In this article I'll walk you through the entire Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 upgrade procedure using the Windows Store.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Windows 8, the System Repair disc is the same as the Recovery Drive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.