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INFO: What to know about upgrading to Windows 8

Description: Reaction to Microsoft Windows 8 sometimes includes confusion, and sometimes anger, from those who may not understand why changes were made to something that they feel "worked fine". It's important to understand some of the differences between Windows 7 and Windows 8 to minimize some of the anxiety and better prepare for what to expect with this new release of Microsoft Windows. Below is a list of requirements and general changes that have been made with the release of Windows 8.

Windows 8 System Requirements:

  • 1 GHZ or faster processor with PAE, NX, and SSE2 support
  • 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • 16 GB of available HD space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver (the old Windows XP driver model no longer works.

    Check that there's a driver on Nvidia's or AMD's website for anything older than the GeForce 8xxx series or Radeon 3xxx series. Both companies have official Windows 8 drivers out. Also, it's worth noting that if people ask how much HDD space Windows 8 takes up, it's safe to quote 16 GB for 32-bit and 20GB for 64-bit. That way there are no surprises.

CPU Requirements:

  • Windows 8 requires the processor have PAE, SSE2, and NX. PAE allows a 32-bit processor to address memory beyond the 4GB boundary. This feature has been included in Intel processors since 1998 and AMD since 1999.
  • Windows 8 requires the processor have SSE2. SSE2 is a multimedia feature that's been included in Intel CPUs since 2001 and AMD since 2004. In case you were wondering, it stands for streaming SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) extension 2.
  • Windows 8 requires the processor have NX bit (never execute bit). Intel calls it the XD bit and AMD calls it the Enhanced Virus Protection bit. This was a change Microsoft made for security purposes.

    (Any CPU prior to Intel's Socket 775 Pentium D or AMD's Athlon 64 X2 processor is "pushing" it from a performance standpoint.)

Windows 8 Editions:

  • Windows 8 - This is the "mainstream" version mean to replace Windows 7 Home Premium. Gone is the limitation of 16 GB of RAM as Windows 8 now supports up to 128 GB of RAM using the 64-bit version
  • Windows 8 Professional - This version of Windows 8 comes with everything Windows 8 does, but includes the ability to join a domain, bitlocker, as well as virtualization via hyper-v. This version is made for business professionals or people that require virtualization.
  • Windows RT - Windows RT is made for use on ARM processors such as the ones found in your phones and tablets. Windows RT will never be sold as a stand alone product and will always be pre-installed on compatible Windows tablets and forthcoming portable devices. Windows RT also requires applications be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. You CANNOT install normal Windows applications on a device running Windows RT.

Windows 8 Upgrade Path:

The simple way to look at upgrading from Windows XP, Vista, or 7 is to first make sure the computer meets the minimum system requirements (remember, they are minimum so don't expect it to be blazing fast). ALWAYS make sure to backup anything critical. If the upgrade process wipes your hard drive, you may or may not have all of the files associated with your current user configuration(s). Multi-boot configurations are possible, but work best when you have an empty drive or partition to install Windows 8 on

  • Windows XP: All programs are removed. All that's left is "My Documents".
  • Windows Vista: All programs are removed. Information from user profile (documents, pictures, videos, favorites, contacts, etc.) is left as well as system settings (with SP1 or SP2 installed).
  • Windows 7: The user has the option to leave everything intact. However, Microsoft may require that some programs be removed for the purpose of system compatibility.

Removal of DVD playback:

DVD playback was removed from Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. If a customer wants to watch DVDs on their computer they will either need to download the Windows Media Center feature as a Windows 8 Add-On, or to use a third party software such as VLC ( Remember that many optical drives include software such as Cybervision, WinDVD, or Nero that include DVD and/or Blu-ray playback applications.

While these applications do install the necessary codecs to play DVD or other videos, the version of Media Player that is included with Windows 8 will still not play DVD movies. You will have to use the application player from the Windows Desktop to view your DVD movie.

The "Windows Media Center" Add-On is available for Windows 8 Pro, or as a combined "Windows 8 Pro & Media Center" Add-On if you have the "standard" version of Windows 8 installed (In either case, the end result will be Windows 8 Pro with Media Center.) Windows Media Center runs from the Windows 8 Desktop, and DVD playback would run from inside the Media Center shell.