Saturday, October 27, 2012

Windows 7 to Windows 8 Pro upgrade is not a straight forward upgrade for all Windows 7 editions.

I decided to buy the Windows 8 Pro upgrade from the Microsoft Online Store this morning. I have an older development machine I’d like to install Windows 8 Pro on. The machine is currently running the trial version of Windows 8 Enterprise Edition which expires after three months. I opened my notebook and went to download. From the first screens presented on the Microsoft Online Store I couldn’t just buy and download Windows 8 Pro and then burn it to a disk. The screens take me through the steps of checking my machine and at this point I decided I’d rather go to Officeworks and buy Windows 8 Pro on special for around $9 more. I’m hoping the special also includes the DVD so I don’t have to spend the time downloading and burning a DVD.

The problem I find with downloading programs is things can and do go wrong. When I support people I take into account people have a range of skills. If things go wrong for me, then they’ll go wrong for others and really, I want people to have the best experience they can, given what technology often puts us through. On a number of occasions when I’ve assisted people who have downloaded their software, they don’t have a copy of their software to reinstall when there is a major problem. This means to fix the problem they have had to buy the software again. In other situations people have lost their product key, or the product key is in their emails on their computer which is no longer working. People should have a copy of their software and their product key stored separately to minimise the chance of having to incur additional costs and delays.

One big surprise for me was the following statement on the Microsoft Online Store.

“If your PC is running Windows 7 Home Basic or Home Premium, your files, programs and settings will easily transfer to Windows 8. If your PC is running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, Windows XP or Windows Vista, you will need to reinstall your programs. Some features such as touch may require a new PC. To check compatibility, visit your PC manufacturer’s website and check out to run the Upgrade Assistant to check for compatibility and get more details on system requirements.”

To me an upgrade is you insert the disk, run the program, the upgrade occurs and you continue working. This is generally relatively easy for anyone who is comfortable working with technology. Having to reinstall all your programs is much more time consuming. You never know if you’ve got all the disks, the licence numbers and even if some of the programs such as drivers will even work. Reinstalling your software can often wipe existing data for some applications and that is pretty scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve often reinstalled Windows and then spent hours downloading and updating drivers for sound cards, video cards and other devices in the computer. An upgrade to a new version of Windows can mean some of your peripheral devices don’t work and may never be able to be used again with your upgraded computer.

What surprised me and I didn’t know, even though I’ve spent numerous hours researching, installed Windows 8 Release Preview, installed Windows 8 Enterprise Edition, and attended a Microsoft day-long seminar, that the upgrade will only work easily with Windows 7 Home Basic or Home Premium. I mostly now support micro and small business clients (as well as home users) and for business I’d always recommend the Pro version of Windows. People buying Home editions would often bring a computer into a large business or government environment wanting to use their computer for work, but couldn’t because it couldn’t connect to their network at work. There were also other features missing in the Home edition. Thus it was safer to purchase the Pro edition of Windows.

Now every one of those computer running the pro edition of Windows 7, will now effectively have to do what is nearly a complete reinstall of their computer. That is a very costly exercise if you are using an IT consultant to upgrade your computers. I wouldn’t upgrade a machine without first doing a review of the machine, determining what programs and data the user has on their machine, performing a backup of their hard disk, and then installing the new operating system, reinstalling all their applications, bringing across their data and then fixing any issues that have been created, such as drivers for hardware or peripherals not working. This could easily be a $300-$500 (or more) cost per machine. I personally find it hard to justify putting that amount of money into an older machine.

Windows 8 is not a simple upgrade anymore and it is now an upgrade you need to think seriously about. If you have to pay $300-$500 to upgrade an older machine, that sum of money could easily go a long way towards the cost of purchasing a new machine. With a new machine at least you know the machine has been designed to run the new operating system. You don’t have to try to fix things that didn’t work in the upgrade. Because your data is still on your old machine you can take your time to migrate your data and applications. I often leave the old decommissioned machine with the client for two weeks just in case something they hadn’t realised the was something on their old machine they needed to be migrated and now doesn’t work on their new machine. Then after that period the old machine can be cleaned and reused in another part of the business.

As an extra tip I don’t generally buy the Office software licence with the machine as that software can only be used with that machine. I purchase the more expensive stand-alone version of the Office. That enables me to use the software on two machines (a desktop and a notebook) and to transfer the software to a new machine. (I’ll need to recheck the licence to see if this still applies.) I’ve had clients who have had their computers stolen. The insurance companies won’t pay for the software and the software is only licensed for the machine that was stolen. The client can’t use the software on the new replacement machine and are thus out of pocket hundreds of dollars. I’ve also confirmed this with Microsoft.

Until today I didn’t realise that only the Home editions of Windows 7 will be a relatively straight forward upgrade exercise. That means for me, the majority of machines could potentially be equivalent to a reinstall and that is a much more time consuming and thus expensive exercise. Many of those who purchased a machine recently running Windows 7 with a $14.99 upgrade to Windows 8, will probably now be regretting they didn’t just wait and buy a new computer and save themselves the time and energy required to upgrade. I’ve recommended that my clients defer purchasing machines until after Windows 8 ships. Retailers who just wanted the sale would have been pushing out machines and not advising clients of the time and effort to upgrade. Consultants who have advised clients to purchase a Windows 7 machine and then to later update may get some agro from their clients. Some consultants would have done this knowingly to obtain additional support work and others would not have known the upgrade wouldn’t be a simple upgrade.

I’m posting this article to all my blogs including my Online Connections blog ( and also each of the JustLocal postcode blogs I maintain, to ensure people I support now know if they are thinking of upgrading to Windows 8, there is more work involved than previously anticipated.

If you’d like to be kept informed with technology related news, most news is posted to my Online Connections blog ( For clients I also provide the MyAnswers solution database where I post problems and solutions I find when working with clients. This enables me to share solutions between clients reducing the costs overall for all clients. You can keep updated on new solutions on the MyAnswers site (  by looking at the Recent solutions posted. I expect to post quite a number of issues and solutions relating to Windows 8.

Kelvin Eldridge
Online Connections
Call 0415 910 703 for computer advice and support.
Servicing Templestowe, Doncaster, Eltham, Templestowe Lower, Lower Plenty, Doncaster East, Montmorency, Bulleen, Warrandyte and Research with no travel or call-out fee. For suburbs outside this area travel time is chargeable.

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