How to Upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 Pro

If you have a DVD with Windows 8.1 you can use it to upgrade your Windows 7 PC, if it meets the necessary requirements. Before you go ahead with the process, there's lots of preparation work you should take into consideration. That's why I recommend that you read this guide and make make sure you don't forget anything so that the whole process runs smoothly.

What to do Before the Upgrade Begins

There are many things to keep in mind before starting the upgrade:

  • You can upgrade all Windows 7 retail editions to Windows 8.1 Pro but you cannot upgrade them to Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1.
  • You cannot upgrade from a 32-bit version of Windows 7 to a 64-bit version of Windows 8.1 (or vice versa). If you have purchased a different version, you must perform a clean installation and move your files, settings, and apps manually.
  • You must have at least 5.9 GB of free space available on the partition where Windows 7 is installed, in order for the upgrade to be performed.
  • Windows 8.1 has different hardware requirements from Windows 7. Prior to starting the upgrade process, double check that your PC meets them: Windows 8.1 system requirements.
  • You should create a Microsoft account prior to starting the upgrade to Windows 8.1, so that you can use it to log on to Windows 8.1. If you would like to learn more about Microsoft accounts, read this tutorial: Introducing Windows 8: Should You Use a Local or a Microsoft Account?
  • You must have a valid Windows 8.1 product key available.
  • During the upgrade, you will lose all your programs. Make a list with the programs that you use on a regular basis, so that you know which need to be reinstalled after the upgrade.
  • You can use Windows Easy Transfer to backup and transfer your personal data safely between product installations. If you don't like using this tool, you can use any other product. Whatever you do, make sure you have a backup available for your important data.

How to Upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 8.1 Pro

In Windows 7, insert the Windows 8.1 installation DVD. Open Windows Explorer and run the setup.exe file found on the disc. A UAC prompt is shown - allow the setup to run with administrator permissions.

The setup takes a while to start. Then, you are asked whether you want to get the latest updates during the upgrade. Choose the option you prefer and click Next.

Then, you are asked for a valid Windows 8.1 product key. Type it and click Next.

You are asked to accept the license terms. Read them, select the box that says "I accept the license terms" and click Accept.

You are asked what to keep. Unfortunately, you can only choose to keep your personal files or you can choose to keep nothing. Select what you prefer and click Next.

A summary is shown for what the upgrade process will do. If you are ready to go ahead, click Install.

NOTE: If any of the prerequisites for the upgrade process are not met, you are shown a summary of the things that need to be changed. You won't be able to continue the upgrade until you resolve those issues. Once you resolve them, restart the upgrade process from the beginning.

The Windows 8.1 installation is started and its progress is shown. Stop using your computer and wait for it to finish. The process will involve a couple of restarts.

If any problems are encountered, the previous Windows 7 installation is restored automatically.

After the installation is finalized, you are asked to personalize Windows 8.1.

How to Personalize the Windows 8.1 Installation

During the personalization process, you are first asked to pick the color you want to use for the Start screen and the modern touch interface. Select the color you wish and click Next.

Then, you need to choose if you want to use the express settings Windows 8.1 comes bundled with, or you want to customize your installation. Let's get our hands dirty and see what happens if you click Customize.

You are asked if you want to turn on file sharing and network discovery. Select the option you prefer.

Then, you are asked about the default behavior of Windows Update and that of security features like Windows SmartScreen. Change the things you are interested in and click Next.

You are asked about troubleshooting options and what you want to turn on. You can also set whether you want to send different types of information to Microsoft. Set things according to your preference and press Next.

Now you are asked if you want to send different types of information to Microsoft and whether apps can use your name, account picture and if they are allowed to access your location. Set things according to your preference and click Next.

You are asked for the password that you used to log into Windows 7, for your user account. Type it and click Next.

Then, you are asked to provide the details of a Microsoft account that will be associated with the old account from Windows 7. Type the email address and password for your Microsoft account and then click Next.

You are informed that you will need to enter a security code that is used to verify your account. Select how you would like to receive that code: via a text message on your phone, via a phone call or via email. Then, click Next.

NOTE: The options displayed for getting this code depend on how you have set your Microsoft account and if you provided your phone number.

Now you are asked to enter the security code you just received, using the method you selected. Type it and click Next.

You are informed about SkyDrive and that it will be used to automatically back up your data, documents, and settings to the cloud. For the best computing experience, it is best to click Next and leave SkyDrive turned on. If you want to turn it off, you should click "Turn off these SkyDrive settings".

Windows 8.1 takes a while to prepare your computer, your apps and all the settings. When done, you are logged into Windows 8.1 and you can view the Start screen.

What To Do After the Installation

First of all, you should customize in detail how you want Windows 8.1 to work. There are many new things to test, learn and set, so take your time.

Last but not least, open File Explorer and go to the partition where Windows is installed. There you will see the Windows.old folder with your former Windows 7 installation.

To delete it, it is best to use the Disk Cleanup tool in Windows 8.1. Press the Clean up system files button and select the old Windows installation files. To learn how to use this tool, read this tutorial: Free Up Wasted Space with Disk Cleanup in Windows 7 & Windows 8.


I hope this guide will be useful to you. If you encounter issues or you notice different steps on your PC, don't hesitate to share them using the comments form below.