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How to prepare your Windows 8 PC for Windows 8.1

Taking a few moments to prepare your Windows 8 PC for Windows 8.1 will help ensure that you'll have a smooth update.

Windows 8.1 lock screen
Windows 8.1 has new lock screen settings. Microsoft

Windows 8.1 is set to arrive later this week as a free update to Windows 8 via the Windows Store. Windows 8.1 has several new features, including being able to boot directly to the desktop as well as the return of the Start button.

As with any major update, taking a few moments to prepare for it will go a long way to ensuring a smooth update. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure your update to Windows 8.1 goes without a hitch:

Back up your personal data

Make sure you have a recent backup of your files, just in case. Though a mishap involving your files is unlikely, there's no reason to risk losing your documents, photos, music, and other important data. If you've never backed up your data, go grab an external hard drive and learn how to automatically back up your personal files in Windows 8.

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Create a system image

Now that your personal data is safe, you'll want to make sure that you can recover your system if you experience a major failure. A great way to recover from a major failure is using a system image -- a relatively simple way to get your system back to the way it was. Make sure you create the Windows 8 system image just before you begin installing the Windows 8.1 update and don't forget to create a USB recovery drive.

Check for updated Windows 8.1 drivers

It's possible that your PC's hardware might need new drivers to function at its best with Windows 8.1. Your PC manufacturer may have a preinstalled system tool that checks for and updates drivers, but if not, you should check out your PC's support site for them.

Windows 8.1 driver update
Screenshot by Ed Rhee/CNET

After you've successfully updated your Windows 8 PC to 8.1, check back at CNET How To for some more tips on using Windows 8.1.