Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.
Many computers are still running Windows XP. With Windows 8 now available, it may be an option. I'll look at what it takes, what you get, and most importantly, what you don't.
The short answer is a little bit of yes and a whole lotta no, at least in the way that most people expect upgrades to work.
Here's how I found out...
By mistake, I ordered copies of the Windows 8 upgrade edition. All that really means is that rather than being able to install Windows 8 to a clean or "bare metal" machine, there needs to be a prior version of Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP installed.
The option of Windows XP confused me because Windows 7 didn't really handle that scenario well; effectively, there was no upgrade from XP to Windows 7 and yet it appeared that that might have changed with Windows 8.
As it turns out, things may be a little more streamlined perhaps, but that's about it.
I'll walk you through my upgrade and point out the relevant points when upgrading from Windows XP.
It's important to clarify two different uses of the word "upgrade" here:
An upgrade install is the process of updating a previous installation of Windows to a newer version, preserving as much as possible in the process. This is opposed to a "clean" install, which is basically the process of installing a completely new version of the operating system without regard to, and in fact deleting, anything that happened to already be on the machine.
An upgrade edition is a copy of the operating system installation media or package which can be used only to perform upgrade installs. In other words, an upgrade edition requires that there be a prior version of Windows to be upgraded. This is opposed to a "full" edition, which allows you to do either a clean or upgrade installation. Upgrade versions are typically sold at a somewhat lower price than full editions.
So I had mistakenly purchased an upgrade edition which would only allow me to perform an upgrade installation.
I chose an installation of Windows XP to be upgraded to Windows 8.
I can't stress this enough. Whenever you're about to upgrade something as major as the operating system on your computer, you must back up first.
My recommendation is that you perform a full image backup using a tool such as Macrium Reflect or similar. That way, if something goes wrong during the installation, you can always restore your machine from that backup to the state it was in prior to the attempt.
The problem here isn't that things go wrong often. The problem is that when things go wrong, they can go very wrong to the point that the installation on the hard disk - either old or new - may not be able to be recovered.
A backup, on the other hand, will let you recover from anything.
When upgrading Windows XP to Windows 8, you begin by inserting the installation media (a DVD in my case) and running the setup.exe program if it doesn't start automatically.
As you can see, that's the Windows 8 setup program preparing to run, on top of Windows XP's familiar default desktop background and task bar.
Next Windows 8 Setup asks for the product key.
In many ways, when you purchase software like Windows 8, it's really the product key that you're purchasing that legitimizes and activates your installation. Make sure to keep it in a safe place. You'll likely be able to re-download Windows 8 for free, but if you lose the product key, you'll need to purchase another should you ever need to reinstall.
After agreeing to the License Terms, Windows 8 Setup asks a very interesting question:
Wanting to understand this better, I clicked on "Help me decide" which told me this:
The bottom line is simply this:
Windows 8 setup will offer to move or preserve what it can for you.
If you're "upgrading" from Windows XP, the only thing it appears to be able to preserve for you are your personal files. Everything else will be setup from scratch.
So it's not really much of an upgrade as it is a clean install that preserves some of your data files.
Click Next and Windows 8 Setup confirms what it's about to do:
Next, it gives you a warning, at least, that this could take a while:
After that "while", your machine will reboot and be running Windows 8. But you're not quite done.
You've probably noticed that so far the Windows 8 setup screens have all been a lovely shade of ... purple. Fortunately, the very first thing you get to personalize is the default color or color scheme:
Next, you're given the option to skip the rest of the options and let Windows 8 use its defaults:
Detailing all those options is a job for another day, but be aware that while many of the defaults are in fact appropriate; they're all Microsoft, right down to Bing for your search engine.
Finally, you login with your old Windows XP username and password (this was technically an "upgrade" after all, and that's one thing that was indeed preserved), and you're running Windows 8.
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