Step-by-step: Update to Windows 8.1 through the Windows Store

Greg Shultz walks you through the entire Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 upgrade procedure using the Windows Store.

As I described in Get the ISO you need to create your own Windows 8.1 DVD, if you have more than one Windows 8 system that you need to update to Windows 8.1, you'll want to download a Windows 8.1 ISO image that you can use to update multiple systems. However, if you are running Windows 8 on a single machine and want to update to Windows 8.1, you can do so using the free upgrade procedure via the Windows Store.

In this article I'll walk you through the entire Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 upgrade procedure using the Windows Store.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Creating a System Image

As you may have heard, the Windows 8.1 upgrade is supposed to be a simple and safe procedure and that has been my experience so far. However, some people have encountered problems and so, just to be on the safe side, I recommend that you create a complete backup image of your hard disk using the Windows 7 File Recovery tool. That way, if anything out of the ordinary were to occur as perform the upgrade, you will be able to return to your current configuration using the System Image Recovery procedure.

To launch the Windows 7 File Recovery tool, use the [Windows] + W keystroke to access the Search Settings page. Then, type Windows 7 File in the text box and click Windows 7 File Recovery in the results panel, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A


Accessing the Windows 7 File Recovery tool from the Start screen is easy.

In a moment, you'll see the Windows 7 File Recovery user interface and you should select the Create a system image command on the left side of the screen to launch the creation tool. On the first screen you will need to choose where you are going to create a system image. For example, you can create the system image on a set of DVD discs, as illustrated in Figure B.

Figure B


You can create the system image on a set of DVD discs.

When you click Next, you'll be prompted to confirm your backup settings. When you are ready, just click the Start backup button and Windows will begin preparing for the operation. As it does you, you will be prompted to label and insert the first DVD disc. This process is illustrated in Figure C.

Figure C


When you click the Start backup button, you'll be prompted to insert a blank DVD disc.

Once you insert the blank disc, you'll be prompted to format it before the backup actually begins. Then, once the backup operation gets under way, you'll see progress indicators letting you know the status of the operation. When the System Image creation procedure is complete, you'll be prompted to create a System Repair disc, as shown in Figure D. However, as you may remember, a System Repair disc is the same as the Recovery Drive and if you have already created a Recovery Drive, you can just click No and you will be notified that the backup completed successfully.

Figure D


In Windows 8, the System Repair disc is the same as the Recovery Drive.

Also read: Get the ISO you need to create your own Windows 8.1 DVD

Downloading the Windows 8.1 installer

With your system image backup tucked way, the next step is to download the Windows 8.1 installer. To do so, go to the Windows Store from the Start screen and access the Windows 8.1 download screen, shown in Figure E.

Figure E


The Windows 8.1 update is available from the Windows Store.

When you click the Download button, the download operation will begin. Once it gets underway, you'll see the process advance, as illustrated in Figure F. Keep in mind that the download is almost 4GB and so may take a while depending on your Internet connection speed.

Figure F


The download process can take a while depending on your internet connection speed.

Once the download is complete, you will see a message similar to the one shown in Figure G, which will prompt you to restart your system. To continue, just click the Restart button. Once the system restarts, the first stage of the Windows 8.1 setup procedure will commence.

Figure G


Once the download is complete, you will be prompted to restart your system.

Setup - stage 1

Once the download is complete and the system restarts, the installation procedure will begin, and you'll see a screen similar to the one that I encountered on my Dell laptop, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H


Once the system restarts, the installation procedure will begin.

As you can see the first screen indicates that setup is getting underway. You'll see this screen for a little while but the message will change as the installation progresses. Of course there will be a couple of restarts. For example, on my test system the next message was Getting devices ready, which was then followed by Getting ready, and Applying PC settings. Finally, the screen shown in Figure I appears.

Figure I


Just a few more things to do.

Once these last few things are taken care of, your system will restart again.

Setup - stage 2

As soon as your system reboots, you'll be prompted to accept the Windows 8.1 license terms and will see a screen similar to the one shown in Figure J. As you can see, this is an OEM license for Windows 8.1 between me and the computer manufacturer, which in this case is Dell.

Figure J


This shows an OEM license from Dell.

After you click OK on the License terms screen, you'll see a Settings screen like the one shown in Figure K. Your best bet is to just click the Use express settings button. When you do, it appears as though Setup just uses your existing settings. Of course, if you want to change your settings go ahead and click the Customize button.

Figure K


You'll want to click the Use express settings button.

On the following screens, you'll be prompted to enter your Microsoft Account password, specify your backup email account and then enter the security code that will be sent to you via your backup email account. Once you enter the code, you'll see the screen shown in Figure L that prompts you to use SkyDrive, which is deeply integrated into Windows 8.1.

Figure L


SkyDrive is deeply integrated into Windows 8.1.

You'll then see a series of screens that change color while they inform you that settings are being configured. You'll then see a screen, like the one shown in Figure M, which informs you that your previously installed apps are being reinstalled. Keep in mind that some third-party apps may only have a tile on the Start Screen. Just click the tile and the app will be completely reinstalled.

Figure M

Your apps will be reinstalled.

Finally you will see the new transparent Start Screen that allows you to see your desktop wallpaper in the background, as shown in Figure N.

Figure N


When the installation is complete, you'll see the new transparent Start Screen.

What's your take?

Have you installed the Windows 8.1 upgrade? If so, what has been your experience? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:


Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.


I tried to update to Windows 8.1 through the store, but when I restart, it does what it should, but never prompts me to accept the terms and reverts to Windows 8. Can someone help?


I just received a brand new Dell E6440 laptop with no operating system installed. I built a Windows 8.1 Update 1 ISO DVD and tried rebooting the new laptop after configuring the BIOS to "boot from CD/DVD".

I get the error “Selected boot device failed. Press any key to reboot system.” And then “An operating system wasn’t found. Try disconnecting any drives that don’t contain an OS.”

The ISO DVD I built works fine with my old DELL 6400. That is, I can open up the disk with File Explorer and see the ISO file burned on there.

There are a lot of boot options in the BIOS of the new E6440 machine, but of course I’d expect the default settings to work here.

Any ideas on how to get this to work?


I had Win 8 but not fully in use. This was to be a new system to migrate the old XP data to. Yes there are some data files and applications installed. I decided to upgrade to 8.1 before putting into full use. Unfortunately I did not make back up before the download then it was too late. I expected a download only. Then I was forced to create a email log in which I avoided in Win 8. I didnt see an option not to. Now I know they hide these opt outs in out of the way blue on blue.  I decided to keep the 2 users but am struggling to associate the log ins with the actual user folders. They seem to be opposite. Trying to share Documents between the users is difficult and installing applications for all users does not seem to be a snap.  Now McAfee is starting to freeze on updates and scans. I am closer to installing Win 7 each day.


upgrade to 8.1 freezes in the store a 4%. Tried several times and even re-booting don't help.


Upgraded my brand new HP Pavilion 11-e015nr 11.6" Touch-Screen Laptop with no problems, after 1st doing all 60+ Win 8.0 upgrades as advised above.  Took about 2 hours for the 8.0 ones, and another 2 hours for 8.1.  

I was already a Hotmail user, and I ended up with my Hotmail password being the computer's password.


when i upgrade to window 8.1 then my install application will be return back with data ... or not


Upgraded two machines (desktop & laptop) from Win 7 to Win 8.1.

First problem: did this using Win8.0 keys that I purchased early this year during the $39 sale.  Unfortunately, I kept getting an error until MS rep told me I had to upgrade to 8.0 first using those keys and THEN 8.1.

Second issue:  could not make a Win8.1 ISO because I could not get it to download with the 8.0 keys.  Now have a Win 8.0 installation ISO that my Win8.1 system does not recognize.

One week later:  My desktop is not working correctly.  My data disk (d: drive, where most of my documents are located) is constantly running at 100 percent now and brings everything to a standstill.  Note: am using an SSD for my system drive.  Tried to run "refresh" system, but Win8.1 wants the INSTALLATION disk not the recovery files that I put on my USB.  Says I have "missing files" but won't say what they are.  Alas, spent an hour last night with MS rep and ended up purchasing the Win8.1 "backup" disk for $15.

Bottom line:  I like Win8.1 when it works, but right now am not too happy while my document drive spins happily at 100 percent for no known reason (yes, I've gone through the twenty or so online suggestions to no avail.

That's my experience....


hi greg, i need help so bad regarding with my windows 8.1 pro upgrade i just want to go back to windows 8 pro without reformating. is there any other option to return to previous version of windows 8?.. i did not create a recovery image thats why i can't do a system restore. please help.

Rob McCabe
Rob McCabe

Not worth the time it took to download and install. Printing to dot matrix printers now doesn't work (it prints but prints the whole page in the top left corner). Menu cluttered as before but now it can be cluttered alphabetically.


I imprison Windows 8 in its own partition, where it can't annoy my Windows 7.
I updated 8 to 8.1.  It went smoothly.
Afterward, I noticed my backup program (Macrium Reflect) had decided to do "full" backups, instead of "differential".
Turns out, the update from Windows 8 to 8.1 had split my Windows 8 partition into two partitions.

Chris Gravell
Chris Gravell

Microsoft killing the desktop off... what will businesses use? Something that is flexible and caters for their needs? Yup, Win7, Linux, Apple OS or anything that isn't made specifically for touch-screen.

Matt Scott
Matt Scott

I like it. I'm an IT Pro with a beastly laptop, it installed in about 10 minutes.

Julian White
Julian White

Better, but a few people incl. myself have flipped when it's been sitting on a black screen for a few mins on startup, only to find it was installing an update


Did you folks see that it took 5 pages of text  and examples to explain how to update a crappy windows 8 operating system.   .  then all the pleas for help after doing so?    Again leave it to Microsoft and Apple to make using a basic home computer a real nightmare.  I am 58 yrs old and cannot believe why a company that controls our vary lives daily would make so much craziness by developing a operating system that you have to drill down and spend hours to simply install a new program or update stuff  .  Bill Gates are  you paying attention?  Stop with giving away all your money for a week and  tell your developers to make it easy and simple not all these crazy apps and pages   All i want is an app  first up on the windows screen   that i can click and download  new software and another that i can download your updates and another to Uninstall all that crap that is all over the place   Its confusing and messy.

Juan C Reyes
Juan C Reyes

IE 10 stops responding vs Chrome is fine


downloaded windows 8.1... but after restart no page to accept terms and conditions is being displayed and it is going back to windows 8... what is the problem.. cnt judge.. can anybdy help pls...


First update Windows  8 to 8.1 via the Windows Store  on brand new HP 250 G1 laptop 3 weeks ago, no problem. One week later another new, exact same model... update attempt failed with error message 0xc1900101 - 0x30018. followed by System Restore back to Win 8. Note: all updates initiated on Win 8 first.

My google search pointed Ralink wireless issue. When Ralink RT3290 is removed update to Win 8.1 was successful.

Chat session with HP support response:

"[Wednesday, November 13, 2013 6:33 PM] -- Imran P says:

Neil, As per the serial number i see that HP 250 G1 Notebook is completely not tested with windows 8.1 & we have limited drivers released in Hp website."

Meanwhile my work around: leave as Windows 8, installed ClassicShellSetup


Remember this if you don't want to spend days trying to find out why the 8.1 upgrade won't load from the Store.

That's 1 3 8 9.  Some of the posts above transpose the 3 & the 8.(edit, I just did the same thing).

I kept thinking that I had installed something that was incompatible or picked up a malware of some sort.  So I ended up restoring 8.0 from the backup I made after setting the machine up the first time.  It still wouldn't work because the above upgrade didn't install automatically.  I had to go digging for it.  Now I am trying to get it back the way it was before the restore.


I've upgraded 3-4 systems for myself and friends. Based on this experience,if you start with a new Windows 8 system or installation you must first go to Windows Update and install all the outstanding important (not so much optional) updates before the 8.1 tile will show up in the MS Store.  On my 'new' Dell laptop with Win 8 I had over 80 important updates that had to be installed first.  Then the 8.1 upgrade went fine but there were 'important updates' to be done after the upgrade was completed.

It is possible to install or at least run later w/o a MS account.  If you don't have one create a Google 'throwaway' account and use that email address with MS.


THAT was NOT my experience. Due to M$s new DUMB-DUMB strategy, when you land on a cone color screen with a big blob of something on it and nothing responds to a click or swipe or keypress, you are IN the Microsoft Experience.

I d not apparently heard that a "Microsoft Account" can be just about anything else - but having never been told that, I had no idea my live account was in fact a "Microsoft Account" - let's be honest - they call it that because they do not know what to call it, and keep CHANGING it.

So I gave them my regular email and a stupid name as I had no intention of using it again - stupid, stupid me.

So when it cam to the store I was locked out - pretty hard to update the house when you can't get in! I had already loaded it with software of my own - you know the stuff that still comes on plastic media? However, now locked out of everything the laptop was useless other than as a doorstop.

I had to reinstall EVERYTHING, and then start all over again.

So I really have never been more angry at an inanimate object than I was at a screen with just a stupid t do anything.

My mouse wheel moves the display SIDEWAYS! Idiotic! Totally opposite of what almost 50 years of up/down, these moronic idiots decide it should suddenly go the other way?

Their hubris and total disregard for the purchasers is what I hate most about M$. They try to make me feel stupid, and they succeed, and therefore I can only give back disgust, disappointment and no respect for any company that treats its customers with as much disregard and lack of value.

This is MY OS now, get the hell out! Your stupid "security" log on on MY OWN PC is an affront to my freedom and my rights to own my own stuff and use it the way I want to.

M$ is headed to Hell and I hope I get a ringside seat.

That's my Windows 8 experience updating to 8.1!


I just got an Alienware PC and it came with windows 8 on it, I have checked the store for windows 8.1 but couldn't find the download page for it. All I could find were guides and I had to use the search for that. Is there anything you recommend I should do?


Most useful walkthrough. I am holding off upgrading my various systems for another few weeks.


Thanks for the detailed walk through! I have been waiting for that. I have two questions:

1. Would using the 8.1 DVD (rather than the download process from the store) produce any significant changes in your walk through (other than the fact that you are skipping the store download once you already have the ISO)?

2. Is the DVD produced by the download from the MS store any different from the DVDs distributed to Enterprise customers (who cannot by definition download their updates from the store) assuming that we are talking about the same Windows 8.1 Pro version?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Have you upgraded to Windows 8.1 yet? What keeps you from taking that step? I updated through the Store on several PCs without incident - what problems have you encountered?


I am 67 years old and i found it easy as abc so stop whingeing young fella and get on with it...

guys like you really piss me off because you think its so easy to build complicated technology.. Its not.. Get a life, if you cant cope then go get an abacus and pen and paper...


You really are stupid and dumb... If you cannot do a little bit if reading beforehand to see what you need then you only have yourself to blame... Its nit your os ... You have licensed it... Don't want it go elsewhere...


@AxelFound Did you ever find a solution ?

I have just got a new Alienware and I can't see 8.1 either


@Mark W. Kaelin A user can not upgrade Windows 8 which is installed to a VHD.  Microsoft will not let you do this and has no plans to let you do this.  I have Windows 8, and Windows 7 installed on VHDs.  I had to re-install Windows 8 onto my HDD as a native OS, then upgrade to Windows 8.1.  So, now I have 8, 8.1, and 7.  I uninstalled KB 2871839 from my Windows 8 installation to get rid of the constant upgrade reminder.

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