Saturday, 5 January 2013

Upgrade to Windows 8

You can still get Windows 8 even if you don't want to splash out on a new computer. Here's how...

When it comes to moving to Microsoft's latest operating system, most people will do so when they buy a new desktop PC, laptop or even tablet. Following the horror stories of upgrading underspecced Windows XP PCs to the much-maligned Vista, even hardened tech upgraders have been fighting shy of'upgrading'their computer's operating system. After all, a PC can be the third biggest investment you ever make, after your house and car, and the operating system is its blood supply.

But Windows 8 is different. You could make a good case for upgrading a Windows 7 PC at least, for two simple reasons. First, it’s the most radical change in Microsoft PC computing since Windows 3.0 made way for Windows 95. And, perhaps more pertinently in this case, the system requirements are just the same as they are for Windows 7. Indeed, if your system can run Vista, it will handle Windows 8 with aplomb. And, some would argue the upgrade may make your computing experience smoother.

Things can go wrong, however, and upgrading a PC is nothing like trying out Windows 8 as a separate partition, or via a USB stick. So before you do anything at all, be sure to back up to a separate storage device any files, photos, music and video that you want to keep. It's important also to note the distinction between upgrading to Windows 8 from Vista or Windows 7; and upgrading to Windows 8 from XP. In the case of Vista and Windows 7, you can perform an in-place upgrade that will in principle at least allow you to retain all your files and settings. Upgrading from XP requires an entirely new install, and anything you don't back up will be lost.

Here is a general guide on how to prepare for an in-place upgrade installation, using a download from the Microsoft website. If you have purchased Windows 8 on a disc, the process will be much more simple: just install the first disc and follow the instructions, keeping the box with the product key by your side.
Getting started

First, you'll need to create an image of your existing Windows installation. Insert a blank recordable DVD and, when the auto play options appear, choose Create Disc Image. You'll probably need several DVDs for this process. Our Toshiba Satellite needed four, and the image creation process took nearly two hours.

Next, browse to and scroll down to the option for Windows 8. At the time of writing, to install Windows 8 you'll have to install the Consumer Preview. You'll need to enter your email address, location and other details.

Read through and agree to the terms of the download. When Windows 8 is fully launched, you will have to purchase an install code.

Assuming you're downloading the OS to the computer on which you want to install it, Windows will now check through your existing hardware setup and identify any compatibility issues that it thinks you should be aware of. Click more details in the compatibility report to learn more. You will probably be advised that your existing security software won't work in Windows 8.

Once Windows has all the information it needs, you'll be asked to enter a product key. (If you are installing the Consumer Preview and this field isn’t automatically completed, type in DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J.) Enter the code you received when you purchased Windows 8, either from Microsoft or a third party. Windows will prompt you to save the new operating system software to your desktop.

Once downloaded, Windows 8 needs to know where it should be installed. To overwrite your existing operating system, choose the Install Now option. Otherwise, select either install later or install to a partition. To install on a different drive or partition, Windows 8 needs to be saved to either a USB hard drive of at least 3GB or burned as an ISO file to a DVD. Make your selection and insert a blank disc or plug in your USB drive. Press to confirm you want to burn the disc. Restart the PC and insert the disc or drive containing the ISO file. Follow the prompt to install Windows 8, ensuring you browse to the right partition or drive. We found the OS wanted to install to the usual C drive by default, which would have overwritten our Windows 7 PC.

Once Windows 8 has installed on your machine, you'll be prompted to set up a Windows Live account that you'll log in to every time to use Windows. If you don't have a Hotmail account or Windows Live ID already, either create one or use another email address and verify the account through it. You're now ready to use Windows 8.

If you took the precaution of backing up files before the install, now is the time to check that everything is shipshape, and replace any missing files.

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