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Start your upgrade process

To upgrade from an older version of Windows to Windows 8, start off at Microsoft's slickly designed download site.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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What Microsoft found

The first thing the small stub installer will do is look for any conflicts that might arise.

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Conflict details

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Two ways to pay

You can pay by credit card or by PayPal. Amazon.com account fans, you're out of luck.

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Downloading...

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.

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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.

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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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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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.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET
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