Feeds

Microsoft relents: 'Go ahead, install Windows 8.1 on clean PCs'

Retail media and downloads will no longer be upgrade-only

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Updated Microsoft says that in addition to offering Windows 8.1 as a free update for Windows 8 users in October, it will also be easier for customers to buy versions of Windows 8.1 that don't require an upgrade from a previous edition of the OS.

Redmond launched Windows 8 in October 2012 as essentially an upgrade-only product. "System Builder Editions" of Windows 8 that can be installed on clean hard drives (OEM versions by another name) are available through select online retailers at extra cost, but all of the versions that are offered through retail stores or by direct download can only be used to upgrade existing Windows PCs.

In a blog post on Tuesday, however, Microsoft announced that it will loosen this policy once Windows 8.1 reaches general availability. From that point onward, packaged retail Windows 8.1 DVDs will be "full version software" that can be installed on any computer, whether it has an earlier version of Windows installed or not.

"This shift allows more flexibility for customers in specific technical scenarios and is in response to feedback we've received," Microsoft marketing bigwig Brandon LeBlanc wrote. "It will be easier for those consumers who want to build PCs from scratch, run Windows 8.1 in Virtual Machine (VM) environments, or run Windows 8.1 on a second hard drive partition."

Windows 8.1 retail packaging

Microsoft has toned down its funky retail packaging for Windows 8.1 to better suit its modern style

The retail Windows 8.1 editions will be priced the same as the relative Windows 8 editions were at launch. In the US, that means a Windows 8.1 DVD will cost $119.99, while a Windows 8.1 Pro DVD – which includes additional, business-oriented features such as Workplace Join and Work Folders – will go for $199.99.

A Windows 8.1 Pro Pack DVD, which can be used to upgrade a PC that came preinstalled with Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Pro with Windows Media Center, will retail for $99.99, the same price as the current Windows 8 Pro Pack. Windows Media Center will also still be available as a $9.99 upgrade for Windows 8.1 Pro.

There does appear to be one other reason for the move to full version software, however. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft no longer wants to fuss around with preserving users' applications, files, and settings when they upgrade. While the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant could be used to upgrade systems running XP, Vista, or Windows 7, with varying degrees of data fidelity – only upgrades from Windows 7 preserved everything – that changes with Windows 8.1.

The new retail media can only be used on a clean system or to upgrade a system running Windows 7. Upgrades from XP and Vista are no longer supported; customers running those versions must do a clean install. And even Windows 7 customers should expect to re-install all of their applications after upgrading using the Windows 8.1 retail media. Only their files will be preserved.

If that's not acceptable, customers do still have another option – for the time being, at least. They can buy a retail Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro upgrade today, which will preserve more of their applications, files, and other data, then upgrade to Windows 8.1 through Windows Update when it's released.

Windows 8.1 will be pushed out as a free upgrade to all Windows 8 PCs beginning on October 18, so users of earlier versions could potentially get a good deal if they move now, particularly as retailers liquidate their current stock of Windows 8 media in anticipation of the Windows 8.1 launch. ®

Update

While it's busy readying those Windows 8.1 discs for the retail channel, Microsoft has also made another version of the new OS available to select customers ahead of its formal launch, via the TechNet and MSDN download programs. It shipped the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) builds of Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro through those programs earlier this month; on Tuesday it added Windows 8.1 Enterprise RTM to the list.

Volume Licensing customers with an active Software Assurance (SA) agreement can also access these builds for testing, because they receive a TechNet subscription as part of SA. But although current customers will be able to purchase new Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise licenses through the Volume Licensing Service Center beginning on October 18, Redmond says new customers will have to wait until November 1 to buy them through Volume Licensing resellers.

An updated chart showing the differences between basic Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 Pro, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise is available here.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
Sway: Microsoft's new Office app doesn't have an Undo function
Content aggregation, meet the workplace ... oh
Sign off my IT project or I’ll PHONE your MUM
Honestly, it’s a piece of piss
Return of the Jedi – Apache reclaims web server crown
.london, .hamburg and .公司 - that's .com in Chinese - storm the web server charts
NetWare sales revive in China thanks to that man Snowden
If it ain't Microsoft, it's in fashion behind the Great Firewall
Chrome 38's new HTML tag support makes fatties FIT and SKINNIER
First browser to protect networks' bandwith using official spec
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.