How to Upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 8

In order to upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 8, you must run a clean installation of the new operating system which deletes all of your files, settings and programs. If you have anything you want to save, back it up before proceeding. Those programs that are compatible with Windows 8 can be re-installed once you are finished.

Asian businessman looking at laptop on floor
Because installation can take 30 minutes, it's best to plug in your laptop.
credit: JGI/Blend Images/Getty Images

Step

Review the official Windows 8 system requirements (link in Resources). In order to run Windows 8, your computer needs at least a 1-GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of free hard-drive space and a Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics card with WDDM support.

Step

Compare these requirements to the specs of your Windows Vista computer to verify that it has enough storage space and computing power to run Windows 8. Click the “Start” button on your Windows Vista computer, select “Control Panel,” select “System and Maintenance” and then click “System” to view your PC’s specifications.

Step

Obtain a Windows 8.1 installation DVD, as you cannot simply download the OS for this process. The official DVD includes both the 32-bit and the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1.

Step

Determine whether your computer is 64-bit compatible. Click the “Start” button, select “Control Panel” and enter “Performance information and tools” in the Search box. Select it from the search results and then select “View and print details.” If it says you’re running the 64-bit version of Vista or says “64-bit capable” under the System Type heading, you can install the 64-bit version of Windows 8.1. Otherwise, you must install the 32-bit version.

Step

Locate your product key on the packaging for your Windows 8.1 DVD. This is a 25-digit code you need when upgrading to Windows 8.1.

Step

Verify you’ve backed up everything you want to save and then insert the DVD into the optical drive on your Windows Vista computer. Restart the computer. When it restarts, you may be prompted to verify that you want to boot the computer from the DVD.

Step

Select your language, time and currency format, and the type of input device you’re using. Press the “Next” button to continue.

Step

Click “Install Windows,” enter your product key, agree to the license terms and conditions and then select “Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)” on the Windows Setup screen. Select the hard drive on which you want to install Windows 8.1 and click “Next” to initiate the installation.

Step

Enter a name for your computer and select a color scheme after the installation completes. Follow the prompts to personalize your PC settings.

Step

Sign in to your Microsoft account or create an account if you don’t already have one. If you don’t want to create a Microsoft account, click “Create a new account” and then select “Continue using my existing account,” which enables you to log in as a local user on your computer and bypass signing in to or creating an official Microsoft account.