1. Check your PC
Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant will tell you if your PC can run Windows 8.1, and then provides a compatibility report and optional steps for you to buy, download, and install Windows. If you want to check out the system requirements, you can, but you don’t have to. Upgrade Assistant will do all that for you—and you don’t need to buy the upgrade to run it.
If you don’t want to upgrade online, you can buy Windows 8.1 on a DVD from a participating retailer. You can see current pricing on the Compare and decide about Windows 8.1 webpage or in Upgrade Assistant. DVDs of the Windows 8.1 upgrade aren’t available in all countries and regions. If you decide to buy a DVD, we still recommend running Upgrade Assistant before you install so you can make sure Windows 8.1 will run on your PC.
Download and run Upgrade Assistant
Be sure to plug in and connect your peripheral devices like printers or monitors before you run Upgrade Assistant to check if they’ll work with Windows 8.1. It’s also a good idea to plug in your laptop or tablet if that’s what you’re using.
To run Upgrade Assistant
Depending on your Internet connection, it might take several minutes to install.
When prompted by your browser, open, save, or run the Upgrade Assistant program file. Any choice will work, but if you choose Save, you might need to search for the file on your PC and double-click it to run it.
Follow the on-screen steps. Upgrade Assistant scans your PC to make sure it meets the system requirements. It also checks to see if your programs and devices are compatible with Windows 8.1.
To learn more about how we use your info, read the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant and Setup privacy statement.
To buy and download the Windows 8.1 upgrade over the Internet, you have to first run Upgrade Assistant.
If you want to reformat your drive—also known as a clean installation—you need to do it with installation media such as a DVD or USB flash drive from within Windows Setup. For more info, see How to perform a clean installation of Windows.
Review the compatibility report
When Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant is done, you’ll know if Windows 8.1 will run on your PC. You’ll also get a free compatibility report that lists which of your current programs and devices will still work, ones that might not work, and what you can do to get them working again after you upgrade. You don’t have to do anything with this info—if we need any encryption software suspended, we’ll let you know that later.
If you have a product that worked in Windows 7, then most likely, it will work in Windows 8.1, too. But there might be programs or devices on your PC that we have no info for.
Here’s how we get the compatibility info:
Independent software and hardware vendors test and officially certify some programs and devices for Windows 8.1.
We base some compatibility info on reports from the manufacturer. This info hasn’t been tested or confirmed by Microsoft.
Microsoft tests the most popular programs and devices on the market, and provides compatibility info based on this testing. For some products that aren’t tested on Windows 8.1, we might base its compatibility status on whether it worked on Windows 8.
Check for more compatibility info for a specific app or device (including info from community forums) in the Windows Compatibility Center, or contact the app or device manufacturer.
2. Choose what to keep
Once you get the compatibility report, you can decide what you want to keep on your PC. You won’t be able to keep programs and settings when you upgrade. Be sure to locate your original program installation discs or purchase confirmation emails if you bought programs online. You’ll need these to reinstall your programs after you upgrade to Windows 8.1—this includes, for example, Microsoft Office, Apache OpenOffice, and Adobe programs. It’s also a good idea to back up your files at this time, too.
If you only want to keep your files (documents, photos, music, movies, and other files), choose Just personal files.
If you want to save none of your files, choose Nothing. We recommend you back up your files on an external drive before choosing this option.
If you choose the option to keep nothing when you upgrade to Windows 8.1, your personal files won’t automatically move with you, but you can still restore them after you upgrade. 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.
3. Buy Windows 8.1
If Upgrade Assistant tells you that your PC meets the system requirements and is able to run Windows 8.1, it provides a recommendation for which edition to buy, with the option to buy, download, and install it by following the on-screen steps. You’ll see current pricing in Upgrade Assistant, or you can go to the Compare and decide about Windows 8.1 page.
Windows Media Center isn’t included in Windows 8.1. To get it, you’ll need to upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro and then buy the Windows 8.1Media Center Pack. For more info, see the Add features webpage on the Windows website.
If you don’t want to upgrade online, you can buy Windows 8.1 on DVD from a participating retailer if it’s available in your country or region.
Review your order
When you get to the Review your order page in Upgrade Assistant, you’ll have the option to buy a backup DVD of Windows 8.1 if it’s available in your country or region. If you need to reinstall later, you can use the link you’ll get in the email receipt after your payment is processed. If you’re worried about losing the email you might want to order the backup DVD. Check the box if you want to add the DVD to your order.
Enter purchase info and offer codes
In the next few steps, you’ll enter in all the regular purchase info like your name and credit card number.
If you have an offer code, you need to make sure that you enter it to receive the promotional price. When you’re on the Buy screen, it will show the full price. However, on the order confirmation page, you’ll have a chance to enter your promo code—the price will change to reflect the offer promotional price after you click Apply.
Get your receipt and product key
After your order is processed, you’ll get an email receipt that includes a product key. If you continue through the upgrade process now, the product key will automatically be entered for you, but be sure to keep the receipt email and product key in a safe place.
4. Start the upgrade
With a high-speed Internet connection (1.5 Mbps – 10 Mbps), the download will typically range from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The time to download depends on your Internet connection, PC, and other factors and might exceed these estimates.
Download Windows 8.1
Click Next, and the upgrade will start downloading to your PC. You can pause the download at any time, or if you need to stop it and start again later, use the Download Windows icon that appears on your desktop (instead of the link you get in the email receipt or the Upgrade Assistant download). That way, you’ll resume the download from where you left off, rather than starting all over again.
If the download is interrupted, isn’t working, or no Pause button appears, try restarting your PC. Once you’ve restarted, click the Download Windows icon on your desktop to start the download again.
If you receive an error message that says “We can’t connect right now,” and you’ve verified that you have an Internet connection, you can try to download Windows 8.1 on another network—maybe at a friend’s house if your PC is portable. If that doesn’t work, contact support.
Install Windows 8.1
After Windows 8.1 has downloaded to your PC, you have a few choices for how and when you want to install it.
Install now. For most people, we recommend choosing Install now for the smoothest upgrade.
Install by creating media. This is an advanced installation option that requires a USB flash drive or a blank DVD. We only recommend this for people who need to install in a virtual environment or as a dual-boot configuration. We don’t recommend trying to install Windows 8.1 on a separate PC.
If you decide to install using media, you need to install Windows 8.1 on a PC that’s already running Windows, and then perform a clean installation. For instructions, see Boot from the media you created to install on a partition and then How to perform a clean installation of Windows. If you don’t follow these instructions, you won’t be able to activate your PC later.
Install later from your desktop. If you choose Install later from your desktop, a shortcut will be created on your desktop so you can install Windows 8.1 when it’s convenient for you.
Whether you install now or wait until later, Windows Setup will get your PC ready and check for any final things you need to do before actually installing. Take care of each of the items on the list in order. As you complete each item, the list will automatically refresh.
Once you’re done, you’ll be ready to install the upgrade. You’ll see a recap of what you’ve decided to do. If you need to change anything, click Back, but when you’re ready, click Install.
Your PC will restart several times while Windows 8.1 is installing. After Windows 8.1 installs, you’ll first be asked to choose settings.
5. Choose your settings
After Windows 8.1 installs, you’ll first be asked to choose settings for your PC.
Choose a color you like—you can always change this later from the Start screen. To do so, on the Start screen, point to the lower-left corner of the screen, move your mouse all the way into the corner, click Settings, and then click Personalize.
Use express settings
You’ll see a list of recommended settings, called express settings. To accept these settings and continue, click Use express settings. You can change any of these settings later, after you finish setting up. If you’d like to change some of these settings now, click Customize.
For more info, click Learn more about express settings. To learn about how these settings affect your privacy, click Privacy statement.
Next, you’ll be asked to sign in. If you see a local account sign in page, you’ll need to sign in with your local account first, and then we’ll ask you to set up a Microsoft account.
Enter your Microsoft account email address and password.
If you have more than one Microsoft account, you’ll need to choose one. For more info, see Which email address should I use for my Microsoft account?
We’ll send a security code to the alternate email address or phone number you’ve set up for this account, and you’ll need to enter that code to verify that you’re the account owner. This helps us protect your account and devices when you access sensitive info. If you don’t have alternate contact info set up for the account yet, you’ll be asked to provide it now.
If you signed in to your PC using a Microsoft account before you installed Windows 8.1, then you might not see this step.
Click Create a new account.
Next, you’ll be asked to choose an email address you’d like to use as a Microsoft account. This can be any email address you use, and isn’t limited to just addresses that come from Microsoft. Enter the email address that you use the most. We’ll use it to set up the Mail and People apps for you with email and contacts that you already use every day.
Enter the password you’d like to use, and fill in the rest of the info, including your first name, last name, and your country or region.
Next, you’ll be asked to provide an alternate email address or phone number where we can reach you by email, phone, or text message (SMS). This helps us protect your account and devices whenever you access sensitive info using this account. After you enter this info, we’ll send a message to you containing a security code, and you’ll need to enter that code to verify that you’re the account owner.
Windows 8.1 is designed to be used with a Microsoft account, so we recommend that you give it a try. Simply put, a Microsoft account is the glue that holds together so many useful features of the new Windows. Without one, you won’t be able to, for example, get new apps from the Windows Store, automatically sync your settings and documents between PCs, back up your photos to the cloud so you can get to them from anywhere, or see all your contacts from multiple email and social networking accounts together in the People and Mail apps.
But if you’re sure you want to use a local account instead, click Create a new account, and then on the new account page, click Continue using my existing account.
OneDrive cloud storage
If this is your first time setting up a PC with Windows 8.1, you’ll see the new OneDrive options.
If you click Next on this screen, your PC will use these default OneDrive settings:
Photos you take with this PC are saved to your camera roll folder on this PC, and a smaller copy of each photo is automatically backed up to your OneDrive.
When you create a new document, the default save location is OneDrive. But you can always choose to save individual documents locally or on another drive.
Windows will save a backup copy of your PC settings to OneDrive. If something ever happens to your PC and you need to replace it, your settings are saved in the cloud and you can transfer them to a new PC instantly.
You can change any of these settings later in PC settings. If you’d prefer to turn off all of these settings now, click Turn off these OneDrive settings (not recommended). For more info, see OneDrive: FAQ.
Because Windows is always being updated, it’s possible that critical updates have become available since Windows 8.1 was released. Windows checks for these critical updates when you finish setting up Windows 8.1 for the first time, and if it finds any, it will download them automatically. Downloading and installing these updates might take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or so, depending on the updates needed. Your PC might also need to restart one or more times to complete the updates.
Windows will finalize your updates and then take you to your new Windows 8.1 Start screen. For more info about installing Windows 8.1, see Update to Windows 8.1: FAQ.