Upgrading to Windows 8.1: Your new OS survival guide

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If you’re upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 8.1, the installation process will be slightly different from the Windows 8 procedure: You’ll need to enter your name and license key, naturally, and indicate on what drive or partition you’ll want to install Windows 8.1. Make sure you have at least 16GB of disk space available for the 32-bit version of Windows 8. Vista users may be able to run a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. Microsoft’s guide will help you determine this, or our notes in the Windows 7 section, above, may answer your questions. Chances are, however, that you own a 32-bit system.

After Windows 8.1 is installed, your system will reboot. At this point, you’ll be offered a few options to personalize your device, including the colors and themes of your Start screen. You’ll also be offered the option to choose either an “express” Settings configuration, or click through and select various options. We’d suggest the latter: Some useful preselected “express” choices, including downloading Windows updates automatically, are mixed in with preselected options that absolutely require you to use Bing’s search results, for example. (Read carefully: you'll be asked whether you want to provide your location and a unique advertiser ID that Microsoft and its partners can use to help tailor ads.)

If you are an active user of, then you already have a Microsoft ID.

Finally, enter your Microsoft ID and password. Voilà! You’re done. And if you’re wondering what to do now, use our Ultimate Windows 8 Starter Guide as a reference document to steer you through Microsoft’s new OS.

Troubleshooting and next steps

If everything looks good, you’re golden. But if you do run into issues, consider the following support options: Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 support forums are a good place to start, with advice contributed by other users as well as Microsoft gurus themselves. Microsoft will also be hosting an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. (PT) on Oct. 17, plus a special Twitter chat (hashtag: #winchat) from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. (PT) the same day.

And now that you’re running Windows 8, a whole new world is open to you. Welcome! Come on in and poke around.

How did the process go? Any problems? And how do you like Windows 8.1? Tell us your experiences in the comments.

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