Stuck installing Windows 8.1 from ISO downloaded with Windows 8 key

Windows 8.1 after upgrade

Recently I published a guide to enable users to download the Windows 8.1 ISO from Microsoft simply by using a valid Windows 8 retail key, nothing too complicated. However the problem may come when you try to install and activate the operating system using this workaround, as many users are reporting that the Windows 8.1 setup won’t take the Windows 8 product key. So here are a few things you should pay attention:

1. Downloading the Windows 8.1 ISO only works with your Windows 8 “retail” product key, such as the one you obtained from the promotional upgrade last year — remember the one that costed you $40 –. TechNet, MSDN, DreamSpark, free Windows 8 Media Center Pack offer key, OEMs keys won’t work.

2. If the Windows 8.1 setup doesn’t download the ISO, this could be the caused of a previous download.

Go to your PC’s main drive (C), make sure you can view hidden files and move the ESD folder elsewhere. (The ESD folder contains the Windows installation files your previously download.)

Then go to:


Rename or delete the WebSetup folder and try to grab the ISO again.

3. At the time of the installation you might get stuck in the setup saying that you can’t use the Windows 8 product key into a Windows 8.1 installation. In this case look online for a “generic Windows 8.1 key” (make sure you get the “Core” or “Professional” depending on your version) to continue with the installation process. This will allow you to install the operating system as a trial version, then do the following to properly activate your OS:

Go to PC settings > PC and devices > PC info and change your product key to the Windows 8 to activate your copy.


4. If you’re getting the message “we can’t connect at the moment”, this could be caused by your region. Try again later!

Remember that results may vary as this is a workaround and it’s not supported by Microsoft.

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].