recently include incompatible drivers, software misconfiguration, the presence of GPT-style partitions, and malware.

Tip 7: If at first you don't succeed...

I've lost count of the number of Windows 8 installations I've carried out, and while most went according to plan, some threw up odd error messages or crashed for no apparent reason.

While this is certainly annoying, rather than trying to figure out what went wrong, the first thing I did was try the installation again, and more often than not, it will work perfectly the next time around.

Tip 8: Patience is a virtue

Windows 8 has only just entered the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) stage. This means that the big name hardware makers have only had the final code in their possession for a few days, and this won't have given them the time to get drivers for everything out of the door just yet.

A good example of this are the touchpads and media keys found on notebooks. These require driver support, and unless you're lucky enough to have a driver that will work on Windows 8, then you're going to have to wait for the OEM to release new drivers. As far as touchpads are concerned, Windows will support most of these, but it will be basic support and any advanced features will be unavailable until you get the correct driver.

If your hardware is new then there's a good chance that there will be Windows 8 compatible drivers. If your hardware is more mature, you might be out of luck.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Software

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  • Nobody Does Windows Upgrades

    Historically, nobody buys Windows upgrades. The only version of Windows they "buy" is whatever comes bundled with their PC.

    Retail versions of Windows are pretty expensive, anyway. And you aren't allowed to buy OEM versions and install them for your own use.
    • Indeed...

      ...but Windows 8 is significantly cheaper, an the System Builder versions have much clearer license terms.
      • Is Windows 8 cheaper? If anything, costs more here

        Hey supabof93, what do you mean when you claim Windows 8 will be cheaper?

        Here in South Africa we still have Windows 7 Home Basic at the old Win9x price point. It looks as if MS is killing that off everywhere, so now we have to spend up to the Home Premium price point - and not get the media goodies we'd have had before, unless we pay more for Pro, and then more again for the codecs that were picked out of our pockets.

        So unless you know something about pricing within existing price points (e.g. that "8" will be priced at Home Basic levels, and "8 Pro" at Home Premium levels) I can't see how Windows 8 could be considered "cheaper". Perhaps you saw OEM pricing for WinRT, and took as that as applying to the PC form of the OS?
        • @cquirke

          I don't know if Microsoft's offer extends to SA, but I think supabof93 is referring to the Windows8 $40 upgrade deal:

          • It's probably that worthless "rand"

            that's doing you in.
          • "Rand" is the Currency of South Africa.

            Why do you say it's worthless?

            If you don't have any "Rands" in South Africa, you can't afford anything.
        • Consider an Upgrade or stay with your Current OS!

          Hi cquirke,
          I would recommend you to go for an upgrade and I can undrstand that the price is costlier for end users in other countries like South Africa, Indonesia, but the fact is, when you go for an upgrade, you wont loose your currently installed softwares and any data indeed(Check the upgrade compatibility).
          Its good to hear people discussing about Upgrades than going for Piracy. ;-)
    • To be fair

      Anyone who reads ZDNet isn't your average person. They're way more likely to upgrade, especially considering this article is for the MSDN and Technet people who are getting Windows 8 before general availability.
      • Not your average person...

        These people would already know about the things explained in this article. So I'm pretty sure this article is aimed at the average person.
        Death to Stupid
        • Really?

          I'd be curious to know how many "average" people visit ZDNet. I'm thinking that number would be pretty low.
          • I'm well below average

            so I probably serve as a testament to that statement more than anybody.
          • No I changed my mind

            I'm well above average now.

          • Yet in reviewing my hideous ZDNET diatribe

            one would be led to believe the opposite...

            You be the judge.
          • I am the judge

            I am the all-knowing. I heal people with my hands.

    • Not nobody. Just most consumers don't upgrade their OS.

      These blogs are not for consumers. They are for nerds and geeks who just love to be the first one on their block with new stuff. I ought to know - I am one!
      M Wagner
    • Nobody

      Is too strong a statement. I know somebody that bought 3 upgrades to Windows 7, and will buy 1 upgrade to windows 8. The other two machines will be replaced by Surface!

      Adrian, the netbook I own is 10.1 in., the same as most tablets. Good Article, by the way.
    • MS Knows that thus the amazing price!

      And time limited for four months, three if you count days more or less. They are going to have a bunch of folks going to Windows 8 on older machines and loving it, but unable to go back to their previous versions because they never make backup images, never made their restore disks, and suck it up only to find they love 8!

      I am going to use this as an excuse to not only maintain images done weekly to my two hard drive docks, one on mine and one on the wifes desk, but to buy a spare SSD hard drive for each, that will be dedicated to Windows 8 only, and keep my already set up drive with Windows 7 and all my apps and updates on it as a spare should the new drive/drives fail. Prices are getting low enough for me to get several 256 or whatever that size is for Crucial or Samsung is at that time.

      Since the first developer preview I have loaded each version on both my old Toshiba Vista laptop, and on my Acer original 8" screen first edition XP3 machunes and never had any driver problems until the last preview where the netbook did not meet the "new" graphics requirements to run the Metro Apps and store. That was a bow to the hardware companies that isn't smart in my book for MS.

      AKH, I havn't seen any of the problems you describe or anticipate with any of the previews on my or other's computers I loaded it on from my USB drive.
      • Oops!

        I forgot the word netbook in the description of my old Acer tiny original AOA150 netbook. Never any issues until the last version that had the graphics minimum raised. Thus all of us save a very few will need a new, say, surface to get Win 8. LOL!
      • I'm lovin' Win8!

        It's good stuff. Not had any problems so far. Easy to get used to, and finding new ways to make it even more efficient than ever before.
        • No, I changed my mind

          I was sounding like a dipshit before but now I have it straightened out.