If you currently have a copy of Windows 7, Vista, or XP, you're technically able to upgrade to Windows 8. Taking the plunge from Windows 7 lets you keep your applications, settings, and files. Vista users lose their apps, but settings and files should transfer over without a problem. Windows XP users need to have Service Pack 3 installed, and are only able to hold onto their files; settings and apps don't transition from XP to Windows 8.
Of the three pre-release versions of Windows 8, only the Release Preview can be upgraded to the final build. Unfortunately, this upgrade path only saves files; apps and settings are lost. Anyone still on the Windows 8 Developer or Consumer Previews needs to perform a complete re-installation. Using a pre-release copy of Windows 8 does not qualify you for upgrade pricing.
Fortunately for anyone running Vista or 7, Windows 8 has the exact same minimum system requirements, including:
- Processor: 1 GHz or faster
- RAM: 1 GB (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
Additional requirements to use certain features:
- To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch
- To access the Windows Store, and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768
- To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768
- Internet access (ISP fees might apply)
*These system requirements come straight from Microsoft. However, the company leaves out that you also need a Microsoft account to access the Windows Store.
SKUs And Pricing
Windows 8 is available in three flavors: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. Windows RT is the version shipping on devices with ARM's CPU architecture, and it only supports apps downloaded from the Windows Store. Microsoft isn't selling Windows RT on its own, and we're not covering it in today's review.
Consumers can, however, purchase an upgrade copy of Windows 8 Pro as a digital download for $40, with the option to have a disc mailed for an extra $15. The retail boxed copy goes for $70. Moreover, anyone purchasing a Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 is also eligible for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade (as a download) at the reduced price of $15.
The differences between Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro include the addition of BitLocker, Client Hyper-V (previously available in Windows Server), file system encryption, Group Policy, Remote Desktop hosting, the ability to boot from virtual disks, and join domains.
Below are the five different retail box images of Windows 8 Pro, which feature designs reminiscent of the new Start screen.
The full (non-upgrade) OEM version of Windows 8 Pro is selling online for about $140 today, while the full non-Pro OEM version goes for $100. Although there is no official word (so far) on pricing after Microsoft's promotional period ends, Newegg's listing for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade claims an original price of $200.
Media Center And Pro Packs
Alright, so you just bought a copy of Windows 8 Pro for your home theater PC. You finish putting together the hardware, install and update Windows, pop in a Blu-rayDVD disc, and kick back. But not so fast; you need to fork over even more for the Media Center Pack. That's right. This time around Microsoft charges extra for Windows Media Center, DVD, and Blu-ray playbackand broadcast television recording.
At least Windows 7 supported playback of video DVDs. The capability is now gone in a step backward justified by the cost of decoder licensing. Buying the pack reintroduces DVD playback. plus Blu-ray. In essence, you're purchasing the third-party software you would have needed anyway for those higher-def movies under Windows 7. CyberLink and Arcsoft cannot be pleased by this.
Update (11/03/12): We posted an addendum to this review that clarifies what the Media Center and Pro Packs do. Check out Windows 8: Clarifying Codecs, Compiling, And Compatibility for more.
Fortunately, Microsoft is throwing in the Media Center Pack for anyone purchasing Windows 8 Pro during its introductory promotion period. After that, it'll cost $10.
Next up is the Windows 8 Pro Pack. This upgrades Windows 8 to the Pro edition with Media Center capabilities. The Windows 8 Pro Pack is supposed to sell for $70.
Now, before we get into the Windows 8 installation and setup process, let's take a quick peek at the systems I've been running in preparation for this review.
- Meet Microsoft Windows 8
- System Requirements, Upgrade Paths, SKUs, And Pricing
- Test Systems And Software
- Installing And Setting Up Windows 8
- Windows 8 UI Basics
- Windows 8 Start Screen
- Charms Bar
- App And Navigation Bars
- Gestures, Text Selection, And Copy/Paste
- Two Keyboards: One Virtual, One Physical
- Apps: Essentials And Ecosystem
- Apps: Productivity
- Apps: News And Search
- Windows 8 PC Settings
- The Windows 8 Desktop And Task Manager
- Desktop Control Panel
- World's Collide: Windows 8 UI + Desktop
- Tom's Tips To Mitigate Windows 8 UI
- Windows 8: Mistake Or Misunderstood?