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Some people have encountered issues when upgrading to Windows 8.1 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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Next, click the Install Windows 8.1 button on the page and run the downloaded .exe file.
The Windows 8.1 setup assistant will immediately begin downloading the Windows 8.1 installer files.
When the download completes, select the Install by creating media option.
You’ll be able to create installation media using a USB flash drive with 3 GB or more of space or a writable DVD.
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 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 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)