How to Perform an Upgrade Installation of Windows 8.1

01
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Get Your Windows 8.1 Installation Files

Get your hands on Windows 8.1.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Foundation. Wikimedia Foundation

For most users running Windows 8, the transition to Windows 8.1 will be painless. All they’ll have to do is click a link in the Windows Store. Not all users looking for 8.1 will be so lucky however.

For users running Windows 8 Enterprise, or Professional users who have a volume license or installed from an MSDN or TechNet ISO, Windows 8.1 installation media will be needed for the upgrade. Windows 7 users also have the option to perform an upgrade installation, saving their personal files in the process, but they’ll need to pay for the new operating system first.

Before you can upgrade to this Windows version, you’ll need to get your hands on some installation media. For Windows 8 users, the files will be free. Enterprise users and volume license holders will need to download an ISO from the Volume Licensing Service Center. MSDN or TechNet users can get it from MSDN or TechNet.

For users of Windows 7, you’ll need to buy your installation media. You can download the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant from Microsoft. This software will scan your computer to ensure your hardware and software will be compatible with Windows 8.1. If so, it will guide you through the process of purchasing and downloading the installation files.

If you’ve downloaded an ISO file, you’ll need to burn it to disc before you can perform the installation. Once you have your disc in hand, place it in your drive to get started.

02
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Start an Upgrade Installation of Windows 8.1

Start your Windows 8.1 installation.
Image courtesy of Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

Though you may be tempted to restart your computer and boot to your installation media; that is not necessary for an upgrade installation.

In fact, if you try to upgrade after booting to your installation media, you’ll be prompted to restart your computer and launch the installer after logging in to Windows. To save yourself some trouble, simply insert your disc while inside Windows, and run the Setup.exe file when prompted to do so.

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Download Important Updates

Download updates.
Image courtesy of Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

Your first step down the road to Windows 8.1 is installing updates. Since your already logged in to Windows and very likely connected to the Internet, there is no reason not to allow this step to happen. Important updates may patch security flaws or fix errors and could help to ensure a smooth installation.

Click “Download and install updates” and then click “Next.”

04
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Accept the Windows 8.1 License Terms

Windows 8.1 License Agreement
Image courtesy of Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

Your next stop is the Windows 8.1 End User License Agreement. It’s a bit long, a bit tedious and a bit legally binding, so it’s a good idea to at least peruse it. That said, whether you like what you see or not, you’ll have to accept it if you want to install Windows 8.1.

After reading the agreement (or not), go ahead and click the checkbox next to “I accept the license terms” and then click “Accept.”

05
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Choose What to Keep

What to keep.
Image courtesy of Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

At this point in the installation, you’ll be asked what you want to keep from your existing installation of Windows. In my case, I was upgrading from a trial version of Windows 8 Enterprise, so I don’t have the option to keep anything.

For users upgrading from a licensed version of Windows 8, you’ll be able to keep Windows settings, Personal files and modern apps. For users upgrading from Windows 7 you’ll be able to keep your personal files. This means all of the data from your Windows 7 libraries will be moved to the proper libraries in your Windows 8 account.

No matter what you’re upgrading from, you’ll have the option to keep “Nothing.” While this seems like you’ll lose everything you’ve got, that isn’t necessarily true. Your personal files will be backed up with your system files in a folder called Windows.old and stored on your C: drive. You can access that folder and restore your data after completing the windows 8 installation.

Whichever you choose, make sure to back up any important data before carrying out this installation. Anything could happen and you don’t want to lose anything by accident.

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Complete the Installation

Complete your Windows 8.1 installation.
Image courtesy of Microsoft. Robert Kingsley

Windows will now give you one last chance to verify your choices. If you’re certain that the options you selected are the options you intended to select, go ahead and click “Install.” If you need to make a change, you can click “Back” to return to any point in the installation process.

After clicking “Install” a full-screen window will pop up blocking access to your computer. You’ll have to sit and watch while the installation completes. It should only take a few minutes, but that will depend largely on your hardware.

Once the installation is complete your computer will restart and you’ll have to make a few basic settings selections and configure your account.