Computers

How to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 8.1

How to upgrade Windows 7 to Wi...
Upgrading from Widows 7 to Windows 8.1? Here's how to make the experience as seamless as possible
Upgrading from Widows 7 to Windows 8.1? Here's how to make the experience as seamless as possible
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Upgrading from Widows 7 to Windows 8.1? Here's how to make the experience as seamless as possible
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Upgrading from Widows 7 to Windows 8.1? Here's how to make the experience as seamless as possible
Back up your data to an external, network, or cloud drive before upgrading
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Back up your data to an external, network, or cloud drive before upgrading
Get the latest updates before upgrading to Windows 8.1
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Get the latest updates before upgrading to Windows 8.1
Results of what is compatible on your computer with Windows 8.1
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Results of what is compatible on your computer with Windows 8.1
Purchase Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro
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Purchase Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro
Enter the Windows 8.1 product key
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Enter the Windows 8.1 product key
You have the option to create a DVD or USB version of Windows 8.1
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You have the option to create a DVD or USB version of Windows 8.1
Run Windows Update after 8.1 has finished installing
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Run Windows Update after 8.1 has finished installing
Windows 8.1 Metro-style tile based interface
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Windows 8.1 Metro-style tile based interface
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If you're currently running Windows 7 and want to upgrade to Windows 8.1, the process is relatively easy using Microsoft's Upgrade Assistant utility. However, there are a few things you need to know before going ahead with the upgrade. The main thing to know is that, unlike upgrading Windows 8 to 8.1, your files and data will transfer, but you'll need to re-install all of your software applications. Here's a look at what you need to know, and the steps to take to make the process as easy and seamless as possible.

Before you begin

On word: Backup. While your folders and files will ideally come with you during the upgrade, if something goes awry, you need to have your pictures, documents, and other important data backed up. Either create a local backup on an external drive, an offsite solution, or better yet, use both options. Also, because you'll need to re-install your desktop programs, make sure you have a list of all of the license keys for purchased software.Another step I recommend is verifying your Windows 7 system is up-to-date. Even if you have automatic Windows Updates enabled, run it manually again just to be sure everything is good to go.

Get the latest updates before upgrading to Windows 8.1
Get the latest updates before upgrading to Windows 8.1

Upgrade to Windows 8.1 with Upgrade Assistant

Microsoft allows you to purchase, download and install Windows 8.1 over the web. If you have a slow internet connection or prefer to upgrade the traditional way, you can purchase a physical copy too. Either way, the "basic" version is going to cost US$119, and $199 for the Pro version.

Download and run the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant. It's a free utility from Microsoft that will scan your computer's hardware, software, and peripheral devices (make sure they're plugged in) and let you know what is or isn't compatible with the new OS. For items that need your attention, click the More info link. Since your system is already running Windows 7, there shouldn't be any problems with it running Windows 8.1. Usually if something isn't compatible, you just need to update a software driver or two.

Results of what is compatible on your computer with Windows 8.1
Results of what is compatible on your computer with Windows 8.1

After finding out what's compatible or needs your attention, just keep following the Upgrade Assistant's on-screen instructions. It gives you the option to purchase the version you want to download and install. While the prices are set for most users, Microsoft is giving students a discount and allows them to get 8.1 Pro for $69.99.

Purchase Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro
Purchase Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 Pro

You'll be asked to put in your billing information, and after that you'll get a product key. Make sure to copy it and keep it in a safe location in case you need to re-install Windows 8.1 at a later time. During the Upgrade Assistant steps of installation, you'll need to enter the product key.

Enter the Windows 8.1 product key
Enter the Windows 8.1 product key

Then Windows 8.1 will be downloaded. When it's finished you'll see the following screen that allows you to create physical media. I recommend doing this so you have a physical copy.

You have the option to create a DVD or USB version of Windows 8.1
You have the option to create a DVD or USB version of Windows 8.1

Continue following the install wizard and after agreeing to the terms of service, the process is the same as upgrading Windows 8 to 8.1. Your computer will restart two or three times while the installation completes.

Windows 8.1 Metro-style tile based interface
Windows 8.1 Metro-style tile based interface

Wrapping up

After the upgrade is complete, run Windows Update again, as there will be a few updates for the new OS to install. Then install the desktop programs you need. In fact, this is a good time to take inventory and leave off the programs you never use anymore, for a cleaner system.

Run Windows Update after 8.1 has finished installing
Run Windows Update after 8.1 has finished installing

Windows 8.1 makes the experience of moving from Windows 7 less jarring than the first iteration of Windows 8. Windows 8.1 includes the Start button, and has built-in settings that help you keep Metro out of your way.

Also make sure to check out our article on tips and tricks for getting started with Windows 8.1.

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20 comments
Conus Wister
Actually, how to downgrade from 8 to 7 would be a more useful article for people. Windows 8 on a desktop or laptop is horrendous.
Jestep
May want a disclaimer that this is not recommended. There are plenty of other more entertaining ways to break windows on a desktop.
Evan Pearce
First up why would you? Wow and now the Start button is back that helps you keep Metro out of your way so you can enjoy your Win2k looking desktop. What crap!
L1ma
Would only recommend up to Windows 7 Ultimate edition, upgrading to Windows 8X is like upgrading from a Rolls Royce to a Robin Reliant.
BigGoofyGuy
I am working on upgrading my Windows 8 computer to eComStation 2.0. :) http://www.ecomstation.com I am frustrated with Windows 8. I read Windows 8.1 is only a little different than the 8.0.
Bill Brewer
Windows 8 is an unbelievable pile of crap and whoever allowed it to be released on an unsuspecting public should be fired. I would gladly go back to Win7 in a heartbeat to escape the debacle of Win8 or 8.1.
tyme2par4
DON'T DO IT! Windows 8.1 is somehow worse than Windows 8. After first installing 8, I kind of like it. But then I realized how hard it is to do anything. I upgraded to 8.1 thinking it would make it better, and boy was I wrong. Sure, the start button is back, but all it does is bring you to the tile window. That is what the windows button on the keyboard does... I installed an aftermarket program that gives you the classic start button. Finally, 8.1 has decided to screw with my wifi as well. I have to do a restart any time I shut down or go into sleep mode, because for some reason it disables my wifi every time. Restarting is the only way to get it to come back. And NO ONE has been able to fix it.
Rockin Robbins
Moving from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is a DOWNGRADE. You're downgrading from a computer to a cell phone.
Olenios
Don't do it ! You going to be so sorry ! We are talking for the failure of the millennia
barrettjet
I have a Win7 Tablet touchscreen the size of an iPad. Wouldn't I be better off with 8.1 for its touchscreen? If upgrading why not shoot an image of your Win7 with Macrium and then restore it if you wanted to go back to Win7?