Updating to Windows 8

We run through a few things you’ll need to consider before upgrading to Windows 8.
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01 .What to consider


Before upgrading to Microsoft’s Windows 8, it’s important to understand the costs of each version, how to upgrade and which one will best suit your needs.

When Windows 8 launched late last year, you could pick up an upgrade to the Basic or Pro edition for about $58. Today, unless you find a retailer with old stock, expect to pay $69.99 for Pro Student, $149.99 for Basic or $399.99 for Pro. You also have the option to upgrade from Windows 8 Basic to Pro with the Pro Pack, which you can download for $249.99 via your PC’s start menu.

Upgrading is expensive, but it’s the easiest way for the average consumer to get on to Windows 8, as you can upgrade any machine running Windows XP service pack 3 (SP3)  or later. To compare the details of each version, visit the Windows 8 website.

Basic or Pro?

The Basic edition is likely to suit most consumers’ needs, while tech enthusiasts, small business owners and anyone setting up a network should consider the Pro edition. If you want to use the Windows Media Centre that came with Vista and 7, you’ll have to purchase the Pro edition, as Windows has removed the feature from the Basic kit. Otherwise you can download Media Centre as an additional feature for $9.99, or install it for free with the Pro Pack upgrade.

Before upgrading, check whether your computer and software will be compatible with Windows 8. On the Windows 8 website, Microsoft provides a free upgrade assistant that examines your system to determine whether it meets the minimum requirements for 8 and cross-checks your software by listing any known compatibility conflicts. Some incompatible programs can still run on Windows 8 under special circumstances, but other old programs won’t work or may require an upgrade.

If you proceed, the upgrade assistant offers a download price, but if you’d prefer a boxed copy, you can close the upgrade assistant and buy Windows 8 at retail. Upgrading from XP SP3 or Vista wipes your hard drive and all your software, so back up your data beforehand. An upgrade from 7 to 8 won’t wipe your disc, but you should back up as a precaution.

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Windows-8-costsThere are different free and paid technical support options available, depending on which version of Windows 8 you purchased. A popular free option is the Windows 8 community support called Ask the community. The support site also includes its official Knowledge Base and FAQs that cover almost every Microsoft product. The mostly generalised answers can point you in the right direction, but may not help solve your specific issue. If a technical issue becomes prominent, Microsoft occasionally posts a fix on its support site’s homepage. All versions of Windows 8 have access to these free services.

If you want to speak with someone directly, you’ll have to contact the Microsoft Personal Support Centre. This service is free if you buy the Windows 8 upgrade from retail or download it, but only lasts 90 days from the date of software activation (see Which version do you need, right). After 90 days, personal support costs $80 for each new enquiry. When you call Personal Support, Microsoft provides you with an enquiry number, which you can quote for any subsequent calls for the same problem. According to its terms of use, Microsoft will provide free over-the-phone technical support for bugs, documentation errors and certain installation problems.

The full version

If you want the full version of Windows 8, you’ll need the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) edition. The OEM is a requirement if you want to build your own PC or install a fresh version of Windows 8 on an empty drive, but you can also use it to run a virtual machine alongside previous versions of Windows, or on a Mac via Boot Camp. You won't be able to overwrite a previous version of Windows when installing from an OEM edition without wiping the drive first. The OEM is available in Basic and Pro editions for about $99 and $149 respectively, but Microsoft has restricted sales of the OEM edition to PC component suppliers, so you won’t find it at major retail chains.

This edition has different terms of use to the upgrade versions, which includes no free technical support period from Microsoft and limitations on the number of installs across multiple systems. OEM licensing restrictions also usually apply to new computers that come preinstalled with Windows 8, which include any computer purchased at retail and custom-built machines.

Ask yourself whether an easy-to-install upgrade that includes 90 days of free personal support is worth the premium. The OEM may cost less, but you’ll have to strip your hard drive of all software and the operating system, which requires time and technical know-how. However, if you plan to purchase the upgrade to Pro version for the free support, to make it worth your while you’d have to call Microsoft at least three times in the 90-day free period to cover the difference between the OEM and Upgrade edition.

Price discrimination

Aussies are paying up to twice as much as Americans for Windows 8 upgrades, and 2.5 times as much for the Pro Pack. Downloading Windows 8 in the US costs $119.99 for Basic and $199.99 for Pro versus $149.99 and $399.99 in Australia. The Pro Pack (upgrade from Windows 8 Basic to Pro costs only $99.99 to download in the US, compared with $249.99 here. If you try to download Windows 8 from the US site, the installer detects your IP address and localises the costs before you buy it. Visit our article on Geoblocking for more information.

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