Windows 8 Overview
While some users may experience something akin to culture shock upon first seeing the new Windows 8 Start Screen and Modern UI, Windows 8 offers some definite improvements over past versions of Windows. The OS runs faster and smoothly and includes solid support for legacy applications and hardware. Its many touch features work wonderfully on tablets, and traditional PC users can work within a traditional desktop environment without ever having to worry about any of the touch optimized features. Behind the scenes, Windows 8 functions almost exactly like Windows, plus adds a few welcome improvements and enhancements that make Windows more powerful than ever.
Faster boot times and performance than any other version of Windows
Improved security features
Cloud features like file and user settings sync
Nearly instant search for files, programs, and settings
Simple to use system recovery/refresh features
- Easy-to-access, easy-to-use Windows Store
New Start Screen and touch-optimized modern UI may be a turn off for some users
No option to boot straight to the desktop
No built-in DVD playback (though plenty of 3rd party options
Fairly small selection of Modern UI apps in the Windows Store
- Some built-in apps are tablet, rather than PC, optimized
Upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP
Need Help Upgrading from Windows Vista,Windows XP?
Windows 8.1 brings you the Windows Store, Start screen, and Microsoft account, but also enhancements in personalization, search, Store apps, and cloud connectivity—and the security and reliability features you expect from Windows.
1. Before you begin
To upgrade to Windows 8.1 from Windows Vista or Windows XP, you’ll need to install it from a Windows 8.1 DVD and perform a clean installation. This means you won’t be able to keep any files, settings, or programs when you upgrade.
Windows 8.1 isn’t designed for installation on PCs running Windows Vista or Windows XP, so we strongly recommend you do the following before buying the Windows 8.1 DVD.
Review system requirements
We recommend that you download and run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant to check if your PC meets the system requirements for Windows 8. The Windows 8.1 system requirements are nearly the same as the Windows 8 system requirements—so if your PC can run Windows 8, in most cases, you can get the free update to Windows 8.1. Upgrade Assistant will also check program and device compatibility, and provide a free compatibility report.
Still be sure to review the system requirements for Windows 8.1 before buying the Windows 8.1 DVD. We also recommend that you visit your PC manufacturer’s website for info about updated drivers and hardware compatibility.
Here is a summary of the system requirements:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Free hard drive space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
If you’re unable to install Windows 8.1 on your current PC, you might consider shopping for one of the new generation of PCs that are available today. For more info, see the Windows PC buying guide.
Check compatibility of programs and devices
The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant will check if your programs and devices are compatible with Windows 8, but you can check Windows 8.1 compatibility info for a specific program or device (including info from community forums) in the Windows Compatibility Center, or contact the program or device manufacturer.
Most programs created for earlier versions of Windows will work in Windows 8.1, but some older programs might run poorly or not at all. There are several things you can try to fix compatibility problems. For more info, see Get your apps and devices working in Windows 8.1.
Drivers for basic device functionality are available “in-box” (meaning, as part of the Windows image). This includes drivers for storage, networking, input, and display. These drivers allow you to complete the Windows installation and connect to the Internet. You can get more drivers from Windows Update or from the device manufacturer once you’re online. For more info, see Download and install drivers.
Back up your data
Since you won’t be able to keep any files, settings, or programs when you upgrade from Windows Vista or Windows XP, we recommend you back up all files and locate any program installation discs (or purchase confirmation emails) prior to updating.
You can transfer files before you upgrade by copying them to an external hard drive, USB flash drive, or CD, and then moving them to the location you want on your new PC. Be sure that the drive or disc has enough space to hold everything you want to move. If don’t want to use an external hard drive, USB drive, or CD, you can move your files to OneDrive to have all your files in one place and have the latest version on your PCs. For more info, see Getting started with OneDrive.
After you upgrade to Windows 8.1, you’ll need your original program installation discs, or purchase confirmation emails if you purchased programs online, to reinstall your programs. Insert the program CD or DVD into your PC or follow the directions in the confirmation email.
If you’ve been using Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail, or the version of Windows Mail that came with Windows Vista, your email messages and contacts can be imported into Outlook.com using the Mail Migration add-on. For more info, see Import email from a desktop app.
- You can still restore your personal files after you upgrade to Windows 8.1. Your files are saved to the Windows.old folder, where you can retrieve them after the upgrade. For more info, see Retrieve files from the Windows.old folder.
Once you have completed this process, follow these steps to complete Windows 8 Install: