Reader question: How to Upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8

Regular DCT reader Holly Martin wants to know if she can upgrade her Windows 7 machine to Windows 8 and then go back if she doesn’t like the new operating system:

Hi! I have a dell m-5040 with windows 7 home premium, and am wanting to upgrade to windows 8 pro. I am only semi computer literate, but a fast learner, and i was wondering where i could find DETAILED STEP BY STEP instructions for what I need to do from start to finish to do this, esp about what to do with windows 7. I would like to have the option of uninstalling win8 and going back to win7, also, i don’t have any special or odd things on my computer, it is strictly for personal use, (email, games, etc) if you could point me in right direction, i would appreciate it!!

Well Holly, here goes:

The first thing you need to know is that an ‘Upgrade’ by its very nature completely replaces the previous operating system. Once you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8 there is no easy way to go back to what you had previously; including all your installed programs, settings, etc. However, you can re-install Windows 7 over Windows 8 using Windows 7 installation media; either the original Windows 7 installation disc or download the ISO file and burn to DVD… same result. The main thing is that you must have a genuine Windows 7 product key, which you would have. Of course, a ‘clean’ install means you will be starting from scratch again with a fresh operating system. You will then need to re-install all your programs, setup email accounts, download updates, etc.

Also, I believe most all Dell PCs include a recovery partition which can be utilized to restore the system back to factory settings (the way it was when you first got it). This would be the simplest, easiest method for you to go back to Windows 7 but, again, this will have you starting off from scratch with a fresh operating system.

Or, if you wanted to go back to Windows 7 exactly the way it was immediately prior to performing the upgrade; you could first create a full system image of your Windows 7 installation, which would include installed programs, all settings and configurations, plus any personal data which is stored on the system drive (usually ‘C’ drive). In other words, a full copy of everything contained on the system (‘C’) drive. You would create the image and save it on external media, preferably an external hard drive. Then, if you don’t fancy Windows 8 and want to go back to Windows 7, all you need do is restore the image and… voila, back to where you started.

So, although the upgrade process will erase the older operating system, you still have plenty of options that will get you back to Windows 7.

Now for the Upgrade process itself:

The very simplest method is to download the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, you can do that here: (click on the blue “Download Upgrade Assistant” button). The Upgrade Assistant will scan your system for hardware and software compatibility and then take you through the download and installation process.

Double click on the downloaded Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant file to run, same as you would when installing downloaded software. The Upgrade Assistant will now take you through the following steps:

Compatibility check: This will scan your system for compatibility and then present you with a list of installed programs which are compatible with Windows 8 plus those which aren’t. You don’t need to do anything here, it is just an advisory to let you know which Windows 7 programs can be carried over and which cannot. (The hardware in your Dell M5040 will run Windows 8, no problem).

windows 8 upgrade 1

Choose what to keep: Here, you are presented with three options. I would assume most Windows 7 users would elect to go with “Windows Settings, personal files, and apps.” This is the option which will transfer the most data from your old system over to Windows 8 and should be enabled by default. Make sure that option is enabled and then click Next.

windows 8 upgrade 2

Recommendation and purchase: Now you can purchase and download your Windows 8 Pro upgrade. Just click on “Order”:

windows 8 upgrade 3

And you will see the following screen. If you would like to also purchase a physical installation disc, place a checkmark in the box adjacent to “Windows DVD”. Otherwise just click on “Checkout” (NOTE: you can easily create your own installation DVD later on in the process):

windows 8 upgrade 4

(*Price displayed for the DVD may be relevant to Australia – yours may vary)

Now you’ll be taken through the ordering/purchasing process:

windows 8 upgrade 5

Enter the required information and click Next. In the following screen you will be asked to select your preferred method of payment (either Credit card or PayPal):

windows 8 upgrade 6

Click Next and, depending on which payment option you select, follow the instructions. Obviously I can’t provide screenshots for the remainder of this process (I don’t really need another Windows 8 upgrade at this time :)). Once your payment has been processed and confirmed you will be presented with a Product key.

*You should write down the product key number but it is not imperative at this point; a receipt will also be emailed to you (at the email address you provided during the ordering process). The email will contain all the information you need, including your order number and your product key number.

Click Next and your download will now begin; you’ll see “Downloading Windows 8” with a progress percentage and estimated time to completion. When the download has completed, the setup program will verify the integrity of the downloaded files to make sure that they are not corrupted (*this may take a while). When it is done verifying the files, we finally get to the most important part, “Install Windows 8“. You will be presented with 3 options:

windows 8 upgrade 7

  • Install Now: This option will begin the upgrade process straight away. Select this option if you are ready to proceed immediately.
  • Install by creating media: Selecting this option will provide methods for creating bootable installation media; either USB flash drive or ISO. If you wish to create you own installation DVD you should select this option and then ISO. The ISO will be created and saved to your hard drive, you can then burn the ISO to DVD.
  • Install later from your desktop: Places an installation shortcut on the desktop. Double click the shortcut and the “Install Windows 8” screen will open again; simply select “Install now”. I guess this for for those who wish to give it further consideration?

The installation process for Windows 8 is fairly straightforward, just follow the prompts.

**Two important things to keep in mind:

  • The upgrade process is supposed to be non-destructive; that is, all personal data (photos, music, documents, videos, etc) should be retained.  However, there is always an element of risk involved; if you have any important personal data stored on the system (‘C’) drive, you should back that up to external media prior to commencing the upgrade installation.
  • I haven’t any personal experience with this but the general consensus is that you should uninstall any security software prior to commencing the upgrade installation. Apparently, installed security software (anti-virus and/or firewall) can cause issues during, or after, the upgrade.

Holly, I hope that helps clarify. I’m sorry I couldn’t go right through, step by step, and provide screenshots for the entire process. But there should be enough information here to help guide you through. If not, and you have any questions, please feel free to ask away via the comments.

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About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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