Most Windows users can install Windows 8.1 only via the Windows Shop update, as Microsoft has not -- yet -- made available a public Windows 8.1 ISO image that users can download. While that may give the company more control over the download process and better metrics, it can cause a number of issues for users.
For one, it is necessary to be connected to the Internet to make the upgrade. That may work if you are on broadband, but what if your computer does not or if your Internet connection is not the most reliable one. And that does not even take into account systems that are not connected to the Internet at all.
There is another problem. Say you want to do a clean installation of Windows 8.1 either on an existing computer or a new one. Microsoft's vision for this seems to be that you need to run the full Windows 7 installation first (since there are no Windows 8 full setups provided officially) and install all the updates and patches for that operating system.
Once that is out of the way, you run the update to Windows 8 on the system, and install the patches and upgrades for that system as well. And then finally, you go to the store and install the Windows 8.1 update.
That's highly inefficient if you ask me.
Download a Windows 8.1 ISO
You can download the Enterprise trial ISO but I cannot really say if this can be manipulated in a way so that you can use it as a general purpose Windows 8.1 installation ISO disc image.
There is another way, one that works 100% of the times. Here is what you need to do:
- Download Install Windows 8 and Install Windows 8.1 from this Microsoft page.
- Run Install Windows 8 and enter the product upgrade key for the operating system.
- When the download has started, cancel it.
- Run Install Windows 8.1 afterwards. It will download the Windows 8.1 ISO image.
You can then burn the ISO image to DVD or bootable USB drive to install the operating system.
Some users have reported that their upgrade key is not accepted when they install Windows 8.1 on the system using the ISO image. Caschy has released a guide that explains how you can activate the system if you run into activation problems.
The instructions are in German, but I have taken the liberty to translate the main steps into English:
- Extract the ISO image of Windows 8.1 that you have just downloaded to your system using 7-Zip or a comparable program.
- Download ei.cfg and move the file into the sources folder of the unpacked directory.
- Use ImgBurn to create the bootable ISO image anew.
- Select Create image file from files/folders when the ImgBurn wizard pops up.
- Select Advanced > Bootable Disc and add the full path to the boot image (windows/boot/etfsboot.com) and check "Make Image bootable". Make sure you add the drive and folder information in front of windows to the instructions, or click on browse and pick the etfsboot.com file this way.
- Switch to options and select File System: UDF. Check Include Hidden Files and Include System Files.
- Drag & Drop all folders from the unpacked ISO image to the Source area.
To activate the installation, do the following:
- Open a command prompt with elevated privileges. To do so, tap on Windows, enter cmd.exe, right-click the selection, and select to run as administrator.
- Type slmgr.vbs -rearm and hit enter
- Restart the PC, for instance with the command shutdown /r
- Open the elevated command prompt again after the restart and use the following command:
- slmgr.vbs -ipk PRODUCTKEY
- Replace PRODUCTKEY with your Windows 8 upgrade key
- Type slmgr.vbs -ato
- Type slmgr.vbs -dlv
- A new window opens. Check if your product key is listed here partially.
- You can now check the control panel to see if Windows is activated. If that did not work, you can still activate via the Microsoft hotline.
Now Read: Add a real start menu to Windows 8.1