Microsoft details its Windows 8 upgrade plans

Microsoft details its Windows 8 upgrade plans

Summary: Microsoft is getting closer to the Windows 8 finish line, and is finalizing details like its upgrade paths from older Windows releases to the coming version.


Microsoft has shared with select partners some specifics about what those upgrading to Windows 8 can expect when moving from Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

According to what my contacts have told me, here's the guidance released to them privately by Microsoft this month.

  • Users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 (the name of the entry-level consumer version of the operating system) from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Home Premium while maintaining their existing Windows settings, personal files and applications.
  • Users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate while maintaining their existing Windows settings, personal files and applications.
  • Users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise (available to volume licensees with Software Assurance contracts only) from Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise while maintaining their existing Windows settings, personal files and applications.
  • Users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows Vista (without SP1 installed) but only personal files (meaning data only) will be maintained. If upgrading from Vista with SP1, personal data and system settings will be maintained.
  • Users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows XP with Service Pack 3 or higher but only personal files/data only will be maintained.

What won't work: Users won't be able to upgrade or keep their Windows settings, files or applications if doing a cross-language installation. (However, users will be able to keep personal files/data during a cross-language install by using Windows 8 Setup.) Microsoft also is also not allowing users interested in doing a cross-architecture -- i.e., 32-bit to 64-bit -- install to do so. Whether running Vista or Windows 7, these users won't be able to keep their existing Windows settings, personal files and applications or data. They won't be allowed to upgrade this way, period.

Microsoft launched earlier this month its latest Windows Upgrade Offer, via which users who purchase Windows 7 PCs between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 can purchase a copy of Windows 8 Pro for $14.99, once it is available.

Windows 8 is expected by many Microsoft watchers to be released to manufacturing in July 2012. General availability on new PCs is expected this fall.

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Typo

    I presume you mean the Windows Upgrade Offer starts June 2, 2012, not 2013.

  • The unfortunate part . . .

    . . . about Windows 8 going RTM in July is that it means it is extremely unlikely that they have made any changes based on feedback they've gotten from Release Preview. In particular, the Microsoft-supplied Metro apps in Windows 8 are . . . weak to say the least. In most cases, they did things differently with the apps for Windows 8 than they did for Windows Phone 7, and in every case, the decisions made for Windows Phone 7 were the better ones.

    Also, there were rumors that Microsoft was going to make changes to help with confusion of switching back and forth between Desktop and Metro before RTM. Any updates on that?

    • What??

      "Also, there were rumors that Microsoft was going to make changes to help with confusion of switching back and forth between Desktop and Metro before RTM. Any updates on that?"

      I don't get this "confusion". I use Windows 8 RC everyday on my primary work PC and all that's needed to switch from Desktop to Metro is hit the "WINDOWS" key on the keyboard. Launching any non-Metro app automatically pulls up the Desktop. Most users have Office 2010 or later which pulls up the Desktop as will any non-Metro app...and hitting the Windows key will switch back to Metro. I actually rarely use Metro because there are only a few apps which I would use at work that are Metro. Moving forward as these apps increase in numbers... and when the upcoming release of Office is launched with a Metro UI option I suspect I won't use the desktop but for those "legacy" apps.
      • Not sure everyone will feel that way

        There are annoyances. Hitting Start and having it bring up Metro Start is going to be an adjustment. Not being able to find Control Panel. Installing a desktop application and having it spew all its desktop icons all over the Start menu. It's not going to bother everyone, but it's going to bother millions of people. It has bothered me way more than I expected, but I have been focused on trying out Metro apps. I'm sure it's less of an issue for people who are just running desktop apps that they have on their task bar.

        There is also the issue of trying to use Metro without a touch screen. That is extremely clumsy, relying on memorizing shortcut keys to do search, bring up Charms, etc.

      • Great for work

        Like smfrazz I use Win8 everyday at work, Just had to customize the Metro screen to function as a big start menu, and I was ready to go
      • Metro is way better than start menu period!

        There is nothing to learn and people are just making noise without even trying it. Metro is just a better replacement of desktop and the start menu, and there is no productivity loss at all. For example, the control panel is just right click on low left corner and is available, the more I use it the better it feels. All my Win7 machines will be updated day 1 !
      • I do agree . . .

        . . . that Metro Start makes a better Start menu than the Start menu. I also think if you are sticking mostly with desktop apps, Windows 8 is not going to be a hard adjustment.

        I think my own frustration has come from the fact that I did not upgrade my production Win7 box to Win8. I installed Win8 on a separate partition and have been focusing on trying to use the Metro aspects on a non-touch system. Microsoft is acting like the future is all about Metro apps. My experience with trying to live in Metro on a non-touch system has been less than satisfying. Lots of memorization of Windows-key shortcut keys. Lots of hesitation, wondering if I should look in the App Bar or the Charms for what I need to do. Lots of annoyance that I'm supposed to right-click to bring up the App Bar, but often where I right-click does something else. Lots of annoyance that much of what works great about Metro on Windows Phone (hardware back button, most important controls on-screen, well-thought-out mail/calendar/IE apps) has been changed, for the worse, for Metro on Windows 8. Annoyance that time-of-day and volume controls are not built into the Start screen.

      • There is your problem

        "I use Windows 8 RC everyday on my primary work PC"
        You should never use "Per-beta" software on your "primary work PC" you should at least wait till it gets rtmed, or the "Beta" release. ;) :p
        Jumpin Jack Flash
    • I'd guess the Release Preview of the OS was pretty much baked, but...

      That's the OS. I'm also guessing that the included apps may not be part of the OS, that they'll be free apps at the "Store". Even if they are included in the Windows "box", I would hope that they have their own upgrade/release cycle (based on the quick turn-around of the store) and not be tied to the service-pack/major-release cycle that Windows has.

      What I'm saying is that I don't expect to see anything but bug fixes (relative to the Preview) in the core OS when RTM happens. However, the "apps" may get new features, new UI, updated ...

      Then again, there's a good likelihood I'm wrong :-)
  • Any idea when when ...

    ... MSFT will be making the upgrade registration page active?

    • Upgrade page

      Will go live whenever Win 8 Pro is available (I know, obvious, right?). But not clear exactly when that will be... October, sometime, I'd think... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
  • Windows 8 Release Preview upgrade

    Will we be able to upgrade the Release Preview to the RTM?
    • maybe...

      the Release Preview doesn't really have a retail/OEM license for it. So you could buy a full copy or key online and try activating it with that. They won't give you a $15 upgrade because you didn't pay for it in the first place.

      Honestly I think it is more likely the Preview has a built in time bomb that will auto deactivate the copy when it hits a certain date.
      • I think the question was...

        If I upgrade from Windows 7 to the release preview, can I, when the OS goes GA, upgrade from the preview to RTM while retaining my files and settings. Or, do I have to blow away what I have and start over (or, do what I'm planning on doing, and roll-back to Windows 7 (from a backup) and upgrade from there).
      • As far as I know...

        No upgrading will be possible.
        x I'm tc
    • D/C/RP-RTM - now

      Microsoft said repeatedly that you won't be able to upgrade previews to RTM so I doubt that changes
  • hmm.

    really interesting that MS is allowing direct XP upgrades Windows 8
    • But only files/data

      Only for files and data, so not that hard to do for a huge company like Microsoft.
    • It's not like the upgrade from Win7.

      No special deal and no settings migration for Vista and XP users.

      I'm just not sure an upgrade makes sense for anyone not using a touch screen. Maybe if somebody wants their PC to dance with a tablet or phone.
      Lester Young
      • Upgrade

        Upgrade may be a cheap way of extending the life of your PC: Win8 will be supported for a few years more than Win7 (at a guess) so that extension may only cost $14.99, or $30 if one purchases under the other proposed upgrade option befoe Jan 2013.