Everything you need to know about Windows 8 upgrades (FAQ part 2)

Everything you need to know about Windows 8 upgrades (FAQ part 2)

Summary: Upgrading to Windows 8 is a straightforward process, but the details vary depending on your starting point. This second installment of my Windows 8 upgrade FAQ covers the ins and outs of different upgrade paths.


Upgrading from any Windows 8 preview

The fact that you used the Consumer Preview or Release Preview versions of Windows 8 doesn't grant you any license rights. Your eligibility for the upgrade is determined by the operating system you were previously using. Assuming that you installed the Windows 8 preview on a PC that was purchased with Windows originally, you're free and clear. Use the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant to identify any issues you need to address, and then proceed with setup. As with Windows 7, you can do a clean install, moving your data and program files to a Windows.old folder, or you can migrate files, desktop programs, and settings to the final release.

Setting up Windows 8 on a new PC, new virtual machine, or dual-boot partition

If you're installing Windows 8 Pro on a PC that isn't already licensed for Windows, you don't qualify for a discounted upgrade. The same is true if you intend to keep your existing version of Windows and run Windows 8 in a separate partition in a dual-boot or multi-boot configuration.

Under the terms of Microsoft's license agreement, you can't use an upgrade version of Windows 8 for this type of installation. Instead, you need to buy the Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro System Builder package from a reseller. Currently, those packages are priced at around $100 for Windows 8 (Core) or $140 for Windows 8 Pro. Unlike with earlier versions, the Windows 8 System Builder packages contain a Personal Use License (PUL) that allows you to install the software in a PC or virtual machine without the requirement to resell the system to a third party.

The license grants you "the right to install and run [Windows 8] as the operating system on a computer that you build for your personal use, or as an additional operating system running on a local virtual machine or a separate partition."

As I noted this past summer, this is the first time Microsoft has formally acknowledged the right of its end-user customers to install Windows 8 on a new PC they build themselves, or to install it in a virtual machine or on a separate partition. The older full packaged product is no more. You can read more about the PUL in this post: Microsoft radically overhauls license agreements for Windows 8.

Moving from Windows 8 to Windows 8 Pro

If you buy a new PC with the Core version of Windows 8 installed on it, you aren't eligible for the discounted $40 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. Instead, you need to purchase the Windows 8 Pro Pack from Microsoft. The good news is that upgrade takes only a few minutes. You don't need any installation media; all that's required is a product key. And it doesn't require migrating files, settings, or programs, all of which remain untouched. The bad news is it costs more. Currently, the discounted upgrade price direct from Microsoft is around $70.

To begin the upgrade, open the System Properties dialog box and click Get more features with a new edition of Windows.

That leads to these two options:


If you choose the first option, you're taken to a screen where you can pay $69.99 for a Windows 8 Pro product key and upgrade on the spot.

Choose the second option if you already have a Windows 8 Pro product key. Note that this key can be from any edition of Windows 8 Pro, including System Builder and retail upgrades. You can successfully upgrade using a product key you purchased for $40 using the Windows Upgrade Assistant. It's up to you to decide whether you meet the requirements to qualify for an upgrade license.

Downgrading to Windows 7

I've said it before, but it bears repeating here: The only way to qualify for downgrade rights to Windows 7 is to purchase a new PC with Windows 8 Pro already installed by the PC manufacturer. If you buy a PC with Windows 8 (Core) and upgrade it to Windows 8 Pro, you do not qualify for downgrade rights. In that scenario, you must purchase a full retail license for Windows 7.

The Personal Use License rights are for Windows 8 only. Microsoft does not include this right with a System Builder copy of Windows 7:

Q.Can I use the Personal Use License for Windows 7 software?

A. No. The Personal Use License is for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro software only. If you are building a PC for your personal use with Windows 7 software, you still need to purchase the full packaged retail version.

If you do qualify for downgrade rights, you must acquire Windows 7 installation media on your own and activate over the phone.

In the final installment: Everything you need to know about Windows 8 product keys and activation.

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Windows

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  • Very Helpfull Info

    I really appreciate FAQ replies like this article.
    • nztjbv116....hedge your bet on Windows 8

      Set up Windows 8 in a dual boot situtation with Windows 7. Windows 8 is a whole different world and I'm glad I set it up in a dual boot. For me their was to may reasons not totally abandon Windows 7. And old saying ....walk before you leep.........................
      Over and Out
      • Windows 8 and Windows Windows 7 daul boot

        Windows 7 is a great OS, but Windows 8 has everything that Windows 7 has and much more. The only two things Windows 8 doesn't include are aero and the start button. We have 5 computers running Windows 8 on our home network and we haven't found any reason to go back to Windows 7. Stardock provides several add ons that allow customizing of Windows 8. We find Windows 8 to be free of problems and we haven't had any BSODs on any of our computers.
  • Nice work...

    Although there is still a lot to remember, it is much much better and simpler that what used to be for previous versions...
    But I think they could have made a bigger smile with just one SKU for the consumers...
  • I'll mention this again as I wrote in Part 1.

    If you qualify for the $15 upgrade, pay the addition $15 for the backup disc. I just received my order today and you get both 32 and 64bit discs. Each disc includes Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. I'll be sticking with Windows 7 on the laptop I just bought. Everything just works so I have no need to switch to Windows 8. Also, I should also mention I live in Canada so YMMV.
    Arm A. Geddon
    • One slight correction

      There is no separate media for Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The product key determines which version is installed.
      Ed Bott
      • I believe that is what Arm said

        "Each disc includes Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro."

        His reference to two discs was one for 32 bit and one for 64 bit.
        • Missing the point

          The download ALSO contains Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The version installed is determined by the product key you use.
          Ed Bott
          • I didn't see that in your articles about both versions included.

            Thought I might mention what one gets when they order the backup disc. I didn't know my download also contained both Win 8 and Win Pro. Anyway, I now have both the 32bit and 64bit discs in case either is needed. Thanks for clarifying things!!
            Arm A. Geddon
          • Well...

            Microsoft isn't currently selling Windows 8 (Core) upgrades, so it's an academic point for most people. The only people who will get Windows 8 (Core) product keys at this point are those buying a System Builder copy or those testing from MSDN or TechNet.
            Ed Bott
      • Confirmed

        Clicking on the "Get more features..." link in a new Win8 (standard edition) laptop opens a window with choices to buy a product key or use an existing key.

        When I entered the key obtained through the $40 Win8 Pro upgrade site, the OS went through a reconfiguration, then rebooted to Win8 Pro.

        No hassle, and no need for the ISO file.
    • Longer Battery Life

      We have laptops upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 and the batteries last longer and boot time is also greatly reduced.
  • Multi-boot

    Users with multiple valid licenses installed multi-boot on a single PC may be encouraged to know that the media upgrade route allows you to select the partition to be upgraded. So one could go from XP, Vista, W7 ... to (say) ... W8,Vista,W7.

    There is a small penalty in that the booting then assumes W8 and loads most of that OS, so should you choose an earlier version the boot process is repeated before the automatic switch to the earlier OS.
  • Obtaining the free Windows 8 Media Centre feature ...

    ... is proving a nightmare from my Hotmail account.
    I requested 5 keys weeks ago. I've had one key ... and the same key again ... but no sign of a 3rd, 4th or 5th (which I expect will be more useless repeats).
    I've complained to MSFT UK Support but they are totally incompetent.
    • I have heard that you are limited

      to 1 key per email address. So you will be waiting a long time . . .
    • Use alternate email addresses

      I have ordered multiple copies, using alternate addresses.
      Ed Bott
    • Win 8

      I can help. Just Email me at phishtix a t yahoo dot com
  • Thanks but, for the first time since Windows 2.1

    I'm not upgrading. Windows 8 does not provide the type of experience that I want to spend 8 ~ 10 hours a day in front of.
    • Have you used Win8?

      Or just read about it?
      • I'm a Windows developer

        so, yes, I'm very familiar with Windows 8.