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How to upgrade to Windows 8.1

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Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1

The Windows 8.1 is here, and it addresses several criticisms frequently levelled at Windows 8. But how do you get the thing installed? It's a very simple process, but here's how you do it.

For current Windows 8 users
The first thing we recommend is to make sure you backup any critical data. Chances are nothing will go wrong – these aren't the days of Windows 95 – but between updates is a particularly vulnerable time for a computer.

Next, you need to go to the Windows Store. It'll be on your Start screen, and its icon is a shopping bag. Don't worry, Windows 8.1 is a free update so you won't have to lay down any money to get it.

One the front page of the Windows Store, you should see a banner letting you know that Windows 8.1 is available. Just click on the download link that's part of the banner and the update should start downloading.

It's a hefty download so will take a while, but the program will take it from there.

Alternatively, go to the Windows Update website and you'll be able to download a Windows upgrade assistant program that'll do the job for you.

For users of other Windows versions
Windows 8.1 is only free to current Windows 8 users. If you're using Windows 7, Vista, XP or – god forbid – Windows 3.1, you'll need to acquire a Windows 8 license to get up and running with the new software.

The new version of Windows can be downloaded directly from the Microsoft online store, where it'll cost you £99.99, or £189.99 for the Pro version. There are ways to get it a bit cheaper, though.

Students can buy a license direct from Microsoft for £49.99, or you can get a license from elsewhere. Like any product, deals come and go, but at the time of writing Amazon offers an upgrade license for £60. A search on eBay comes up with licenses from reputable sellers for about £55. However, we would recommend sticking to established 'business' sellers if you're going to opt for an auction site deal.

If you acquire one of these product keys, though, you can't go down the traditional upgrade routes we've already mentioned – those will try and make you buy Windows 8 from Microsoft. What you need (if you don't get an install disc with your license) is the standalone Windows installer.

Microsoft offers an 'upgrade key only' web page that lets you download an installer. This will let you enter a separate product key (ie. License) and download a bootable Windows 8 install ISO, if that's how you want to roll.

However, before upgrading check out our list of the best new Windows 8.1 features

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