Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system received a lot of attention when it first debuted. It changes so much that it is hard not to hear about it from someone you know, or see advertisements touting its boldest features on television. Over time all that talk hasn’t translated into a giant uptick in sales, however it has led to an increasing amount of users all trying to find out how to download Windows 8 and get it on their machines and tablets.
Here we’ll breakdown how to download Windows 8 and what you should know before even attempting it.
Is Downloading Windows 8 The Right Move For You?
Before you commit to going to a store and purchasing Windows 8 or downloading it from Microsoft’s website, you’ll need to understand the process involved and more about the device you’re trying to download Windows 8 to.
For starters, Windows 8 isn’t for every computer. There are tons of different things that go into a decision about whether to install Windows 8. Think about your experience with your machine first. Do you want to download Windows 8 because Windows 7 is running slower on your machine? Or, are you happy with Windows XP but have programs that can only be installed on Windows 8 or Windows 7?
Chances are that if you have a Windows XP machine you don’t want to go downloading Windows 8. More expensive Windows XP machines might be able to make the upgrade, but even if they did you could find that a machine runs to slow for your needs after the upgrade. Really, unless it’s a Windows Vista or Windows 7 machine that you’ve had Windows XP installed on, don’t download Windows 8. Just get a new device with Windows 8 already loaded on it.
Windows Vista and Windows 7 users are in a slightly different position. Chances are that machines made for those two operating systems can run Windows 8 well. In particular, Windows 7 machines should run Windows 8 just fine. You can download Windows 8 to a Windows Vista machine but you may also run into some slowness if it was one of those earlier machines with only 512MB of RAM.
Don’t get confused by version numbers and marketing names. When you upgrade to Windows 8, you get Windows 8.1 absolutely free.
Is Your Computer Compatible with Windows 8?
Anyone can download a copy of Windows 8, but it’s very important that you find out if that’s the right move for you. Sometimes, programs and apps won’t work in newer operating systems. It’s not as rare as some people think. Luckily, Microsoft makes a tool to address just that.
It’s called the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant and you should download it from Microsoft website and run it before you go trying to download a copy of Windows 8. The Upgrade Assistant will analyze your laptop or desktop’s hardware then make recommendations based on that. You’ll get the green-light from the software and a list of what apps won’t work in Windows 8. It’ll tell you that your computer isn’t compatible with Windows 8 too if that’s the case.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on the list of requirements Windows 8 has. Only download the operating system if your computer has 1GB of RAM, if it’s a 32-bit PC or 2GB of RAM if it’s a 64-bit PC. 20GB of free hard drive space and graphics that’ll allow it to install Direct X9 are also required.
I know that sounds confusing. In Windows XP you can find out by right-clicking on the My Computer icon on your desktop and clicking on Properties. On the General Tab you should see either x64 or x86.
Windows 7 & Windows 8 users should right-click on the Computer icon on their Desktop and also hit Properties.
If the computer is x86 then you’ll need to download the 32 bit version of Windows 8. If it says x64 then you’ll need to download the 64-bit version of Windows 8.
If you don’t know any of this information – it’s likely listed on the device’s packaging, don’t try to download Windows 8.
Downloading Windows 8
If your laptop or desktop has gotten the approval from the Upgrade Assistant and you’re sure you want to download Windows 8, there’s just one place to get it without leaving your home: Microsoft’s own Microsoft Store.
The Microsoft Store allows users to purchase a copy of Windows 8 and download it immediately, saving all users the time and expensive of having to drive to a store. That being said, you do need some more information before deciding to go this route.
Microsoft lets you download Windows 8 directly to their computer for $119.99, but to wipe everything from your computer and install just Windows 8 without any files to keep, you may need a flash drive. In some cases you may also need delete items on your PC to make room for the installation files for Windows 8.
Also, you’ll need to know whether your computer requires 32 bit Windows or 64 bit Windows.
Just because you can download Windows 8 to your machine on your own doesn’t necessarily mean you should. If you’re happy with Windows 7, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying there. Windows 8 introduces a ton of new features. There’s a new app store, faster start-up times and a new lock screen and music client. But, if you’re comfortable then stay with what you know.
To be clear, if you find this how-to a bit difficult to understand, there’s absolutely no shame in taking your desktop or laptop to Best Buy to upgrade. The company’s employees will test your device to see if it’s compatible with Windows 8 before you pay them for the upgrade. Best Buy charges $129.99 for installation, plus you’ll need to pay for Windows 8 separately. Again, the basic version of Windows 8 costs $119.99.
If your computer has a disc drive there’s an alternative to downloading Windows 8. Windows 8 is sold on discs at tons of retail locations like Best Buy and Staples.