Preparing PC for Windows 8

The ultimate guide to prepare your PC to install Windows 8

Windows 8 is complete and it’s scheduled to be released on October 26 at different prices depending on: If you buy a new PC now with Windows 7, which then the upgrade will cost you only $14.99 or if you already have a Windows PC with Win 7, XP or Vista which then will cost you just $39.99 — surprisingly this time around Microsoft is making their operating system very affordable –. Now in the case you are already planning to upgrade, there are several things you should consider to properly upgrade and migrate all your data safely to the latest operating system. This guide will help to prepare with everything you need know to make the transition transparent and simple as possible.

Windows 8 hardware requirements and compatibility

According to Microsoft, Windows 8 should be able to run on any PC that is using Windows 7, but there are some minimum hardware requirements that your system should first meet:

Hardware ComponentMinimum System Requirement
Processor (CPU)1-GHz or faster, 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
Memory (RAM)1 GB RAM (32-bit)

2 GB RAM (64-bit), and to take advantage of the power of 64-bit

I will recommend you to have at least 4 GB of RAM
Graphics Processor (GPU)DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
Hard Drive16 GB available of disk space (32-bit)

20 GB available of disk space (64-bit)
DisplayMinimum of 1024x768 to access the Windows Store and 1366x768 to use the Snap feature

Put it this way, if you have a computer about 3-4 years old is more than likely that it will run Windows 8. Taking advantage of the new touch capability will require a screen with multi-touch support.

To make use of the new Windows 8 Applications (Metro style) you’ll need a screen resolution of 1024×768 pixels. And to use the “span” feature, the screen resolution should be 1366×768 pixels or better.

Applications that were released for earlier versions of Windows such as Windows 7, XP and Vista, they may not work properly in Windows 8, and the same applies for older hardware; some of them will require device drivers that were never designed to be used in Windows 8, and the last thing you need after spending a long time on performing the installation, is to realize that there are compatibility issues, right after the first logon, when you try to use a particular device or application.

Important: Run the new Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant that comes built-in in the operating system installation media, which can help to identify hardware and software in your current system that might not be ready for latest version of the operating system. You should also make use of the Compatibility Center for Windows 8 — a.k.a HCL (Hardware Compatibility List) — to find out if your apps and devices are compatible with the new OS.

Collect software and OS license keys

Make a list of all the applications you have installed in your system. If you still running Windows Vista or XP you will need to reinstall all your previous applications. To list all your applications effortless, you can use Windows Command Prompt or Belarc Advisor, a great free tool to audit your PC and gather information such as drivers, hardware, installed applications and license keys.

Quick Tip: If you cannot find your Windows 7 or Microsoft Office product key, you can also use Enchanted Keyfinder free tool to find them

Stay alert

When upgrading to a newer OS, be aware of all the applications you depend on to do your work. Some of the software you currently use might be designed to only work with the current version of Microsoft’s OS, perhaps an upgrade may be required. Windows 8 will support many applications designed for Windows 7 and previous versions, but this is not always true — Check before your applications for compatibility.

There are some specific software that sometimes are likely to cause hiccups when upgrading, some of them include:

  • Firewalls and other type of  security utilities
  • Antivirus and anti-spyware software
  • Maintenance tools, such as disk partitioning
  • Software that interact with CDs and DVDs

When upgrading consider the following: disable or uninstall any antivirus software and other utilities, if you think that they may cause problems. You can always install them back after the process.

Full system backup

BACKUP, BACKUP, and BACKUP! If you are about to install or upgrade to Windows 8 make a full backup of the hard drive before doing anything else — you won’t regret it.

Quick Tip: Before disabling or uninstalling any antivirus software, perform a full virus scan of your system, to make sure the machine is clean.

Alternatively, to avoid turning your upgrade into a nightmare, you can close your system with Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image, or Clonezilla, to revert back to your previous Windows installation, easy and quick.

Backup personal files

I repeat this over and over, there is no such thing as too much backup! Although you’ll make a full system backup, you should also consider backing up all your personal files (documents, pictures, music and videos), online passwords, bookmarks, drivers, etc.

Documents and settings backup: If making a full-backup is somewhat challenging, Windows Easy Transfer is another tool you can use to backup and transfer all your Windows user accounts, documents, music, pictures, email, Internet favorites, and programs settings, fast and easy — FYI: This tool does not backup the operating system –. If you don’t want to use Windows Easy Transfer or it is not available, you should at least backup all your files (Documents, Music, Photos, Videos, etc.) manually. You can easily do this by plunging in an external storage media (e.g., USB hard drive) in your computer and transfer your important files.

Bookmarks: Backup your bookmarks and don’t forget to do a hard copy of any important password e.g., bank, email, etc. If you are using Google Chrome you could use Xmarks extension to backup your bookmarks and passwords, and if you are using Firefox you could use the Firefox Sync, a free Cloud service to sync your bookmarks and settings including passwords. Additionally you can easily backup all your bookmarks, check out how to do this for Google Chrome and Firefox.

A full backup is useful for almost anything wrong that could happen to your computer. If you are about to move to Windows 8 you should create a full backup of your system, but you should also backup documents and settings, Bookmarks, and drivers. These other type of backups will make easier to transfer data from the previous operating system to the new of Windows 8.

Collect device drivers

Before diving into the installation depending how old is your hardware, Windows 8 may not work properly with specific hardware. This is one of many reasons that makes a good idea to use the Upgrade Assistant. If something is known to have issues you’ll be notified, and you can visit your PC manufacturer’s site for the latest device drivers (e.g., printer, webcam, graphic card, etc.). If they have updated drivers, chances are that they will work with Windows 8.

Here is some extra help, use Double Drivers, which is a free tool that can help you to backup the drivers that are already working in your system.

Deauthorize/deactivate applications

Various applications such as Photoshop, iTunes and AutoCAD, among many others, require you to deactivate or in other cases to deauthorize your PC, prior reinstalling them again. Make sure that you check and make sure you can install those applications back again without any problems.

Note specific configurations

Write down your computer name, if your computer is currently connected to a network, you might need the computer name after installing Windows 8. To do this, go to Start Windows Key - Small Monochrome, right-click Computer, and then click Properties. Under Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings, you can locate your computer name and its full name, if your computer is connected in a domain.

Get your wireless settings (SSID and Key). These are hard to remember, so note them before doing the installation. To do this go to the Control Panel, in the search box type wireless. Under Network and Sharing Center, click View network connections; double-click the wireless adapter, then click Wireless properties and navigate to the Security tab.

Creating a Windows 8 bootable USB

If you opt to download the ISO image of Windows 8 you’ll need to create a DVD or USB installation media, follow these steps to accomplish this task.

Ready to move to Windows 8

To get started, choose your upgrade path: perform an in place Windows 8 upgrade or perform a clean (from scratch) install of Windows 8.

Other resources:

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].