Microsoft is ending extended support for Windows 8.1 on January 10, 2023. That means those of you still running the old operating system after that time will no longer be able to get security fixes, technical support, and other types of updates or assistance. For that, you will need to install Windows 10 or 11. Fortunately, there are ways you can directly upgrade from Windows 8.1.
Back Up Your Files
Before you upgrade, make sure your data is being properly backed up. All your files, documents, applications, and settings should be preserved, depending on the process you use to upgrade. Still, it's a good idea to manually back up any important files in case something goes awry.
You can enable File History in Windows 8.1 to back up key folders and files to external media. Alternatively, you can turn to a third-party backup software or a cloud storage service. Note that Microsoft's own OneDrive is no longer supported in Windows 8.1, so that’s not a reliable option. Dropbox or Box may be better options.
How to Upgrade to Windows 10
Microsoft initially let you upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 for free. Technically, that offer has since expired, but if you sign into Windows with a Microsoft account, a license should be linked to your account. This will then remain in effect after you move from Windows 8.1 to 10.
Log into your Windows 8.1 PC and head to Microsoft’s Download Windows 10 website(Opens in a new window). Click the Download Now button to download the Windows 10 installation media. Double-click the download MediaCreationTool21H2.exe to install the program.
At the screen that asks what you want to do, select Upgrade this PC now and click Next. The Window 10 download then kicks off. Make sure the edition of Windows 10 that you want to install matches the one for Windows 8.1 (Home vs. Pro, for example), then accept the license terms.
Click the Change what to keep link to confirm the personal files and apps you want to keep. Now click the Install button and allow the upgrade to proceed. When finished, your PC will reboot and allow you to log into Windows 10. Let the new operating system configure and update.
A screen may appear asking you to finish setting up your device. Click Continue and then follow any subsequent screens. You should then be deposited into your new Windows 10 environment.
Check your personal files and apps to make sure they survived the upgrade. You should then head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and check for any new updates.
Did you get an error message telling you that the Windows 10 installation has failed? This can happen with some PC configurations. If so, your best bet is to update to Windows 10 from the ISO file. Run the Media Creation Tool again. At the screen asking what you want to do, select Create Installation Media and click Next.
Select or confirm the language, OS edition, and architecture (32- or 64-bit). The next screen then asks which media you want to use. Select ISO file, then click Next. Choose a location on your PC to download the ISO file and click Save. After the ISO file is generated, click Finish.
In File Explorer, navigate to the folder where you downloaded the file. Right-click on it and select Mount from the menu. From the mounted files, double-click setup.exe to begin the upgrade. A screen for installing Windows 10 will appear.
Click Change how Windows Setup downloads updates, then select the Not right now option and click Next. Review the license terms and click Accept. At the Ready to install screen, confirm that the upgrade will install Windows 10 and keep your personal files and apps. Click Install and allow the upgrade to proceed.
Your PC will then need to reboot before you can sign into Windows 10. Allow the OS to configure and update, then go through any setup screens. Check that your personal files and apps are installed. Then, open Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update to check for any updates.
How to Upgrade to Windows 11
Upgrading from Windows 8.1 to Windows 11 is more challenging than upgrading to Windows 10. This is largely because Windows 11 imposes much stricter hardware requirements, including a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and the Secure Boot option set in the BIOS, two items that may not be available on older Windows 8.1 PCs.
Normally, you would run Microsoft’s PC Health Check Tool(Opens in a new window) to see if your computer can handle Windows 11, but that tool is designed for Windows 10 and won’t work in Windows 8.1. Instead, go directly to Microsoft’s Download Windows 11 website(Opens in a new window). Scroll down to the section for Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO). Click the drop-down menu for Select Download and choose Windows 11 (multi-edition ISO).
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Scroll down the screen and click Download, open the drop-down menu for Product Language, select your language, and click Confirm. Next, click 64-bit Download to grab the ISO file.
Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder where you downloaded the file. Right-click the downloaded ISO file and select Mount, then double-click the setup.exe file to begin setup.
At the Install Windows 11 window, click the Change how Setup downloads updates link, then select the Not right now option and click Next. You will then be notified if your PC doesn’t qualify for Windows 11 with a message saying that it lacks TPM 2.0 and/or Secure Boot.
There are Registry hacks that will bypass the TPM and Secure Boot checks, but you would want to weigh the pros and cons of relying on such tricks against the benefits of buying a new PC with Windows 11 properly installed and supported.
If your PC can handle Windows 11, confirm that the edition you wish to install matches the one for Windows 8.1, such as Home vs. Pro. Accept the license terms and click Next. Confirm that you want to keep your personal files and apps and click Install.
After the upgrade, allow your PC to reboot and sign into your new Windows 11 environment. Wait for the setup to complete, then make sure your files and apps are intact. You can also head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update to check for any available updates.
Even if your Windows 8.1 PC does qualify for Windows 11, you may still run into obstacles trying to upgrade directly to the latest OS. In that event, one option is to first upgrade your computer to Windows 10, then try updating to Windows 11. This may sound like a clumsy route to take, but it can circumvent any problems you encounter in a more direct upgrade.
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Windows 8.1 computers can upgrade to Windows 11 without losing data or applications using the ISO file since it's a supported installation path. However, before upgrading to Windows 11 from Windows 8.1, you must ensure that your laptop or desktop meets the minimum system requirements.Is it a good idea to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to 10? ›
Microsoft is ending extended support for Windows 8.1 on January 10, 2023. That means those of you still running the old operating system after that time will no longer be able to get security fixes, technical support, and other types of updates or assistance. For that, you will need to install Windows 10 or 11.How to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 for free? ›
Visit the Windows 10 download page (opens in new tab). This is an official Microsoft page that may allow you to upgrade for free. Once you're there, open the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool (press "download tool now") and choose "Upgrade this PC now." 4.Should I upgrade to Windows 11 yes or no? ›
Windows 11 is worth the update for most people. It comes with a wide range of new features, performance improvements, and design changes. As the latest Windows OS, it usually gets more attention than Windows 10, too. There's not too much risk in upgrading to Windows 11, either.What happens when Windows 8.1 is no longer supported? ›
Will my Windows 8.1 computer stop working? No. Support for Windows 8.1 is discontinued, but the software will continue to function. However, after January 10, 2023, your computer running Windows 8.1 will no longer receive security updates.Who Cannot upgrade to Windows 11? ›
The main obstacles to upgrading devices to Windows 11 are the CPU and the Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which was either not present or not enabled in the research. Windows 11 requires TPM 2.0 and approved CPUs.Is Windows 10 faster than Windows 8.1 on older computers? ›
Windows 10 has been developed in a way it is much faster than Windows 8.1 provided your system specifications meet the requirements. If you are experiencing slow performance issues in Windows 10, I would suggest you to try the following methods and check if they are helpful.What are the DIsadvantages of upgrading to Windows 10? ›
- Possible privacy problems. A point of criticism on Windows 10 is the way the operating system deals with sensitive data of the user. ...
- Compatibility. Problems with the compatibility of software and hardware can be a reason to not switch to Windows 10. ...
- Lost applications.
As a reminder, Windows 8.1 will reach the end of support on January 10, 2023. After this date, this product will no longer receive security updates, non-security updates, bug fixes, technical support, or online technical content updates. This includes the following editions of Windows 8.1: Enterprise.How long does it take to upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10? ›
Windows Update will download the Windows 10 image. The process will take about 2 hours, depending on the speed of the internet connection.
Can I upgrade for free? Upgrades to Windows 11 from Windows 10 will be free. Due to the size of the download, however, ISP fees may apply for downloads that occur over metered connections.What will I lose if I upgrade to Windows 11? ›
Most people are wondering about this issue - will upgrading Windows 10 to Windows 11 erase all my files? The answer is No. As long as you select "Keep personal files and apps" during Windows Setup, you shouldn't lose anything. If you didn't select the option, you may be at the risk of losing data.Are there any problems with Windows 11? ›
Intel and Microsoft have found incompatibility issues with certain versions of drivers for Intel Smart Sound Technology (Intel SST) on Intel 11th Gen Core processors and Windows 11. Windows 11 devices with the affected Intel SST driver might receive an error with a blue screen.Is there any reason to switch to Windows 11? ›
Our review of Windows 11's 2022 Update (aka Windows 11 22H2) indicated some key improvements: Snap Bar/Snap Groups, live captioning of recorded video, Voice Access, and more. Windows 11 itself initially shipped with significant upgrades to the Settings app.How much is a copy of Windows 11? ›
Buy Windows from Microsoft: $139 - $199
You can get Windows 10 Home (opens in new tab) or Windows 11 Home for $139 (opens in new tab). And you can get Windows 10 Pro (opens in new tab) or Windows 11 Pro for $199 (opens in new tab). You can get these either as downloads or on USB drives.
How Does It Take to Install Windows 11. General: Between 10 and 20 minutes. On different devices, Windows 11 is installed at different times. For example, it only takes about 10 minutes to update on the latest SSD.How much better is Windows 11 than 10? ›
Better virtual desktop support
You'll find it easier to create and toggle between different virtual desktops in Windows 11 than in Windows 10. Windows 11 lets you set up virtual desktops in a way that's similar to on a Mac. It allows you to toggle between multiple desktops at once for personal, work, school or gaming.
The processor requirement is the most restrictive; supported processors include 8th-generation and newer Intel Core processors as well as AMD Ryzen 2000-series processors and newer. These are all chips that launched in late 2017 and early 2018. Older computers can't officially run Windows 11.Is Windows 10 or 11 better for older computers? ›
If your PC has less RAM and CPU power, then Windows 11 will definitely offer better performance as it focuses on the foreground apps and has fewer background processes consuming limited resources.Which one is better Windows 8.1 or 10? ›
Winner: Windows 10 corrects most of Windows 8's ills with the Start screen, whilst revamped file management and virtual desktops are potential productivity boosters. An outright victory for desktop and laptop users.
In most cases, the tests show that there is no obvious difference in performance between Windows 8.1 and 10. Sometimes Windows 10 is a bit faster and sometimes it is a bit slower. That is, you don't worry about a drop in performance if you want to upgrade to Windows 10. Up to now, Windows 10 always works pretty well.What happens to my software when I upgrade to Windows 10? ›
Applications, files, and settings will migrate as part of the upgrade. Microsoft does warn, however, that some applications or settings “may not migrate,” so make sure to back up anything you can't afford to lose.Does Windows 10 slow down older computers? ›
Windows 10 includes many visual effects, such as animations and shadow effects. These look great, but they can also use additional system resources and can slow down your PC. This is especially true if you have a PC with a smaller amount of memory (RAM).How much RAM does Windows 8.1 use? ›
Windows 8.1 system requirements
1GHz (gigahertz) processor or faster. Your processor will either be 32 bits or 64 bits, and 64-bit processors will have stricter hardware requirements (see below). 1GB (gigabyte) RAM (32-bit) or 2GB RAM (64-bit). 16GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit).
Install Windows 11
To check if Windows 11 is ready for your device, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and select Check for updates. If the upgrade is available for your device and you want to proceed, download and install it.
The free upgrade offer does not have a specific end date for eligible systems. However, Microsoft reserves the right to eventually end support for the free offer. This end date will be no sooner than October 5, 2022.Will upgrading to Windows 11 delete my files? ›
Upgrading your system from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will not erase all your files. After the update is completed, you should have access to all user files that were previously available in Windows 10.Why are people complaining about Windows 11? ›
Windows 11's Hardware Requirements Are Too Stringent
At launch, much was made of Windows 11's demanding hardware requirements. This complaint mostly affects those who want to upgrade their current PC to Windows 11.
Although you can easily upgrade a Windows 10 PC to Windows 11, preserving installed apps, settings, and data files, you can't do the reverse. If you want to "downgrade" from Windows 11 to Windows 10, you have to do a clean install, which requires backing up and restoring your data files and reinstalling all your apps.Will Windows 11 slow down my computer? ›
2. Will Windows 11 Slow Down My PC? Windows 11 is faster than Windows 10. However, some users is experiencing slow performance issue due to low disk storage or outdated drivers.
The best Windows laptops
In fact, product keys for Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8 Pro will also work to upgrade a Windows 11 Home installation.
Installing Windows 11 on a device that does not meet Windows 11 minimum system requirements is not recommended. If you choose to install Windows 11 on ineligible hardware, you should be comfortable assuming the risk of running into compatibility issues.How can I upgrade my Windows 8.1 to 11 for free? ›
To check if Windows 11 is ready for your device, go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and select Check for updates. If the upgrade is available for your device and you want to proceed, download and install it.What is the difference between Windows 8.1 and Windows 11? ›
On Speed → Windows 11 is optimized for speed, efficiency, and improved experiences with touch, digital pen, and voice input. These are features that Windows 8 never had. Also, Windows 11 requires more system resources for installation which gives it more system space and resources for operation without depleting them.Will Windows 11 fail like Windows 8? ›
The growth curve of Windows 11 will be slow - comparable to Windows 8 - at least until 2025. New devices will be sold with Windows 11, but don't forget the current stock of devices with Windows 10 and/or those that don't have TPM and/or don't meet the other requirements for this operating system.Will Windows 11 work on older computers? ›
Older computers can't officially run Windows 11. This is a big departure from Windows 10, which made a point of supporting pretty much anything that could run Windows 7 or Windows 8.How do I make my old computer Windows 11 compatible? ›
- Open Microsoft Support website.
- Under the “Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)” section, select the Windows 11 option.
- Click the Download button.
- Select the installation language.
- Click the Confirm button.