How to Upgrade to Windows 8

By: BigTech
Mon, 22/10/2012 - 10:26

tags:  Microsoft

Tips for acquiring and upgrading to Microsoft’s latest operating system

By Ginny Mies

If your organization decides that it's ready to switch to Windows 8 and has verified that it meets the technical requirements to do so, it is time to make an upgrade plan. This article will walk you through steps to take before and during an install.

This article is geared toward the accidental techie who is comfortable installing software and who has only a handful of computers (fewer than 10) to upgrade. Those looking for tips on virtualized environments, unattended installs, or network-wide mass deployment can find support on Microsoft TechNet Windows 8 Technical Library Roadmap. 

Before You Begin

When Microsoft released Windows 7, we outlined a checklist of easy computing steps to ensure a painless upgrade from Vista or XP. Even though Windows 8 might look like a completely new operating system, these steps are still relevant for moving from Windows 7. Before you start upgrading your organization's systems to Windows 8, make sure to go through the checklist.

Getting Windows 8

Obtaining through BiGTech: Organizations eligible under the Microsoft Donation Program can request upgrade versions of Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise. Note that you cannot upgrade from any Home edition of Windows 7. See a summary of Volume Licensing Product Use Rights for specific licensing details. The full, base version of Windows 8 Pro is also available at BiGTech Donations Program via Microsoft's Get Genuine program. The full version is only available to eligible organizations that cannot use the Upgrade version and is limited to 50 licenses of any combination of Get Genuine products. More information about all Windows 8 products can be found on BiGTech’s Windows 8 Page.

New Donation Request:  If you've never requested software via BiGTech's Microsoft Donation Program, read this overview of the program and find out if your organization is eligible. 

Upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise using Software Assurance: If you have requested a Microsoft PC operating system donation with Software Assurance within the past two years, you are eligible for a free upgrade to the latest operating system through the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center, where you can download the installation files. You can upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise from any Windows license that is covered with Software Assurance.  For more information, visit TechSoup's Volume Licensing Service Center - Software Assurance Benefits page. 

Download ISO files: BiGTech encourages organizations to go green and download installation software rather than have discs sent to you. Learn how to download software from Microsoft's Volume Licensing Service Center and how to install Microsoft Windows from downloaded ISO files. 

Installing Windows 8

Once you decide to make the switch to Windows 8, you have a few options for deploying it. If you are upgrading from Windows 7, you can do an in-place upgrade. Your system settings, as well as your installed applications and user settings, are preserved. This requires minimal reconfiguration, and you won’t need to re-install your programs after you've upgraded. 

You can also opt to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 through a custom install, which is also known as a "clean" install. This means your programs, files, and settings are not preserved. You will need to back up your files and programs before upgrading and then re-install them afterwards. 

If you're upgrading from Windows Vista or XP, the line between in-place upgrade and custom install becomes a bit blurred. Depending on which operating system you're upgrading from, you will have a choice of what you can keep when you move over to the various versions of Windows 8. The following chart outlines what you can keep when upgrading from one version to another. 


Current operating system

New operating system

What you can keep

Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate


Windows 8 Pro

·         In-place upgrade: programs

·         Windows settings

·         User accounts and files

Windows 7 Professional and Enterprise


Windows 8 Enterprise

·         In-place upgrade: programs

·         Windows settings

·         User accounts and files

Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 or 21

Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro

Personal files and Windows settings

Windows XP with Service Pack 3

Windows 8 or Windows Pro

Personal files only

1If you are running Windows Vista RTM (release to manufacturing), you can keep your personal files only if you upgrade to Windows 8. We highly recommend downloading a free patch from Windows Update before upgrading so you can keep your Windows settings as well.

 32-Bit or 64-Bit? 

If you're questioning whether you should get a 32-bit or 64-bit version, Microsoft makes it fairly easy on you. You can upgrade to a 32-bit version of Windows 8 only if you’re running a 32-bit version of Windows. And it is the same for 64-bit versions; you can’t go from a 32-bit version of Windows to a 64-bit version of Windows 8 or vice versa.

Once you've decided on an installation method, the actual process of installing Windows 8 is simple. The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant will warn you about hardware and software compatibility issues on your system. If you have a program that's not compatible, the Upgrade Assistant will remove it and restart the installation. Make sure to have your product key handy, as you'll need it to complete the installation. 

Next, you have a choice of color themes for Windows 8 as well the opportunity to name your PC. Don't like the color you picked? You'll have more customization options after you finish installing Windows 8. You will also be asked to pick between Express settings or Custom settings. For most users, Express settings are adequate, but be sure to read through the list of settings you'll opt into. Finally, you will be asked to enter your Microsoft account information. If you don't have an account already, you can sign up for one from the prompt screen. 

And you're done! You are now running the brand-new Windows 8.