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Windows Phone 8.1 brings a host of desirable updates and improvements to the platform – but waiting until June for the earliest chance of an upgrade is too long for some. Upgrading will give you access to the new Cortana voice-command system, a key reason to get hold of the update as soon as possible. Is there any way of getting the update early?
Is It Safe To Upgrade Now?
Before proceeding, be aware that by installing the Windows Phone 8.1 update, you’ll be voiding your warranty until the full update is issued. Additionally, it will only be the stock version without any enhancements released by your phone’s manufacturer, and there will be no way to revert to the original ROM. There is also an increased chance of some data loss when using the pre-release version of the upgrade on things like contacts, email, videos, photo and apps & games.
Bearing in mind the above, any changes you make to your Windows Phone 8 device are purely in your own hands.
Register As A Developer
In the early days of Windows Phone, developer registration was expensive. Things have come along somewhat since 2010, however, and now you can gain access to developer tools and the preview version of Windows Phone 8.1 without spending a penny.
Head to http://appstudio.windowsphone.com to set your Microsoft account (perhaps a Live, Hotmail, Xbox or Outlook account) as a developer. Setting up the account is free and you could use it to list your own apps for cheap. Creating Windows 8 apps isn’t hard, as shown in our quick guide to Windows Phone App Studio.
Prepping For Windows Phone 8.1
To download the update to your phone you will need at least 3GB of space on your device, so spend some time cleaning up. All of your data and games will be lost, so keep this in mind before proceeding. Backing up can take time, but if you have the automatic backup of photos and movies to your OneDrive active, this shouldn’t be too painful. Before proceeding, ensure your phone is fully charged.
With your device ready for the upgrade, click the My Projects button on the Windows Phone App Studio page then Start new project. Do nothing else with this!
Next, switch to your phone and open the Store, searching for Preview for Developers. Read the details for the app, taking note of the various caveats, some of which we’ve outlined above. Tap Install to proceed.
Ready To Upgrade!
With the app installed, you’ll be ready to begin your Windows Phone 8.1 experience. For the best results, ensure your device is connected to your local wireless network.
Browse to the Preview for Developers app on your phone and launch it, tapping Next before reviewing the additional terms & conditions. When you tap accept, you’ll be prompted to sign in with your Microsoft account.
Once signed in, check the Enable Preview for Developers option and tap done to enroll you in the preview. You’ll be heralded with the message “Success!” – tap done once again to proceed.
Open Settings > Phone update and tap check for updates. The update will download, and then you’ll be prompted to install it. You can choose to postpone or proceed with the install.
Completion takes 5-10 minutes, during which time the device will restart several times. You may also be required to unlock your phone to allow the data migration portion of the upgrade to take place.
Note that the update takes place in several stages, so don’t assume that it has completed when the phone reboots – instead, read the messages carefully, and wait until the final confirmation message is displayed. In total, the process probably takes up to an hour.
You’ll then be ready to use Windows Phone 8.1!
Using Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview
With your Windows Phone 8 device now sporting the developer preview of Windows Phone 8.1, you’ll be able to spend the next few months using the majority of features set to be included in the update before it is widely available.
Among these features is Cortana, the Google Now and Siri rival. Although the standard voice command tool on Windows Phone is adequate, the introduction of Cortana is a big step towards parity with Microsoft’s competitors.
Cortana is currently officially limited to users in the USA.
Other features you might look at are the improved podcast app or setting a Start screen background. You’ll find over 100 enhancements in Windows Phone 8.1, the most important of which we recently covered. You should be aware that many apps will need updating after you have completed the upgrade; some may not work at all.
Will you be upgrading early? Have you run into any problems? Let us know in the comments.