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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Start your upgrade process

What Microsoft found

Conflict details

What to keep

Big upgrade, little price

New Windows 8, old-school DVD

Two ways to pay

Downloading...

Roll your own Windows 8

Ditch the dead weight

Ready, steady, go

To upgrade from an older version of Windows to Windows 8, start off at Microsoft's slickly designed download site.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
The first thing the small stub installer will do is look for any conflicts that might arise.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
You can look at the details of the conflicts, save them, or print them out. But it's a worry-free process: Microsoft will help you uninstall them later.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
If you're on Windows 7, you get to keep it all: programs, settings, and personal files. But you can also choose to wipe everything out.

One thing that's not saved is your Wi-Fi passwords, so make a note of them.

Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Microsoft really wants you to upgrade, so it has made this the lowest in-price upgrade ever; $39.99 is about two-thirds cheaper than the usual Windows upgrade price.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
If you want a boxed copy of Windows 8, you can shell out an extra $14.99 to have Microsoft mail you a DVD.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
You can pay by credit card or by PayPal. Amazon.com account fans, you're out of luck.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Downloading Windows 8 can take some time, depending on your connection. It'll take much longer to get the 2GB file over Wi-Fi than a wired line.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Once downloaded, you can choose to install Windows 8 immediately, make a portable media version of it on USB or disc, or save it to your desktop and install it later.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
You're probably not fond of bloatware, but neither is Windows 8. Before it will install, you'll be prompted to take care of any lingering annoyances. If you have to restart your computer, just double-click on the Windows 8 installation icon on your desktop and it will quickly find where it left off.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Microsoft gives you one last chance to tweak your installation settings. Click Install, go get a caffeinated beverage, and when you come back you'll be living in Microsoft's future.
Caption by / Photo by Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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