Windows 8.1 is an update to Windows 8, much in the same way that service packs were updates to previous versions of Windows like Windows 7. This major update is completely free to all Windows 8 owners.
Important: This 15-step tutorial will walk you through the entire process of updating your copy of Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. If you have a previous version of Windows (like 7, Vista, etc.) and want to upgrade to Windows 8.1, you'll need to purchase a copy of Windows 8.1 (Windows 8 with the 8.1 update already included).
With that out of the way, I wanted to start this Windows 8.1 upgrade tutorial with a few preparatory steps that you may not see Microsoft or other websites recommend.
The following is an ordered list of tasks you should considering completing prior to starting the update process. These suggestions are based on my years of experience troubleshooting and solving various problems seen during software installations, Windows updates, and service pack installs - all very similar to this Windows 8.1 update:
- Make sure that at least 20% of the space on your primary drive is free.
The Windows 8.1 upgrade process will check to see that you have the minimum space necessary for it to do its business, but here's your chance to make sure there's plenty of wiggle room before being warned about it.
- Apply all Windows updates and then restart Windows 8 after they're done installing, even if you're not prompted to. If you've never checked for updates manually before, you can do it from the Windows Update applet in Control Panel.
Windows Update issues are relatively common. You don't want to find yourself dealing with a problem caused by a tiny security update pushed two months ago during a major operating system update like Windows 8.1.
Important: If for some reason you don't want to install all available Windows updates, please know that you must have KB2871389 installed to ensure that you're offered the Windows 8.1 update in the Store. Apply that update individually via Windows Update or install it manually via the link.
- Restart your computer. In Windows 8, the easiest way to restart is from the power icon, which is accessible from Settings on the charms menu (swipe from the right and then Settings, or WIN+I).
Most computers, especially those with Windows 8 installed, are rarely truly restarted. They often sleep and hibernate, but are seldom shut down and started up from scratch. Doing so prior to updating to Windows 8.1 ensures that Windows 8, as well as your computer's hardware, is starting clean.
- Disable the real-time protection in Windows Defender. You can do this from the Settings tab in Windows Defender, which you can access from the Windows Defender applet in Control Panel.
Tip: It also would be wise to run a Full scan using Windows Defender prior to updating to Windows 8.1. Similar to the Windows updates discussion above, you probably don't want to see the first signs of a virus or other malware just as Windows 8.1 is trying to finish installing.
Note: If you're instead using a third-party antimalware tool, you can find out how to disable the real-time protection in that particular tool using this guide.
Once you've done all the prep work, it's time to move on to Step 2 to start the Windows 8.1 upgrade.