Here are the basic steps required to purchase and install Windows 8.1 from Microsoft.
- Windows 7 Installation. You’ll need a working Windows computer to perform some of the steps below. If you’re wanting to start with a fresh computer installation, find an original Windows 7 Pro installation DVD (assuming you have a recent Dell computer) and use that DVD to perform a fresh installation. Otherwise, continue to the next step.
- Microsoft Store. Go to the Windows 8.1 product page in the Microsoft Store.
- You’ll see a message stating: “Windows 8.1 full version is for Windows 7 users only. Currently running Windows Vista or XP? First upgrade to Windows 8. Upon installation you can update to 8.1 for free.”
- This notice somewhat misleading. This version of Windows 8.1 doesn’t require Windows 7. The installation DVD that you’ll create from the download (or have shipped to you) should work find for a fresh installation of Windows 8.1 without a required upgrade.
- Purchase. Purchase the English Download for $119 if you don’t want to wait for a DVD to arrive. This will give you a WindowsSetupBox.exe file and a license number. There are three benefits to this option:
- This will provide you with an ISO image that you can burn to DVD.
- This procedure will also give you the option to create a Windows 8.1 Installation USB flash drive.
- You can also use this option to upgrade an existing Windows 7 computer (without creating a DVD or USB).
- Run Windows Setup. When the purchase process is completed, you’ll have a license number and a Windows Setup file called WindowsSetupBox.exe that you can run. This will actually initiate the download of the full Windows 8.1 installation software.
- Burn DVD. Assuming you have access to a computer, burn the ISO image to a DVD. This can be used later for reinstallation, repair, or recovery.
- Create USB. Having a Windows 8.1 installation USB flash drive is handy. With it, you can startup your computer to USB for installation similar to using a DVD but typically much faster.
- Choosing Upgrade or Install. If you perform an upgrade from Windows 7, your programs, settings, and personal data will be retained. However, any malware, viruses, or other unnecessary files will be retained. So, it may be preferable to backup your files and then startup the computer using the DVD or USB (described above), then format the hard drive (erasing everything) and perform a fresh clean installation of Windows 8.1. This will make your computer like new as if it were purchased from the store.
- Begin Installation. Assuming you want to do the fresh installation, and you have backed up your data, start the computer with the DVD or USB. You will be walked through the setup process. If you’re on a Dell computer, you will need to press F12 at startup to display the boot up options. Select the DVD drive from the list if you’re using the DVD.
- Upgrade or Custom. At some point you’ll be asked if you’d like to perform an upgrade or custom installation. Choosing custom is helpful because you can format the hard drive and start completely fresh. In doing so, you’ll be presented with a window showing your current drive partitions. There may be a 100MB system reserved partition for Windows 7 and another partition for the operating system. In the advanced mode you can delete these partitions. Then click New to start again. This time, Windows 8.1 will create a 350MB System Reserved partition and then the remaining drive space can be used for the Windows 8.1 installation.
- Settings. When you get to a Settings window, you can choose Use express settings.
- Sign in to your Microsoft account – NOT. You’ll be asked to sign in using your Microsoft account. This appears to be a requirement of using Windows 8.1. However, it’s not necessary. Don’t click on the Don’t have an account option because you’ll be required to create an account. Instead, click on the option to Create a new account (found under Don’t have an account?). You’ll be taken to the Create a Microsoft account screen. At the bottom of the screen, in faint thin small letters, you’ll see an option to Sign in without a Microsoft account. Choose that option.
- Your Account. If you’ve followed the instructions to this point, you should reach a Your account screen. Enter a user name and password just as you might have with the previous versions of Windows.
- General Windows Setup. You can now continue with the general Windows setup instructions.