To upgrade from an older version of Windows to Windows 8, start off at Microsoft's slickly designed download site.
2 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
What Microsoft found
The first thing the small stub installer will do is look for any conflicts that might arise.
3 of 11 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.
4 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
What to keep
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.
5 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Big upgrade, little price
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.
6 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
New Windows 8, old-school DVD
If you want a boxed copy of Windows 8, you can shell out an extra $14.99 to have Microsoft mail you a DVD.
7 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Two ways to pay
You can pay by credit card or by PayPal. Amazon.com account fans, you're out of luck.
8 of 11 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.
9 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Roll your own Windows 8
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.
10 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Ditch the dead weight
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.
11 of 11 Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
Ready, steady, go
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.