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Microsoft Windows 8.1 free to Windows 8 users, $119.99 and up for others

Those running Windows 8 will be able to get Windows 8.1 for free. But 8.1 will cost everyone else between $119.99 and $199.99 (for Pro).

Mary Jo Foley
Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network.
Mary Jo Foley
3 min read

Microsoft announced a few months ago that Windows 8.1 will be a free upgrade for anyone already running Windows 8. That still holds true.

But Tuesday, company officials shared more on how much Windows 8.1 will cost for those running an older version of Windows. For those running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7, Windows 8.1 will cost $119.99. Windows 8.1 Pro will cost $199.99. These prices are for either a download from Windows.com or a retail-packaged DVD product sold at retail. These are the same prices Microsoft charged users of older versions of Windows for the Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro upgrades.

There are a couple new wrinkles worth noting about Windows 8.1 pricing, however.

First, Microsoft is offering full-version software at retail this time around. This means there's no requirement for users to run a previous version of Windows to get these prices. (In the past, Microsoft offered those running a previous version of Windows an upgrade version, and others a full version.) Microsoft officials said they're making this change due to feedback from customers "in specific technical scenarios." Specifically, this benefits users who want to build PCs from scratch, run Windows 8.1 in virtual-machine environments, and/or run Windows 8.1 on a second hard-drive partition on the hardware of their choice.

Secondly, Microsoft already offered some guidance regarding what users should expect in moving from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. Those who installed the consumer preview version of Windows 8.1 will need to reinstall their apps (Metro-Style and desktop) when moving from the preview to the RTM bits on both Intel and ARM hardware, officials said. If you didn't install the preview and want to go straight from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, you won't have to reinstall apps. That guidance remains correct.

It turns out, those running Windows 7 who want to move to Windows 8.1 are going to have to reinstall their desktop apps, too -- including Microsoft Office. They'll be able to bring along all their files but not their apps, according to today's blog post.

Microsoft is advising users that, even though their PCs running XP and Vista may be able to support Windows 8.1, they are not recommending they upgrade to Windows 8.1. That doesn't mean users can't do this or that Microsoft won't support users who opt to do this. They're just advising against it, claiming that the older hardware plus Windows 8.1 won't make for an optimal experience. If a user does go ahead and upgrade from XP or Vista to Windows 8.1, Microsoft is advising them to buy the retail DVD, rather than download the bits and boot from the DVD to do a clean install of Windows 8.1. The result: Files, settings, and programs won't transfer, so users should back up their files, settings, and programs and then reinstall them.

Microsoft officials also said that users who buy new devices running Windows 8.1, starting later this year, will be able to buy a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack for $99.99, which will add support for all the Pro-specific features, plus Windows Media Center. Users running Windows 8.1 Pro will be able to buy Windows Media Center as an add-on for $9.99.

As of right now, Microsoft is not planning on offering users of older versions of Windows any kind of limited-time discount for Windows 8.1, a spokesperson confirmed. With Windows 8, Microsoft offered a $40 upgrade promotion to XP, Vista, and Windows 7 users to get them to buy Windows 8 Pro.

Also today, Microsoft is making available the RTM bits of Windows 8.1 Enterprise to volume licensees with TechNet and MSDN subscriptions.

Microsoft already announced Windows Server 2012 R2 pricing. Users with Software Assurance who are running Windows Server 2012 will be able to get the R2 update for free.

This story originally appeared as "Microsoft prices Windows 8.1 starting at $119.99" on ZDNet.