How do you get the best deal on a Windows 8 Pro upgrade?

How do you get the best deal on a Windows 8 Pro upgrade?

Summary: You can get a smoking deal on an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro if you're ready to make that purchase before January 31, 2013. But there are some gotchas, and one inexplicable and unfair pricing decision means that early buyers of Windows 8 PCs pay more than Windows 7 users.

TOPICS: Windows

Update: You've got Windows 8 questions, I've got answers:

Pop quiz: How much does an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro cost?

(a) $15

(b) $40

(c) $70

The correct answer, of course, is

(d) Any of the above, depending on which version of Windows you're running today.

Microsoft has simplified the upgrade process for Windows 8 dramatically, at least for early adopters, starting with its decision to sell only two retail editions.

Between now and February 1, 2013, Microsoft is offering upgrades to Windows 8 Pro, the full-featured edition whose Windows 7 equivalent typically costs $200. (Upgrades to the less expensive base version of Windows 8 are not available at all right now, and won’t be available until these initial promotional offers are over.)

That makes for some smoking deals. But there are still a few gotchas to be had in the process. And one inexplicable pricing decision actually penalizes customers who are among the first to purchase PCs preloaded with Windows 8.

Here are the details.

If you are currently using Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP, you qualify for a $40 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.

Start here to launch the Windows Upgrade Assistant, and you will rapidly get to this screen:


Click Order, follow the prompts, enter your payment details (PayPal or credit card), and $40 later you will have a product key and an opportunity to download the Windows 8 software. You can install the upgrade immediately or save it for later.

It’s a great deal. And note that you do not have to use your discounted upgrade on the machine where you downloaded the code. You are free to snag the product key and the installer files and use them on a different qualifying PC later.

But you can do better than that $40 price.

If you purchase a PC running Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate between June 2, 2012, and January 31, 2013, you qualify for a heavily discounted $15 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro. You have to register at this website, and await a promo code that will arrive via email from Microsoft.

After you receive the promo code via email, follow the instructions to run the Upgrade Assistant. When you get to the purchase page, you’ll have an opportunity to enter that code and knock $25 off the total price. The payment screen should look like this:


So far, so good.

But what if you waited and purchased a new PC with Windows 8 already installed? Surely Microsoft will reward you as an early adopter, right?

Not so fast.

Most PCs sold at retail, as far as I have been able to determine, come with the base edition of Windows 8. All 15 notebooks sold at the Microsoft Store, for example, have this edition installed, with no upgrade option.

If you buy one of those PCs and bring it home, what happens if you run the Windows Upgrade Assistant to snag a $40 upgrade? You get a misleading error message telling you that the option you selected isn’t available for your country.


What you have to do instead is go to System Properties and click Get more features with a new edition of Windows.


That takes you here, where you (quite logically) say you want to purchase a new product key online:


And when you do, you end up at this screen:


Yes, that’s right. As one of the first people to support the new Windows 8 hardware, your reward is an upgrade that costs $30 more than the price that laggards paid.

Does that seem fair? No, not really.

Interestingly, if you snag a $40 Windows 8 Pro upgrade key from a Windows 7 (or earlier) PC, that key will work to upgrade your Windows 8 PC. Just use the I already have a product key option and enter that upgrade key. I can confirm it works just fine.

Even better is to pay for your upgrade at the same time you order a new PC. That won’t work with boxed PCs sold at retail outlets like Best Buy and Walmart, but it is always an option with built-to-order machines from Dell, HP, and other online suppliers. I’ve seen Windows 8 Pro upgrades from Dell quoted at $35 when ordered with a new PC. If it’s not an option on the web ordering screen, try picking up the phone and talking to a live agent. They’re often willing to deal on options like this.

Meanwhile, I’m testing all the upgrade and clean install possibilities I can to see what works and what doesn’t work. I’ll have those results in a follow-up post. If you have specific scenarios you want me to look at, send me a note via the contact link in my bio. (Don’t leave them in the Talkback section—they’re likely to get lost in the noise there.)

Topic: Windows

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  • Some Corrections

    If you upgrade from another country (or make MS think that) you can get the upgrade cheaper - its $12.99 in India for instance.

    The upgrade offer is not valid for Windows 7 Home Basic
    • Wow

      Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)
  • Edition Locked ?

    I have Windows 7 32-bit, if I run this upgrade, I locked with 32-bit or installation allowed me to choose 64-bit version on clean install ?
    • RE: Edition Locked

      You can only an upgrade from 32-bit to 32-bit and 64-bit to 64-bit. However if you burn a DVD and boot off that, you can wipe the system and install 64 bit just fine.
  • No mention of the free WMC promo?

    I upgraded with the $40 deal because of WMC being thrown into the mix for free. I'm surprised you didn't mention that here.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Get XBMC

      It's free
      Alan Smithie
    • One upgrade at a time

      I am sure it will be mentioned later. Took about 2 days to get the product key to "Add the New Feature". WMC that is.
    • I'll mention that in the next post

      Most people actually don't care about Media Center. Anyway, it's free (for now) regardless of how you upgrade to Pro, so not relevant to this post.
      Ed Bott
      • Relevant to ME.

        Since I have a Windows 7 64 bit HTPC with 9 tuners (4 QAM and 5 Analog, the QAMs are all dual tuners), Blu Ray and 6 TBs of diskspace. Media Center is a DEFINITE major point for me. I set it up in my homegroup so my daughter can watch TV from it in her room on her PC, my son can watch stuff in his, and we can use do some other fun things.

        No way was I migrating to Windows 8 if Media Center wasn't part of the deal. I'm actually VERY interested to know what changes, if any, Microsoft has made to Media Center for Windows 8.
        Bill Ward
        • Media Center

          There are no changes as far as I can tell. Not to the TV Guide and recording and watching. I haven't looked at the other features as I don't use them, but it appears to be the same Media Center.
          • There is a change..

            'Always on top' is no longer an option in Settings..
          • Thanks!

            My only wish is that the older couple of Hybrid Tuners I had had good Window 7 drivers. The drivers they had were... deficient a while back (ATI cards) and while the cards themselves were superiour to my Hauppage cards in picture quality, they would randomly throw Low Bit Rate errors and just shut down; it required a reboot to reset them. I can see why Diamond/ATI pulled the drivers, but they should have replaced them with ones that work.
            Bill Ward
        • From what I can tell, it is the same

          Which was what they had stated in the blog posts. Though I really like Media Center, I never did get a cable card and tuner, so I missed out on its main feature. I think that the Movies, music, etc. apps will eventually be the real replacement for Media Center. I would like it if they made more capable apps.
        • I see nothing different

          I added Media Center and it simply took the settings I had made in Windows 7 Medea Center and applied them to this version. I did not have to add tuners, but then I had one not 8. After I installed the new Media Center the programs I had previously set to record started recording again without me asking.

          Loading from scratch went well as well, the add tuner seemed easier, I think it asked fewer questions and went a bit faster but I 'm not sure,
        • relevant to me

          I am definitely intersted in WMC as well. I enjoy it on my HP WXP MC computer I have recorded many a program, watched a few, use it as an alternative to Zap2it, even though it is based on Zap2it. I specifically bought the XP machine for its WMC option.
    • WMC

      I got the free upgrade to WMC and it is the first time in 3 years that my Hauppage 1250 TV Tuner has actually worked right from the get go. I have had to use at least 5 different programs to watch TV on my computer. Nero Video Capture actually was the best I could use on any given day but slightly out of sync.
  • Clean install from an upgrade DVD

    If I use the upgrade option from Windows 7, will the same ISO allow me to do a clean install to a fresh machine? Let us say, I want a fresh Windows 8 without dragging bits from Windows 7
    • Not entirely sure....but this works:

      I've tried installing from an OEM disc on another computer and proceded to wipe the drive, and that certainly works.

      I've also installed used WDS in a similar manner (which doesn't allow for upgrades at all), and it also works fine.

      It seems that these codes are not locked to a particular media type (i.e. Microsoft is allowing OEM media to utilize these keys).

      In every case, the systems had a previous OS on them, so I don't know if Windows Setup via PE checks for a previous OS on the system... just that I never ran Windows Setup from within the previous version of Windows. I did, however, get the product key via the Upgrade Assistant on other PC's though.

      It's possible that Microsoft is willing to dismiss certain media-to-key restrictions to sell more copies of Windows 8, and they're considering the offset caused by revenue sharing for Windows Store app sales.
    • re Clean install from upgrade DVD

      Just to see what Win 8 looks like, I bought a refurb 80GB PATA drive from MicroCenter for around $18, cloned an XP Pro install I don't use, disconnected my two bootable drives (1 XP Home, 1 Win 7), and did a clean Win 8 install onto the XP Pro clone.

      Let's face it--anybody who regularly reads ZDNet has some spare hard disks and can get their hands on XP/Vista/Win7 install disks. So even if you can't do a clean install from Win 7 you can do one from something. Since Win 7 => wipe => Win 8 would be a legit path, the fact that maybe you actually start with XP/Vista is okay.
  • Smoking deal, huh?

    Seems like a lot of confusion and unnecessary variances in pricing for a company who is now touting themselves as a "devices and services" provider rather than an old-school software provider.

    I hate to bring it up, but that "other" company does just sell all of its upgrades for 29.99 (sans server). I don't care if Microsoft makes it 19.99 or 59.99, but make it a single, easy price. Consistency is key. Making your precious early adopter base feel slighted after they just dropped some serious coin in support of your new paradigm-shift is not the way to build the following "device and services" companies thrive on.