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Some people have encountered issues when upgrading to Windows 8.1 Upgrading Your PC for Windows 8.1? Prep It First! Upgrading Your PC for Windows 8.1? Prep It First! Windows 8.1 makes significant changes to Windows 8 and it's a worthy upgrade on any device. How you'll upgrade depends on which version of Windows you're upgrading from. This article has all the details. Read More from their Windows 8 PCs. This isn’t entirely surprising — the best way to upgrade your operating system with the least risk of problems is by performing a fresh install.

Windows 8.1 is a bit different from previous versions of Windows in that people generally get it through an upgrade from the Windows Store. Luckily, Microsoft allows you to download a legal Windows 8.1 ISO file What Are ISO Files & How You Can Create, Use & Burn Them For Free In Windows 7 What Are ISO Files & How You Can Create, Use & Burn Them For Free In Windows 7 ISO files can be created from any CD or DVD you have lying around. They’re called "disc images" because they’re an exact image of a disc. An ISO file contains an exact representation of the... Read More , so you can make your own Windows 8.1 installer disc or USB drive.

This option is rather hidden, as Microsoft wants to encourage everyone to upgrade from the Windows Store within Windows 8. If you’d rather perform a clean install or you just want to upgrade multiple computers without re-downloading the files each time, creating your own Windows 8.1 installation media is a good idea.

Why Perform a Clean Install

If you upgraded to Windows 8.1 and everything seems to work, you’re fine. But you may have upgraded and found yourself running into errors, crashes, and various other problems. Some users have run into such errors when upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 using the Windows Store method, including one of our own writers here at MakeUseOf.

Upgrade installs are more cumbersome than fresh installs because Windows attempts to keep old drivers and settings around and this could create problems. The foolproof solution is to perform a clean install, which will set up a standard Windows 8.1 system from scratch and erase all the old bits of Windows. If the issues you had were due to old settings, drivers, or software, they won’t be around to cause problems along the way.

As this trick gets you Windows 8.1 installation media, it can also be useful if you want to upgrade multiple/ PCs to Windows 8.1 without downloading the Windows 8.1 installer files over and over again on each PC.

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Create Windows 8.1 Installation Media

To get started, visit Microsoft’s Upgrade Windows With Only a Product Key page. Scroll down and click the Install Windows 8 button on the page. Note that you can’t click the Install Windows 8.1 option, yet.

1 install windows 8.1

Run the downloaded .exe file and enter your Windows 8 product key. If you downloaded the Windows 8.1 installer, it will refuse to accept your Windows 8 key — the Windows 8.1 version needs a separate Windows 8.1 key, oddly enough.

2 windows 8 setup product key

After entering your key, the setup assistant will start to download Windows 8 installer files. Close it by clocking the X button at the top of the window.

3 downloading windows 8

Next, click the Install Windows 8.1 button on the page and run the downloaded .exe file.

4 install windows 8.1

The Windows 8.1 setup assistant will immediately begin downloading the Windows 8.1 installer files.

5 download windows 8.1 installation media

When the download completes, select the Install by creating media option.

6 put windows 8.1 on usb or dvd

You’ll be able to create installation media using a USB flash drive with 3 GB or more of space or a writable DVD.

7 choose windows 8 installation media

After this process completes, you’ll have Windows 8.1 installation media you can use to install Windows 8.1 on your PC.

Back Up Your Files First!

Depending on the options you select during installation — whether to format your hard drive or not — your personal files may be deleted during the installation process. If they’re not overwritten, you’ll find them in the C:\Windows.OLD folder after the installation is complete.

Either way, it’s not a good idea to rely on your files sticking around, as it would be very easy to erase them. Create a back up copy of your important files 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More before continuing. You should be performing regular backups, anyway — you wouldn’t want to lose your important files to a hard drive failure.

Using Your Installation Media

To install Windows 8.1 with your installation media, just insert the USB drive or DVD into a computer and restart. The computer should boot from the removable drive and display the Windows 8.1 installer. From here, you can perform a clean install. This will erase all your system files and replace them with a clean Windows 8.1 system, avoiding any problems that can occur during standard upgrade installs.

If the Windows installer doesn’t appear after you insert the installation media and restart your computer, you may need to enter your computer’s BIOS The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults The BIOS Explained: Boot Order, Video Memory, Saving, Resets & Optimum Defaults Your computer’s BIOS (basic input/output system) is the low-level software that starts when you boot your computer. It performs a POST (power-on self test), initializes your computer’s hardware, and passes control over to the boot... Read More or UEFI firmware settings screen and change your boot order, so the computer will boot from the USB or DVD drive.

Is This Really Necessary?

For most people, this process won’t be completely necessary. Windows 8.1 is designed to be installed as an upgrade from the Windows Store within Windows 8, and this works properly for most people on most computers.

If the normal process works properly for you and you don’t want installation media you can re-use on multiple computers, you shouldn’t need to create installation media.

Did you run into any issues while upgrading to Windows 8.1? Leave a comment and share your experience — especially if you ran into a problem and fixed it.

Image Credit: Dell Inc. on Flickr (modified)

  1. jeram
    April 5, 2016 at 8:21 am

    i cant find Install Windows 8 setup please help

  2. Jeane Wimbley
    May 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    I purchased Upgrade to Windows 8 for my other COLLEGE KID saved $100 purchase for his computer that now shows ERRORS at every click, and it cannot go online. Don't remember where I put the install info,a nd now have a basically DEAD machine apparently attacked by a Trojan or virus. Is it time I simply purchase an APPL machine or what? I need HELP before I do something rash like TRASHING that old XP computer upgraded to windows 8 then 8.1

  3. Davros
    April 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    This workaround for W8 users to get an ISO of W 8.1 no longer works I assume ?

    At this stage in the above process :
    > Next, click the Install Windows 8.1 button on the page and run the downloaded .exe file.

    When running that downloaded .EXE, it asks for the windows 8.1 Product Key and obviously I can't go any further

  4. douglink
    April 9, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Attempting upgrade with product key failed as clocking x was blocked by windows or IE by asking if you want to exit so I now have a USB with windows 8.0 on it . My three previous attempts to upgrade by the store failed after applying PC settings reached 88% then gave me continuous circle on my Samsung 11.6" 2gb memory tablet,all this after I tried to install an optional update to windows not realizing it was over 250 mb.

  5. A. Noyed
    February 17, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    As usual, I have a problem with my computer and some *%^$hole tries to use my plight to install crap on my system and screw me around (I defy you to add my comment here) !!!

    Once more I see numerous download links that get me to 'click here to download' or 'remove malware' or 'start download free' or 'fix windows update'. This is not my problem!!! Even your 'Download Windows 8' or 'Download Windows 8.1' are bogus.

    The internet will never become the wonder it can truly become, until cockheads stop abusing peoples trust. If you cannot genuinely give assistance, stop trying to make a fast buck with bogus links and bullshit utilities thaty I don't want and don't need. Thankyou.

    Meanwhile... I am trying to install 8.1, windows goes to the store to download it, says I can have it, says it is downloading it, but just sits there saying it is downloading it ( three days and counting). Looking for help.

  6. DBoudreau
    February 16, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    Yeah. This definitely no longer works unfortunately. I've tried already.

  7. Jeff Yuhas
    February 6, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    This forum is dated but hopefully still active so I can get some guidance. Chris Hoffman's post was perfect since it was the solution to my exact situation. I want to refresh 8.1 to fix some missing files errors (preventing me from going to Windows 10 Technical Preview) so I followed Chris's step by step but it didn't work. I don't have the product key for 8.1 (which I downloaded and installed from Windows store at the time). But, I do have my Windows 8 product key. So I followed Christ steps and cancelled out of the Windows 8 download right after it started and then clicked on Install Windows 8.1. However, then it asked me for the 8.1 product key. It did not start the 8.1 download as in Chris' post. Any help or guidance would be appreciated.

  8. Braynsmith0
    March 31, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I got an error on mounting the ISO file which I got from Microsoft. I followed the steps here: And I am glad that it's finally working for me. This one is also very informative.

  9. Amit
    March 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    The tips on switching between first using version 8 and then switching to 8.1 is ingeneus!! thanks so much..

  10. KDA
    March 25, 2014 at 1:02 am

    my CORRECT product key isn't being accepted. I'm desperate to restart my computer from factory settings and to do that I need this download and it was my last hope. I just want to throw my computer up against the wall and fill it full of buckshot before throwing it onto a bonfire.

    • Chris H
      March 30, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      It's possible that you have a Windows 8.1 key and are trying to install Windows 8, or that you have a Windows 8 key and are trying to install Windows 8.1 -- these have separate product keys for some reason I don't understand.

  11. Pierre
    February 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    If you installed windows 8, and have a media centre key, and used it to add media centre features to windows 8, then upgrade to windows 8.1 via the windows 8 store, will you be able to use that windows 8.1 key after upgrading to do a clean install windows 8.1 and activate it?

  12. Sunny Sidhu
    February 18, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    i can't upgrade to windows 8.1. Every time i try to download it from windows store it says that i don't have administrator privileges to download and asks me to download by logging in as an administrator but i am the only user of the computer so that makes me the administrator. I even checked in the control panel and i am the administrator. I don't understand what is the problem and i need a solution.

    • Tina S
      February 18, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      Sunny, that's a perfect question for MakeUseOf Answers where you are also more likely to get support or a solution.

  13. Anonymous
    January 29, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    When attempting to upgrade from win 8 to 8.1 I got the error message that I needed to be using an account with admin privilages eventhough I was already using that type of account. After trying various suggestions without success i discovered that when I changed the account from a local account to a microsoft account the installation worked fine, therefore it had nothing to do with the account type

  14. Jim
    January 17, 2014 at 10:12 am

    I have a purchased OEM Windows 8 Pro key and yet I get this:

    this product key cannot be used to install a retail version of windows 8

  15. don davidsoin
    January 13, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    my hard drive locked when installing windows 8.1, but I fixed the problem by setting the bios setting back to their default setting. instant fix

  16. ZEK
    January 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    I updated my Windows from Win 7 to Win 8.1 Pro on two laptops (Thinkpad x230 and Asus G74SX). Both laptops show issues when restarting, i.e. a blue screen indicating an error "PAGE_FAULTS_IN_NON_PAGED_AREA". It would then proceed to a restarting loop that would crash again showing the same error once I sign in and would need to restop again. The only way to get out would be to shut the laptop (usually by force through power button) and let it boot up not as part of a restart routine. Both installations used a legal .iso file and installed via POWER ISO. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!! :)

    • Tina S
      January 9, 2014 at 10:43 am

      Wish I could help you, Zek!

      The only thing I can do is refer you to MakeUseOf Answers. Our trusted team of IT experts might be able to help you. Good luck!

  17. Janko
    December 23, 2013 at 11:11 am

    This is amazing! I really disliked that each time with clean install I had to upgrade from win 8 to win 8.1. It was annoying because of the time it needed to upgrade and when I finally get to 8.1, later on, refreshing PC was impossible because boot-able media isn't 8.1 but 8. Thanks a lot.

  18. mm
    December 21, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    installed win 8.1
    are you kidding me ?
    just a start button which brings me back to that same metro interface
    waste of 3.6 Gb
    switch to windows 7

  19. mm
    December 20, 2013 at 9:25 am

    can't even get through the first step
    error message: unloading the box: an unspecified error occured.

  20. Ahmed Dawod
    December 12, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    When I try to write my Acer's pre-installed windows 8 product key I get this message
    "this product key cannot be used to install a retail version of windows 8"
    Is there any workaround for this ?
    I need it badly because I'm trying for more than a month to upgrade from the store with no use.

  21. MR Frustration
    December 9, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Downloaded Windows 8.1 Upgrade and now Internet Explorer and related programs IE" Skydrive will not open. Have run Scan Drive and all recommendations that I can locate. No success in fixing problem. Any Ideas

  22. Pankaj Kumar Tyagi
    December 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    I tried to download 8.1 online on my laptop, but in the bargain lost already loaded version 8. Now I have NONE. I'm desperate, please HELP in recovering window 8

  23. Anonymous
    December 3, 2013 at 1:45 am

    You, good sir, are brilliant.

  24. J. L.
    December 1, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Microsoft sucks!! This is so absurd. I just bought a new HP touchscreen laptop and have to upgrade to 8.1 to use apps like Facebook because it says I need to. So I go to the upgrade and start it and it keeps spitting out some stupid error code and not completing. WTF. So I have to upgrade but it won't let me. I'm soo pissed! This should be much much simpler than they make it. Now reading here I understand I have to jump through MORE hoops just to figure this out. I'm so #%@# tempted to just take the fricking thing back and tell them I don't want it unless it's got Win 7 on the thing. Win 8 sucks!!! This whole thing is a joke....

  25. khalid ali
    November 25, 2013 at 3:48 am

    i cant recover ( refresh or rest ) my windows 8.1 ... i bought windows 8 from as an upgrade to windows 7 through the internet then 8.1 as an update .... i don't have a disc so .... what i can do ....? and please don't tell me buy a disc ... i have paid money for a windows ... not for a thing that lead me to this .... please i need an answer ...

  26. Chris
    November 24, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    How big is the ISO download b t w please ?

  27. Ravi
    November 23, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I have downloaded 8.1 from store..But now I want 8.1 ISO file !!

    Is there any way to download that officially?

  28. Rajan
    November 23, 2013 at 1:51 am

    thanks for your usefull informantion. I have recently upgraded to win 8.1 pro from win 8 pro. Update was fine but the system is hang time and again. for clean installation i have did your method but unfortunatuly though my product key was windows 8 pro, it says online purchase is not available in your country. i have bought win 8 pro dvd pack.
    so anybody can provide me a like to official windows 8.1 64 bit pro ISO file. thank in advance

  29. rizalp
    November 21, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Hi. After creating the installation media, how do I uninstall this app? It's not listed on the Control Panel > Uninstall Program.

    Also, how do I clean any leftover files created when downloading Windows 8?

  30. dekla
    November 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

    oops spoke to soon .downloaded files created iso and the download program told me to write down a serial number to install 8.1 ,,however the number was the same as original for win 8pro ,,after booting from dvd and typing my serial in it said key was rejected....did I miss something

  31. Bob M
    November 19, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Anyone out there know how to get the upgrade for the OEM version of Windows 8 PRO X64 ??

  32. dekla
    November 19, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    this is great I just tried it and it works brilliantly ,well done that man. I have been scouring the net for this since windows 8.1 was made available

  33. Joe Rosenberg
    November 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I used the iso disk to try and upgrade a computer from Win 8 to Win 8.1, but when asked for a key during the upgrade process, the key that I had for Win 8 was not accepted. Any ideas?

    • Tina Sieber
      November 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Check Mike's hack above.

  34. Mike
    November 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    I got my Windows 8.0 Upgrade key to work with a clean 8.1 installation using a similar method to how you get a clean 8.0 installation working with an upgrade key. This worked for me and should work for a standard 8.0 key as well:

    Use an appropriate fake key (e.g. find one on piratebay) for the installation. Once windows 8.1 is installed, open regedit and navigate to


    and change

    MediabootInstall and RetailInstall to 0.

    Then open CMD (as administrator) and change the fake key to your legitimate by typing slmgr.vbs -ipk [key] (e.g. "slmgr.vbs -ipk AAAAA-BBBBB-CCCCC-DDDDD-EEEEE"). Rearm your activation by typing "slmgr /rearm", restart and activate.

    Is this working for anyone else?

    • Tina Sieber
      November 19, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Thanks for sharing your awesome hack, Mike!

      Would love to know whether this works for other people. Please up-vote or leave a comment. Thank you!

    • astro
      November 20, 2013 at 11:13 am

      Further info here:

      Might save messing around on P-bay...

    • Joemama613
      November 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      If your idea of "Use an appropriate fake key (e.g. find one on piratebay) for the installation" would work, meaning if MS would allow the installation to continue, why change the key altogether? I am certainly not advocating pirating software (which this wouldn't be anyway, since you actually have a legitimate key), but my point is, it is probably less work and time to download the update from the Store, than trying to find a "fake" key that will work.

    • Mike
      November 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      You'll need a fake key to get you through the installation, smartypants. The KMS Client Setup keys that astro provided above should work for this purpose (also, it should take you less than a minute to find one on PB) . You will not, however, be able to activate windows with any such key.

      This method is not necessarily meant to shorten the 8.1 upgrade process, but rather to allow you to do a 8.1 clean installation with an 8.0 key.



    • Holly Arnold
      February 1, 2015 at 6:33 am

      i have an issue with win8 install could u email at holly100375@gmail please

  35. gie
    November 19, 2013 at 1:00 am

    where's the product key ?

  36. Daus
    November 18, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Is it bootable??

  37. Spock
    November 15, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    If you have a newly bought system with a preinstalled version of windows 8, then windows setup will highly likely not accept your key, so this article is useless to the masses. They don't regard the keys of preinstalled 8 on the same level as those from a bought version of the OS.
    Microsoft simply do not want too many users saving 8 or 8.1 as an iso or on to disc for fear of increased piracy. What the fools don't realize is that not everyone wants to download over 3GB every time they need to reinstall their OS, and some may revert to piracy as a solution

  38. Satyan B
    November 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    This is nice. Can finally download the 8.1 ISO
    I was wondering though, if the 8.1 installer does not accept the Windows 8 key, will it accept the key when we use the media to install?

  39. dtouch
    November 15, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Thank you! That works.
    I did my 8.1 upgrade successfully from 8.1 preview but lost my entire app installation inclusing desktop apps.
    Maybe I am paranoid.. but I am going for a clean install to avoid any kind of bugs. Anyways I had lost all my app installations from Win 8 preview. So better go for a fresh install rather than an upgrade.

  40. Azhar M
    November 15, 2013 at 4:37 am

    Can the media being used to upgrade Windows 8 Pro to 8.1?

    • Azhar M
      November 15, 2013 at 4:44 am

      Never mind.. I forgot you need to enter the key to download. So it's not usable to other computer.

  41. PK
    November 15, 2013 at 4:16 am

    I meant, should I wait for the IMac touch screen?

  42. PK
    November 15, 2013 at 4:07 am

    I am building a new pc and it worries me that 8.1 has so many issues. Really keen on the Asus Maximus VI Extreme mobo that has a "v" for which I'm guessing means verified for 8.1 ready motherboard according to Asus' website but... the Asus Z87C is the only certified mobo. Advice welcomed on to the least amount of unnecessary future grief regarding 8.1 compatible high end builds. Wanting to cover all large family needs, pc gaming photo & video editing study 3d multiple workstations and monitors. Going all out, not worried about price, figure that it is more cost effective to load up one high end pc than multiple pc's. Researched and I have a build in mind but with all the controversy 8.1 has thrown out there... well ???
    Or what do you think, what for the IMac touch screen?

  43. CB
    November 15, 2013 at 3:36 am

    I did as per instructions and when I tried to do the Win 8.1 Update it asked me for the product key and it would not accept my Win 8.0 key - and yes my key is legal as I purchased it. The reason I would like this update on a DVD is because I live in a rural area and my ISP only provides 1MB download speed and it took me over 6 hours to download the Win 8.1. If my system crashes then I hope that MS will keep this on the 'net so I can waste another 6 hours downloading it!

    • Spock
      November 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm

      It needs to be a purchased version of 8.0, not one preinstalled with a bought pc or laptop. Most keys from a preinstallation won't be accepted. I have a bought acer laptop and the key the system shows doesn't work. Users on other forums have also stated further problems (they can download it and save to disc etc, but they cannot update to 8.1). Personally 8.1 does not seem much of an upgrade anyway, I don't like the app store that win8 uses for metro, too many rip off apps and not enough original titles compared to google play, and I can install a start menu on 8 if I wanted to anytime, with classic shell or start8. I'm not downloading over 3GB just for those features

  44. Alex tan
    November 15, 2013 at 12:23 am

    I've check and surprise to find out most PC sold without windows 8 product key, or any license sticker under Microsoft keyless installation ....

  45. tallguy
    November 14, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    new machine with some programs installed. Spent 3 days talking to Microsoft. They even took control of my computer and could not solve the problem. Fixed the problem myself by doing a "refresh" of the operating system and then it would accept the update to 8.1. Had to re install all programs.
    The system would get to 50% and then start over again, when I checked my ISP usage it had downloaded 66 GB , so wasn't very happy.

  46. shree
    November 14, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    Is this applicable to Enterprise editon too?

    • likefunbutnot
      November 15, 2013 at 3:08 am

      The Enterprise edition is a different ISO that has a different file checksum from the retail media. The enterprise that has the license will have multiple legal ways to obtain that media and there's probably an admin or IT working group responsible for handling internal distribution.

      Enterprise editions can either be made to work with Enterprise keys that authenticate against the same servers that other Windows versions use or they can be configured to talk to an Enterprise Activation Server that essentially just counts the number of active Windows installs for billing purposes. The latter way works a lot better for organizations that are big enough to not have any kind of handle on how many computers they have.

      Long story short: "Enterprise" Windows is a different thing from retail versions and if you're using it, there are people in your organization you can go talk to about getting the media. If you don't have access to it you probably don't actually need it.

  47. Mihovil P
    November 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    i had problem with custom path to skydrive, so be careful with that too.....

  48. whitenight12
    November 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    the Keys im guessing...

  49. Rick Iannotti
    November 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    very informative, but i was wondering how do they prevent this from being used to upgrade more than one computer?

    • likefunbutnot
      November 15, 2013 at 3:20 am

      Each product key can only be activated so many times. The activation code sent to Microsoft includes unique information about the specific hardware where that product key is being used, so it really is tied to a specific machine.

      HOWEVER, every upgrade license of Windows in the history of time can be used to install a full copy of Windows without needing a qualifying operating system to install from. If you have upgrade media and a product key, you're pretty much golden as far as getting a working copy of Windows. When you buy an upgrade copy, you're basically telling Microsoft that you're going to pinkie-swear to not install it on new hardware and Microsoft has no way of telling if that's true or not.

      Also, if you happen to have a product key for a "better" version of the same edition of Windows that you're using, you can do an "Anytime Upgrade" and tell it to use a key you already have. That key is then activated and can't be re-used, but you don't have to completely reinstall Windows just to switch from Home Premium to Professional.

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