Beginner’s Guide to Migrating from Windows XP to 8.1

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You may have held out and still not upgraded from your Windows XP OS and if that’s the case, time is running out, as Microsoft is pulling support for the OS on April 08 2014. Microsoft has released several patches to fix many of the common Windows 8/8.1 bugs and the tech company has also given Windows 8 users a free upgrade. This is limited though and if you are still using an earlier version of the OS, then the steps to upgrade are slightly more difficult.

Let’s have a look at the options and really get to grips with how to upgrade from the XP era to Windows 8.1.

Some of the general benefits to upgrading to Windows 8.1 are:

  • Access to the Windows Store
  • Tiled start screen
  • Microsoft account

The newest OS also offers enhancements in personalisation, search, Store apps, and cloud connectivity. This is on top of the usual tools and programs that you would expect Windows to contain.

So before you begin…

Unfortunately upgrading from XP is not as simple as it is from later Windows versions. It is not, however, impossible. The first step is to purchase Windows 8.1 and perform a clean installation; you can do this directly from the Microsoft website. This simply means that you have to start from scratch. Your PC will be wiped clean and no files, setting, or programs will be retained when you upgrade. So before you begin, back up everything that you want to keep. If you don’t do it now you’ll lose anything that is left on the PC during the installation.

Windows 8.1 is not optimised for installation on PCs running Windows Vista or Windows XP, so before you splash out here are some considerations to make sure upgrading is the right choice for you.

Consider your system requirements

You can do this manually or you can use some tools that Microsoft has provided. The tech giant recommends that you run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, as this will let you know if your PC is capable of running the OS. The Windows 8.1 system requirements are nearly the same as Windows 8, so if your PC can handle Windows 8, in most cases, you can get the free upgrade to Windows 8.1. The Upgrade Assistant tool will double check that your favourite programs are compatible with an upgrade and helpfully provide a free compatibility report.

Microsoft highly recommends reviewing your PC’s specifications carefully and consulting the manufacture’s website for information about updated drivers and hardware compatibility. You want to upgrade your OS, but it’s important to retain the functionality that you currently enjoy. Make sure that the upgraded OS fits your requirements.

Here is a brief summary of the Windows 8 system requirements.

You’ll need a processor of 1 gigahertz or faster

Most recent PCs and really, most from the past few years shouldn’t have a problem with this one. It is a pretty low-end specification and one that you probably don’t need to worry about.

You’ll need 1 gigabyte of ram for the 32-bit version and 2 GB for the 64 bit version

Again this is not a particularly high-end specification. It’s likely that your PC is equipped for both of the versions mentioned. The difference between the 32 and 64 bit versions is to do with the way that a computers processor handles information. The 64 bit version can handle larger amounts of information more effectively that the 32 bit one.

You’ll need free hard drive space, 16gb (32-bit) or 20gb (64-bit)

More low specifications here and it’s more than probable that you have enough space on your HDD to run the OS.

You’ll need a graphics card with DirectX 9 with WDDM driver

DirectX 9 has been around for some time and again, it’s likely that your current PC, if not completely archaic, is optimised for Windows 8. Use the diagnostic tool linked above if you are still unsure and double check.

If you have consulted your PC and found that it cannot run Windows 8.1, but your heart is set on upgrading then it may be worth buying a new computer. Microsoft has provided abuying guide and it means that you can skip all the hassle of installing an OS. New PCs will come with Windows 8.1 preinstalled and ready to go out of the box.

A couple of thoughts before you splash out

If you don’t have enough hard drive space for the OS you may be able to free some up. There is more info from Microsoft on how to do this here.

You need touch input hardware to experience the touch capabilities in Windows 8.1, although this is not necessary to use the OS in general. If you already have touch input capabilities and you want to see if they are compatible with W8.1 then you can check themulti touch requirements here.

See what works

We have already discovered the helpful Microsoft tool that ensures that you know if your programs and devices are compatible with the upgrade. However, you can check it yourself and if you have a specific program or device, you can visit the Windows Compatibility Centre, ask on a forum, or consult the program or device manufacturer.

Windows is pretty good with backwards compatibility and most programs created for an earlier version of Windows should run on 8.1. However it’s worth noting that some programs may run poorly and some may not run at all. There are options to fix compatibility issues and for more information on this you can visit Microsoft’s page, getting your applications and devices working in 8.1.

Note that a lot of things come with Windows 8.1. Drivers for basic device functionality are available “in box” meaning that they come as part of the Windows Disk Image. These drivers are for storage, networking, input, and display and will allow you to complete the Windows installation and connect to the internet. This way you can get more drivers if necessary from Windows Update, from the device manufacture once online, and this means that you can have functionality early on.

For more information see downloading and installing drivers.

Back up your data

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to back up everything you want to save, as the installation will wipe your hard drive. Any files, settings, or programs must be saved on an external hard drive, disk, or using a cloud storage service. This means that once you have installed 8.1 you can retrieve your saved items and use them immediately.

When you are backing your information up, make sure that the tools you are using have enough space to hold everything you want to save. In terms of cloud storage Skydrive is a good option to consider. However, there are plenty of free services available such as Google Drive and Dropbox, to name a couple.

Once Windows 8.1 is installed, it’s important to remember that any programs you wish to reinstall will need their purchase information. If you have a hard copy of the program on a disk, reinstall it that way; however, if you downloaded the software from the internet make sure that you have a purchase confirmation email to hand.

For Windows Live Mail, or the version of Windows Mail that comes with Windows Vista, you can import email messages and contacts by using the Mail Migration add-on. Note that this will be imported into Outlook.com. Use this link to find out how to import email from a desktop app to Outlook.com.

One other note

Personal files can still be restored after Windows 8.1 is installed as those files are saved to the Windows.old folder. It’s worth finding out more information about retrieving files from the Windows.old folder. Make sure to back everything up still and don’t rely on features over peace of mind.

Buy Windows 8.1

If you’re happy that your PC satisfies the basic requirements for upgrading to 8.1 then the next step is to buy the installation or download it. If you want to compare prices visit thislink to help you choose which version of the OS to purchase.

When you get the installation DVD you’ll notice two versions – the 32-bit and the 64-bit. We have already discovered that they relate to how much CPU is used, but now it’s worth checking to see which version will run best on your PC.

Check and see if your PC is capable of running the 64-bit version, if not install the 32-bit one, by following these steps.

Click Start

Right click on My Computer, then click Properties

If “x64 Edition” is listed under system then your processor is capable of running a 64-bit version of Windows.

Good to go

So now you have the installation disk, the product key, and the knowledge of the system requirements. Upgrading to a new OS shouldn’t be a headache and if you ensure that your PC is able to run 8.1 before hand the installation should be simple enough. Simply insert the disk and follow the on screen instructions.

It is worth remembering to plug in your tablet or laptop, if that’s what you are using, as the installation can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours. It all depends on your internet connection, PC and other factors that might make the installation take longer than expected.

Once Windows 8.1 is installed you’re all set to start using the new OS. Have a good look around, explore, and get used to the new features.

Of course, for enterprises and business networks, this procedure is going to be more complex, but it’s still possible to migrate and it should be done now. The security risks that not migrating exposes a company to far exceeds the cost of upgrading, especially if you need to be regulation compliant (such as for PCI DSS).

Need to upgrade but not tech-savvy? Or perhaps you have a small business and need to get all of the computers on your network migrated? Whatever your needs, Quadratek support can help, so get in touch for additional peace of mind that we’ve got you covered.