We continue to look at upgrading from previous versions of Windows to Windows 8. Windows Vista came to market in January of 2007 after 5 years of development. It was Microsoft’s most ambitious release at the time. Windows Vista had its share of execution failures, originally intended as a Second Edition of Windows XP planned for 2004, the upgrade code named Longhorn most of its development life promised to revolutionize computing. Those plans however were held back by its becoming a moving target and added heft throughout development. Windows Vista focused on so many things that in some respects, it lost focused.
I personally ran Windows Vista from the first build released in August 2005 right up to the RTM released in January 2007. Part of Vista’s problem was perception. Vista ran beautifully on capable hardware that was configured with enough RAM and acceptable processor speed. When build 5308 was released in February 2006, it was obvious 512 MBs of RAM would not be sufficient to run it, so I took advantage of the depreciating RAM prices and installed a 2 GB kit. I never looked back.
Windows Vista’s other problem was compatibility out of the box. A lot of this was as a result of how the hardware and software industry embraced Vista. The factor that also led to that was Vista’s increasing moving target schedule. A lot of IHV’s and ISV’s didn’t start preparing updates to their products until Microsoft actually sent Windows Vista to manufacturing. This pretty much left Vista with limited support at launch. Eventually products were ready for the operating system at least a couple months after its release. Driver and software support greatly improved within the first 6 months. The initial experience by many though left a lasting impression that exist to this day.
Other factors were Vista’s configuration on new machines. I noted that I had to upgrade my installed RAM to sufficiently run the OS. Many OEM’s out the gate were selling systems with 512 MBs of RAM which was just not appropriate to run the operating system.
So, we covered a bit of history surrounding Vista. Now lets look at upgrading from it. Vista still exist on quite a few systems, but its dwindling fast, from a peak of 20% in 2009 to 6% in 2012.
Before you can upgrade to Windows 8, you need to meet the minimum system requirements. If you meet the following, you should be in good shape.
Whether you have a logo PC or you’ve built your own PC, the recommendations for the Windows 8 include:
- 1 GHz or faster processor
- 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
- 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
One new element to Windows 8 is the requirement that Metro style applications have a minimum of 1024×768 screen resolution, and 1366×768 for the snap feature. If you attempt to launch a Metro style app with less than this resolution (e.g. 800×600, 1024×600) you will receive an error message.
Can you really upgrade?
In truth, Windows 8 does not support a direct upgrade from Windows Vista. This means you will have do a custom install, which means, any applications or drivers you currently have installed will have to be reinstalled. You might likely need updated drivers for some hardware. Windows 8’s built in upgrade compatibility wizard should help you determine what is compatible and needs to be removed before proceeding with the upgrade. Migrating from Vista to Windows 8 will preserve your personal files and settings though.
- Gather all important application discs and hardware driver discs you might need to be reinstalled.
- Check the manufacturer and software developers website for updates available and to find out about the status of compatibility with Windows 8. It is possible that if the software is compatible with Windows Vista it will likely work with Windows 8 since they share the same driver model.
- If you are using software such as iTunes or Adobe programs, remember to deauthorize and deactivate them before running setup.
Backup your Data:
When making significant changes to your computer such as an upgrade, it is always recommended you backup your system prior to installing a new version of Windows. Windows Vista depending on the edition you are running includes some form of backup. If you are running editions such as Windows Vista Business, Enterprise or Ultimate editions, you can use the built in Complete PC Backup of your Vista installation. This can be very handy in case your Windows 8 installation fails. For instructions about how to use Complete PC Backup, see the following article here. Of course, you will need an external hard disk for this task.
If you are running editions such as Windows Vista Starter, Home Basic or Home Premium, the only backup option available the standard backup and restore which archives your Account folders with some settings. If you need an option similar to Complete PC Backup, you will need a third party too.
Check out the following article by Microsoft MVP JW Stuart about how to backup a Windows installation here using Acronis True Image here
Another solution you can use for backing up Windows Vista is Easeus To Do Backup, JW Stuart also has an article about it here
Other steps you can use to ensure your data is safe before upgrading is creating a Windows Easy Transfer backup. Learn more here This option is quite limited and should only be used if do not plan on returning to Windows Vista since Easy Transfer backups can only be restored in Windows 8 or Windows 7.
What you can do before attempting the upgrade?
You can do some pre-requisite tasks to ensure a smooth migration from Windows Vista to Windows 8. If you are using a name branded computer such as a Dell or HP, go to the manufacturers website for the model computer you are using and download the latest available drivers for that computer. Store them on a disc or USB thumb drive. Important drivers you should try to obtain include Network and Video Drivers. Its possible that they might just have Windows Vista or Windows 7 drivers, those will work with Windows 8.
Other things you can do:
- Uninstall any security software before attempting to upgrade.
- Disable any encryption software you might have installed such as BitLocker Drive Encryption, Folder Encryption.
- Disable/uninstall disk utility software such as DVD/CD burning utilities or third party defragment programs such as Perfect Disk.
- Make sure your computer is updated (devices and applications).
- Disconnect any external devices before installing.
- Check your hard disk for any errors:
- Click Start
- Type: CMD
- Right click CMD then click Run as administrator
At the Command Prompt, type: chkdsk /r /f
Exit the command prompt.
When you restart your system, your computer will be scanned for errors and attempts will be made to correct them.
- Another thing you can do is disable Start items:
- Click Start
- Type: MSCONFIG.
- Hit Enter on your keyboard
- On the General tab, click Selective Startup.
- Under Selective Startup, click to clear the Load Startup Items check box.
- Click the Services tab, click to select the Hide All Microsoft Services check box, and then click Disable All.
- Click OK.
- When you are prompted, click Restart.
- After the computer starts, check whether the problem is resolved.
32 or 64 bit
My recommendations depend on what you have installed. If you currently have 32 bit Windows Vista installed, use 32 bit Windows 8. If you have 64 bit Vista, use 64 bit Windows 8. This is to ensure a smooth migration, especially where driver compatibility is concerned. Another factor is RAM. If you have max 3 to 4 GBs of RAM, then 32 bit should be sufficient for your needs. If you happen to have 4 to 8 GBs or more RAM, then 64 bit would be suitable.
Windows 64 bit comes in handy when you need to address at least 4 GBs or more of RAM. Windows 32 bit can utilize up to 3.2 GBs of RAM. Because the memory address space is much larger for 64 bit Windows, that means, you need twice as much memory than 32 bit Windows to accomplish some of the same task, but you are able to do so much more, you can have more applications open, do things like run an Antivirus scan in the background without it affecting your system performance. Windows 64 bit is more secure too, malicious code cannot easily infiltrate it, drivers are more reliable since they must be signed before they can work with 64 bit Windows.
As for compatibility, you will need 64 bit device drivers for any hardware devices you might have. Also, there is no 16 bit subsystem in Windows 64 bit, which means, your applications must be 32 bit only, not 16 bit installer or uninstallers.
To start the installation, first boot to the Windows Vista desktop. If you are installing Windows 8 from a physical DVD these instructions will apply to you. Insert the Windows 8 disc. When the AutoPlay window appears, click ‘Run setup.exe’. Click Continue when prompted by User Account control.
Setup will then begin.
Wait while setup prepares to install Windows 8.
If prompted to get updates, I recommend you do so. If you are not connected to the Internet, select ‘No, thanks’.
Enter your product key. If you purchased Windows 8 from the Microsoft Store and you are using the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, the key will be embedded. If you download a .ISO file or purchased Windows 8 on DVD, check your email when you registered to purchase the upgrade or check your Windows 8 product packaging for the product key. After Entering the product key, click Next to continue with setup.
Read and Accept the End User License Agreement.
Now this is an important part of setup. If you have any personal files on your computer, those will be preserved when you select ‘Keep personal files only’ along with your Windows Settings. You have the option of only preserving personal files only. As noted earlier, you will need to reinstall programs and drivers for your hardware devices. If you choose Nothing, Windows 8 will place your files in a folder called Windows.old. After making your decision, click Next.
Wait while Windows 8 does some last checks.
Depending on your configuration, Windows 8 setup might ask you to uninstall a program or driver then restart your system before it can proceed with the upgrade. Don’t worry though, Windows 8 will resume setup automatically. In my case, Windows 8 setup needed a restart before it could continue.
After restarting, Windows 8 setup, asked if I would like ‘Continue from where I left off’. I clicked Next and setup resumed.
At the summary screen, review the changes that will be made to your computer. If you are not sure, click Back and make any appropriate changes. As noted, you will not be able to use your computer during this period. The time it takes complete the upgrade will be dependent on your system specifications such as processor speed, memory and your data set. Click the Install button to begin.
Windows 8 setup will go into full screen mode and restart several times.
After your computer restarts, Windows 8 will continue setup. Windows setup will go through several screens indicating Tasks it needs to complete:
- Windows setup will say its ‘Preparing’
- Getting your devices ready.
- Getting system ready
Then restart and setup will continue.
Windows 8 will now indicate it is ‘Moving your settings’
Out of Box Experience.
You will now arrive at the Out of Box Experience where you will setup and personalize your Windows experience.
The first option presented is the Color Picker, here you can choose a color that represents you. You have up to 25 to choose from. If you can’t decide now, you can always do it later. Click Next
The settings screen screen allows you to customize whether you want to have Microsoft send information about Windows to Microsoft to ensure it runs smoothly. Click Use Express settings. If you rather not, you can click Customize.
Confirm password which you had used to log into your Windows Vista account. Click Next
You have the option of setting up a Microsoft Account which allows you sync your Windows Settings across multiple Windows 8 devices. You can sync some passwords, themes and application settings. If you don’t want to do that right now, click Skip. You can always switch to a Microsoft Account later. Windows 8 will instead use your existing account as a Local account.
- Wait while Windows 8 finalizes your settings.
Wait while Windows 8 does some final configuration.
You have successfully migrated from Windows Vista to Windows 8. To check if your files are there, launch the Windows Desktop App.
Launch File Explorer on the Windows Taskbar and open documents and you should see all your files previously in Windows Vista.
You can proceed to reinstall your applications and install your drivers.
For more information about how to install applications Windows 8, see the following article: