How to upgrade to Windows 8.1 from earlier versions of Windows

Microsoft's latest operating system brings a handful of new features and improvements to the Windows platform. Here's how to get it.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

Windows 8.1 is now available as a free download for Windows 8 users. Microsoft's latest operating system introduces many new features to the platform and includes fixes for most of the original problems users had been dealing with over the past year.

Here's how you can upgrade to Windows 8.1 from earlier versions of Windows:

Windows 8
Be sure to back up your personal data and check for any updated drivers before downloading the operating system. The Windows 8.1 update requires more than 3GB of space; make sure you have enough free space on your hard drive before proceeding.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

See if you are logged into your Microsoft account. If not, enter the Store, go to the Charms menu, select Settings, click the "Your account" option, and sign in. Then, select the large "Update to Windows 8.1 for free" tile in the Windows Store.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

If this option isn't available, you may have to update your PC to the latest Windows patch. To do this, go back to the Start menu and enter the Charms bar. Next, select Settings, followed by the "Change PC settings" option, and click on Windows Update. Check for any new updates, install them, and restart your system.

Screenshot by Dan Graziano/CNET

If the Windows 8.1 download still isn't available, give it some time. Microsoft appears to be pushing the update out at different times.

Windows 7
Updating to Windows 8.1 from Windows 7 can be done through Microsoft's Upgrade Assistant. Windows 8.1 is available for $119.99, while Windows 8.1 Pro can be had for $199.99. The operating system can be purchased online as a digital download or in stores for a physical copy.

System requirements for Windows 8.1 are as follows: at least a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM for the 32-bit version or 2GB of RAM for 64-bit, 16GB of free hard-drive space for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit, and a graphics card capable of DirectX 9.

Windows settings, personal files, and most apps are saved when going from Windows 8 to 8.1, however only personal files are saved when upgrading from Windows 7.

Microsoft

Windows XP/Vista
Unfortunately, there is no easy path for those of you who have held out from updating to the latest Windows release. Windows XP and Vista users must do a clean install with a DVD copy of Windows 8.1. The operating system can be purchased at Microsoft Stores and retailers like Best Buy for $119.99 and $199.99 for the Home and Pro versions, respectively.

It is also highly recommended that you back up your files when upgrading. No Windows XP or Vista files or programs will be carried over to Windows 8.1.

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Tech Culture
Read the full CNET Review

Microsoft Windows 8.1

The Bottom Line: If you're a dedicated Windows 8 hater, the update to Windows 8.1 isn't going to change your mind. For everyone else, this collection of tweaks, fixes, and new features is useful, but everything here should have shipped in the original version last year. / Read full review

About the author

Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET How To. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.

 

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