Microsoft is now warning customers that are still riding the Windows 8.1 Preview and Windows RT 8.1 Preview trains to upgrade to the real thing before they expire on January 15. Customers will not have the right to use the platform after that date, and will likely lose unsaved data.
"Now that Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 have been generally available for a while, it's time to get all your remaining devices that are still running Windows 8.1 Preview or Windows RT 8.1 Preview to the final GA release before the Preview release expires," the company warns.
For customers who installed the Windows 8.1 Preview or Windows RT 8.1 Preview from the Windows Store, you can update to the final release through the Windows Store. Those who installed a volume license version of Windows 8.1 Preview for evaluation purposes, Microsoft recommends that you install a fresh version of Windows 8.1 Pro or Windows 8.1 Enterprise for ongoing use.
"If you have to upgrade an existing machine, you can do so using volume license media," the company adds. "This can be done by manually running SETUP.EXE from the media, or can be automated by running "setup.exe /auto:data." As with any Preview update, only data and accounts will be migrated; all apps will need to be reinstalled."
Microsoft released Windows 8.1 Preview on June 25. Customers who installed Windows 8.1 Preview on top of Windows 8 will be able to upgrade via the Windows Store. However, those who tried the "beta" by installing it on top of Windows 7 will either need to restore the operating system, or shell out up to $200 for the Windows 8.1 upgrade.
Customers using Windows XP and Windows Vista cannot upgrade directly to Windows 8.1. They will first need to upgrade to Windows 8, and then perform the upgrade to the latest version via the Windows Store. Even those who installed the preview on top of Windows 8 will still need to reinstall all their apps and programs once the full-blown Windows 8.1 is installed.