Windows 8: New Installation with Upgrade not possible

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 4, 2012
Updated • Dec 2, 2012
Windows, Windows 8

Windows customers who purchased an upgrade of Windows in the past were able to install that update even on a PC where no previous version of Windows was installed on. This was convenient for customers, as they could install the operating system on new hard drives or PCs that they built without the need to install the older version of Windows first on the PC.

According to Microsoft Communication's Manager Brandon LeBlanc, this will no longer work with Windows 8 Upgrade Media. PC users who want to install Windows 8 using a Windows 8 Upgrade download or media can only do so on a PC that has a previous version of Windows installed. Previous version in this regard means any version of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Brandon notes:

To upgrade, a previous version of Windows (e.g. Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7) will need to be on that PC.

He adds later on in another comment that Windows 8 Release Preview users can also upgrade to Windows 8 Pro with the upgrade for $39.99. In that situation, only personal files can be migrated, while installed applications and settings won't be migrated. This is different from an upgrade from Windows 7, were installed applications, settings and personal files are included.

windows 8 upgrade details

It is interesting to note that Windows 8 Release Preview users who have not purchased an earlier version of Windows can use the Upgrade to install the full version of Windows 8.

Brandon also mentioned that Windows 7 customers who purchased the Family Pack, a promotional version of Windows 7 that supported the installation on three different PCs with one license key, need to purchase an upgrade for each key individually.

Windows users who prefer to start with a clean operating system - in contrast to one that is upgrade - can select to format the hard drive during installation. This option is however only available when the upgrade is booted from USB or DVD.

The requirement to have XP, Vista, Windows 7 or the Windows 8 RP installed to run the upgrade is problematic when users need to reinstall their operating system. Instead of installing Windows 8 anew right away, they would first have to install an older version of the operating system, or the RP release provided that it is still available and valid, before they install the upgrade. Not the most user friendly solution. It is however likely that the operating system's refresh and reset options resolve most of the issues that users run into. (via Beatmaster and the Windows Team Blog comment section)


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  1. RandomUser said on April 23, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    1. Intstall WIN8 on bare PC.
    2. During Windows Setup select: CUSTOM : Install Windows only (advanced)
    3. Enter your upgrade KEY and continue with install.
    4. After install WIN8 will not register.
    5. Hold down: Windows-key + R, and enter “regedit”
    6. Navigate to the following key:
    7. Open the “mediabootinstall” and change the dword value to ” 0 “.
    8. Close regedit.
    9. Open elevated command prompt (search for CMD and then Right click -> Run As Administrator)
    2. Type slmgr -rearm
    3. Reboot

    Voila, should be activated after reboot. If not, re-enter key and should activate.

  2. steve said on November 9, 2012 at 12:43 am

    I found out about this retarded policy by accident. I purchased Win 8 Pro from Amazon without know about this restriction. I planned on installing it on my older HP HDX-18 laptop which came with Vista 64 but no CD. Before upgrading, the HDD started going and I could not clone it (tried Clonezilla, DD, etc., but nothing worked). I bought and installed a new SSD in the laptop and installed the Win 8 Pro that I bought. It let me install without an issue. Spent the requisite hours downloading and installing new Win 8 drivers and things were looking good until the YOU MUST ACTIVATE THIS PC message reared it’s ugly head. Tried the key provided, but it wouldn’t work. Called MS and they said there’s nothing to be done except install Vista 64 first or return it to Amazon. I don’t have DVD copy of Vista naturally but do have a valid key for x64 Home Premium. You’d think that would be good enough for Microstupid, but nope. So, Win 8 is going back to Amazon for a refund and MS losses a sale. I’ll figure something out…. Maybe Ubuntu.

  3. Matt said on October 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    MAJOR FAIL on Microsoft’s part. As of 10/31 they are no longer offering a Windows 7 Full Version at all! So how the heck do I get a Windows OS on a new machine now!? They only sell Windows 8 upgrade licenses. They are crazy. Seriously. I have VM I need to build with Windows OS on it and I cannot get a Windows OS to put on it. It’s brain dead, another wonderful example of why Microsoft don’t think anything through!

  4. David said on July 5, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Microsoft has insane support costs due to the insane number of hardware + software combinations it has to support. They decided to travel this road back at the begining with the goal of bringing computer power to the masses. I’m glad they made that decision. Each group of users have different needs, there is no ‘one ring to rule them all’.

    Value costs, but it does not need to be as much as Apple charges. The best product is not always the most expensive. Apple keeps tight control over what hardware and software goes into their systems. Users adapt to them or get a PC, their systems do not adapt much to their users.

    Linux is fine for geeks with a nostalgic hankering for DOS. Installs are a lot easier, but to really use it well you have to drop to the command line from time to time. Apple users will never accept it. PC users envious of Apple users will not either. My problem with it is the limited range of entertainment software. I use my computer for more than work.

  5. berttie said on July 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    I agree with Threshold, a case of half a step forward, followed immediately by 2 backwards. Microsoft just doesn’t get it customers. Not the retail ones anyway.

  6. Threshold said on July 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Of course MS does one thing right, the affordable, simple, update that could have really curbed down on piracy to mess it up a minute later.

    As for the other os mentioned:

    -David, Apple might even be better but considering their os penetration in home pcs is and has always been ridiculous it really doesn’t matter.

    -I have recently tried Ubuntu and it drove me nuts.
    I am sorry but i don’t want to learn a new os when I have still so much to learn on the one I have been using so far.
    And don’t even let me start on those disappearing toolbars: who the hell come up with that crap?

  7. ilev said on July 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm


    This site is lately very slow of important news :

    Y2K 2.0: How A Second Brought Down Half The Internets

    European Parliament rejects ACTA
    478 votes against, 146 abstentions, and just 39 in favor.

    European Union Court of Justice – Used software Licenses sales perfectly legit (including OS)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 4, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      That’s largely because I can’t cover all the news here.

  8. ilev said on July 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    A hack, similar to Windows 7 ei.cfg file hack that let you extract and install any version of Windows 7, will be made available for Windows 8 as well.

  9. Anomaly said on July 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    Windows 8 is a joke already but this requirement to have a previous version ow Windows already installed is idiotic. Who wants to install XP, Vista, or Windows 7 first just to be able to install crap Windows 8? What a jerk around. Not surprising coming from the clowns at Microstupid.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Keep in mind that this is only valid if you purchase a Winodws 8 Upgrade. If you buy a full version of Windows 8, you can install it on a PC without operating system.

  10. David said on July 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    No matter what Microsoft tries to do to accommodate their users, some group always complains.

    Apple offers few options and says do what we say or else. This is not convenient for users, but it keeps support costs down.

    Which is better?

    1. Anomaly said on July 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      Linux is better in every way. You read about how difficult Linux is compared to Windows but that is BS. Installing Linux couldn’t be any more easy. It’s so easy it’s stupid.

      Take a person who has zero computer knowledge and that person could learn to use Linux much quicker and easier than Windows.

      As for how Mac does things, sure they have nice hardware and OS X is a nice system for sure but the Apple Eco system is just insane. Every time I use one of my Macs I rage at how awesome it could be without the jerk offs at Apple trying to lock my ass down.

      1. Anomaly said on July 5, 2012 at 3:44 am


        No exaggeration at all. In fact I understated how easy Linux is compared to Windows. I should maybe clarify I’m talking about Ubuntu and some of the distros based off of it like Mint.

        I pulled my hair out trying to show things to my mother on Windows but have a much easier time with Linux. You can get by without touching the terminal and Unix command line work much as you can get by on Windows without touching the command line. But there are some advanced things that need the command line in Linux and Windows.

        The advanced portioning feature in the Linux install process is not necessary to use at all. You can choose to use the whole disk or install along side an exiting OS and the installer will do the rest. All the repositories an average user will need are already enabled and updating a Linux install and programs is a breeze compared to Windows.

        Of course there is a learning curve but that goes for any OS. My point was that Linux is far easier to use than you read about and much more intuitive than Windows, even more so now with the Windows 8 monstrosity.

      2. Bob said on July 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm

        I have been using Linux Mint over the last couple of weeks and it is a bit of a learning curve. It is becoming my preferred OS of choice as it doesn’t lock my ass down like Apple does. Linux is better in every way though. There are different Linux distributions for different needs that Microsoft and Apple highly restrict.

      3. JohnMWhite said on July 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm

        That is a pretty large exaggeration. It’s true that many flavours of Linux, particularly Ubuntu, have become much easier to deal with over time, but to suggest that a person with zero computer knowledge could install and use Linux more quickly and easily than Windows is way over the top. The installations processes for 7 and Ubuntu are pretty much the same, though an inexperienced user might be seriously tripped up by the hard-drive partitioning and set-up section with Ubuntu (“What’s sda0?” they might ask). Linux still requires command line work to do certain things and selecting and updating repositories to find apps isn’t what I would call as intuitive as just downloading them from a web page. I think you are over-doing it here.

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