How to Prepare for a Windows 8 Upgrade

Nearly everybody experiences Windows 8 on a new computer. After all, Windows 8 comes preinstalled on nearly all of them. But older computers can also run Windows 8. Because Windows 8 doesn't demand a lot of power, it can run well on most computers sold within the past six years.

You can upgrade your old computer to Windows 8 in any of three different ways:

  • Upgrade: Sold on a DVD, this costs less than the full version. Why? Because you can install this version only on a computer that currently runs Windows.

  • Full version: Also sold on a DVD, this version can be installed onto an empty hard drive. That's handy when you need to install Windows 8 onto a new hard drive, a perk valued by computer builders and troubleshooters. The Full version can also be used as an Upgrade disc to upgrade existing Windows versions.

  • Online install: New for Windows 8, this upgrade lets you visit Microsoft's website, buy Windows 8 online, and upgrade over the web.

But no matter what version you buy, Windows 8 comes with a healthy list of requirements. Before upgrading, make sure that you've run through the following checklist:

  • Computer power: Make sure that your PC is strong enough to run Windows 8.

  • Security: Before upgrading to Windows 8, turn off your antivirus software and other security programs. They may innocently try to protect you from the Windows 8 upgrade process.

  • Backup: Before upgrading, be sure to back up all of your important files in case something goes wrong.

  • Upgrade path: Because Windows 7 comes in so many different versions, the following table explains which versions are eligible for which upgrades.

    After you upgrade, you can pay extra to add even fancier features — a strategic Microsoft marketing move. You can pay extra to unlock the ability to play movie DVDs, for example.

Windows Upgrade Compatibility
This version of Windows 7 … … May Upgrade to This Version of Windows 8
Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium Windows 8
Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate Windows 8 Pro
Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise Windows 8 Enterprise
  • Programs: Windows 8 preserves your personal files when you install it on computers running Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP Service Pack 3. But it saves your programs only when installed over Windows 7. If you install Windows 8 over any other version of Windows, you'll need to reinstall all your programs from scratch. (When installed over Windows Vista Service Pack 2, Windows 8 preserves some system settings.)

For more information about Windows 8, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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