- By William Stanek
Installing Windows 8.1
Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise are the main editions intended for use in Active Directory domains. When you install Windows 8.1 on a computer with an existing operating system, you can perform a clean installation or an upgrade. The major differences between a clean installation and an upgrade are the following:
- Clean installation With a clean installation, the Windows Setup program completely replaces the original operating system on the computer, and all user and application settings are lost. You should use a clean installation when the operating system cannot be upgraded, the system must boot to multiple operating systems, a standardized configuration is required, or when no operating system is currently installed.
- Upgrade installation During an upgrade, user accounts, user files, and user settings are retained, existing applications and their settings are kept, and basic system configuration is not required. An upgrade installation should be used when you have computers running the Windows operating system that support upgrading to Windows 8.1 and you want to minimize disruption by maintaining the existing settings, user information, and application configurations.
The way an upgrade works depends on the operating system being upgraded. When you are upgrading from Windows 7, Windows Setup performs an in-place upgrade that ensures the upgrade works as described previously. With Windows Vista and Windows XP, an in-place upgrade works differently. With Windows Vista, you can retain user accounts, user files, and user settings, as well as basic system configuration, but Windows Setup will not retain applications and their settings. With Windows XP, you can retain user accounts, user files, and user settings, but Windows Setup will not retain applications and their settings or basic system configuration.
Preparing for Windows 8.1 installation
To install Windows 8.1, you can start from the Windows distribution media, run Setup from your current Windows operating system, perform a command-line installation, or use one of the automated installation options.
There are two basic approaches to setting up Windows 8.1—interactively or as an automated process. An interactive installation is what many people regard as the regular Windows installation—the kind in which you walk through the setup process and enter a lot of information. It can be performed from distribution media (by starting from the distribution media or running Windows Setup from a command line). The default Windows setup process when starting from the retail Windows 8.1 DVD is interactive, prompting you for configuration information throughout the process.
There are several types of automated setup, which actually have administrator-configurable amounts of user interaction. The most basic form of unattended setup you can perform is an unattended installation using only answer files. An answer file contains all or part of the configuration information usually prompted for during a standard installation process. You can create unattended answer files by using Windows System Image Manager, which is provided in the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK). To take unattended setup a step further, you can use Windows Deployment Services.
The standard setup program for Windows 8.1 is Setup.exe. You can run Setup.exe from the currently running Windows operating system to perform an upgrade, or you can start from the distribution media to perform a new installation of Windows 8.1. When you are working with Windows 8.1 on x86-based systems, you should be aware of the special types of drive sections used by the operating system:
- Active The active partition or volume is the drive section for system cache and startup. Some removable media devices might be listed as having an active partition.
- Boot The boot partition or volume contains the operating system and its support files. The system and boot partition or volume can be the same.
- System The system partition or volume contains the hardware-specific files needed to load the operating system. As part of software configuration, the system partition or volume can’t be part of a striped or spanned volume.
Partitions and volumes are essentially the same thing; however, two different terms are used at times because you create partitions on basic disks and you create volumes on dynamic disks. On an x86-based computer, you can mark a partition as active by using the Disk Management snap-in.
Although the active, boot, and system volumes or partitions can be the same, each is required nonetheless. When you install Windows 8.1, the Setup program assesses all the hard disk drive resources available. Typically, Windows 8.1 puts boot and system files on the same drive and partition, and then marks this partition as the active partition. The advantage of this configuration is that you don’t need multiple drives for the operating system, and you can use an additional drive as a mirror of the operating system partitions.
There are a number of differences when installing to EFI-based hardware. The EFI starts up by loading a firmware-based boot menu. Normally, EFI disks have a partition structure called a GUID partition table (GPT). This partition structure differs substantially from the 32-bit–platform MBR-based partitions.
GPT-based disks have two required partitions and one or more optional (OEM or data) partitions (up to 128 total):
- EFI system partition (ESP)
- Microsoft reserved partition (MSR)
- At least one data partition
The EFI boot menu presents a set of options, one of which is the EFI shell. The EFI shell provides an operating environment supporting the FAT and FAT32 file systems, as well as configuration and file management commands. To view a list of partitions on an EFI-based computer, use the Map command. In the output of the Map command, blk designates partition blocks and fs# designates readable file systems. You can change to a partition by entering the partition block number followed by a colon. Enter dir to view files in the partition. EFI has a boot maintenance manager that allows you to configure the boot menu.
When you install Windows 8.1, the Setup program will automatically create a Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) partition and install additional components that can be used for recovery and troubleshooting in that partition. As a result, the Windows recovery tools are always available on computers running Windows 8.1. For more information, see the “Recovering from a failed start” section in Chapter 10, “Backing up and recovering a computer.“
As an administrator, you can use these tools to recover computers. If a remote user can’t start Windows, you can talk the user through the process of starting Windows RE and initiating recovery. You do this by having the user access the Advanced Repair Options menu, as discussed in the “Recovering from a failed start” section in Chapter 10.
Performing a Windows 8.1 installation
Before you install Windows 8.1 on a computer, you should determine whether the underlying hardware meets the requirements for physical memory, processing power, and graphics capabilities. Microsoft provides both minimum requirements and recommended requirements. Requirements for memory and graphics are measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB); requirements for processors are measured in gigahertz (GHz).
Windows 8.1 requires:
- A 1-GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
- At least 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
- A DirectX 9 graphics processor with a Windows Display Drive Model (WDDM) 1.0 or later driver
- Touch UI requires a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch.
Any computer that meets or exceeds these hardware requirements can run Windows 8.1. You can perform a new installation of Windows 8.1 by completing these steps:
Turn on the computer and insert the Windows 8.1 distribution media into the computer’s DVD-ROM drive. Press a key to start the Setup program from the DVD when prompted. If you’re not prompted to start from DVD, you might need to modify the computer’s boot or startup options in firmware.
When prompted, choose your language, time, currency format, and keyboard layout, and then tap or click Next. Click Install Now.
With retail versions of Windows 8.1, you typically have to provide a product key. If prompted, enter the product key. Tap the onscreen keyboard button if you are working on a device without a keyboard, and then use the onscreen keyboard to enter the product key. Tap or click Next.
Read the license terms. If you agree, tap or click I Accept The License Terms, and then tap or click Next.
The Which Type Of Installation Do You Want? page is displayed to ensure that you really want to perform a new installation rather than an upgrade. To continue with the new installation, select Custom: Install Windows Only (Advanced).
When prompted for an installation location, choose the drive partition on which you want to install the operating system, and then tap or click Next.
If the drive partition you’ve selected contains a previous Windows installation, you’ll get a prompt telling you that existing user and application settings will be moved to a folder named Windows.old and that you must copy these settings to the new installation to use them. Tap or click OK.
Setup will then start the installation. During this process, Setup copies the full disk image of Windows 8.1 to the disk you’ve selected and then expands it. Afterward, Setup installs features based on the computer’s configuration and any hardware that Setup detects. When Setup finishes the installation and restarts the computer, the operating system will be loaded and the system will be set up for first use. After the system is prepared, Setup will restart the computer again.
On the Personalize page, pick a background color for the Start page and desktop. Enter a computer name, and then tap or click Next.
When prompted, choose your country or region, your time and currency format, and your keyboard layout. Tap or click Next.
With wireless connections, you’ll need to select the wireless connection to use. When you tap or click Connect, you’ll be able to enter the password for the wireless network. Then you’ll need to tap or click Connect again. If the computer has a wired connection to the Internet, you shouldn’t need to do this.
On the Settings page, you can tap or click Use Express Settings to accept the express settings or tap or click Customize to customize the settings. Express settings configure the computer and standard defaults, as follows:
Turn on sharing and connect devices, which might be suitable for home and work networks, though not necessarily for domain environments.
Automatically install important and recommended updates, as well as updates for devices.
Help protect the PC from unsafe content, files, and websites by enabling the SmartScreen Filter for Internet Explorer and Windows.
Use Windows Error Reporting to check for solutions to problems.
Use Internet Explorer compatibility lists to help resolve website compatibility issues.
Let desktop apps use your name and account picture.
Enable Windows Location Platform so desktop apps can ask users for their location.
If the computer has an Internet connection, the Sign In To Your PC page allows you to set up either a Microsoft Account or a local computer account. Otherwise, only a local computer account can be created. At this point, you’ll typically want to use a local account for the computer, so tap or click Sign In Without A Microsoft Account, and then confirm by tapping or clicking Local Account again. Next, enter a user name. Enter and then confirm a password. Enter a password hint. Finally, tap or click Finish.
Afterward, Windows 8.1 will prepare the computer’s desktop.
You can upgrade a computer to Windows 8.1 by completing these steps:
Start the computer and log on by using an account with administrator privileges. Insert the Windows 8.1 distribution media into the computer’s DVD-ROM drive. The Windows 8.1 Setup program should start automatically. If Setup doesn’t start automatically, use File Explorer to access the distribution media, and then double-tap or double-click Setup.exe.
Setup will copy temporary files and then start. If your computer is connected to the Internet, choose whether to get required updates during the installation. Either tap or click Go Online To Install Updates Now or tap or click No, Thanks. Tap or click Next.
With retail versions of Windows 8.1, you typically have to provide a product key. If prompted, enter the product key. Tap the onscreen keyboard button if you are working on a device without a keyboard, and then use the onscreen keyboard to enter the product key. By default, the computer will automatically activate Windows the next time you connect to the Internet. Tap or click Next.
Read the license terms. If you agree, tap or click I Accept The License Terms, and then tap or click Accept.
The options that appear on the Choose What To Keep page depend on the version of Windows currently running on your computer. Upgrade options you might get include the following:
- Windows Settings If this option is available and selected, Setup attempts to keep basic settings, including settings for your desktop background, display, Internet favorites, Internet history, and Ease of Access. Not all settings will be moved and available in Windows 8.1.
- Personal Files If this option is available and selected, Setup saves personal files from the Users folder. This means that the personal files stored in each user’s Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and other folders are moved and made available in Windows 8.1.
- Apps If this option is available and selected, Setup saves settings for desktop apps and makes them available after upgrade. Desktop programs, and some desktop apps, will need to be reinstalled.
- Nothing If this option is selected, Setup moves folders and files for the previous installation to a folder named Windows.old, and the previous installation will no longer run.
Tap or click Next, and then tap or click Install. Continue with steps 8 through 14 of the previous procedure.
You might have trouble installing Windows 8.1 for a variety of reasons. Possible solutions to common problems follow, in problem/solution format.
- You can’t start from the Windows 8.1 installation media. Although most computers can start from DVD, sometimes this capability is disabled in firmware. Set the boot order in firmware so that the DVD drive appears ahead of hard disk drives and other bootable media.
- You can’t select a hard disk during setup. Although the Windows 8.1 installation media contains drivers for most disk controllers, you might have a disk controller for which a default driver isn’t available. Insert media containing the required drivers, and then tap or click Load Drivers on the Where Do You Want To Install Windows? page. If the driver is on an internal hard drive, press Shift+F10 to access a command prompt, and then use Xcopy to copy the driver files to a USB flash device or other removable media. You can then tap or click Load Drivers to load the drivers from the media.
- You forgot to modify the hard disk configuration prior to starting the installation. On the Where Do You Want To Install Windows? page, tap or click Drive Options (Advanced). You can then use the options provided to create, delete, and format partitions as necessary. If you need to shrink or extend a partition (even during an upgrade), press Shift+F10 to access a command prompt, and then use Disk Part to work with the partition. You can extend and shrink partitions without having to delete them. You also can use Disk Part to change the disk type and partition style.
Creating a Windows To Go workspace
Another way to work with Windows 8.1 is to create a Windows To Go workspace. A Windows To Go workspace is a bootable installation of Windows 8.1 that’s installed on a 32-GB or larger USB drive. A Windows To Go workspace operates much like a standard installation of Windows 8.1 except in the following respects:
- Hibernate is disabled as a sleep option by default, because this helps ensure that you can easily move the workspace between computers.
- Internal disks are offline by default to ensure that data is stored on the USB drive rather than on the computer into which the Windows To Go drive is inserted.
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) is not used; however, a pre-operating system boot password can be configured as part of BitLocker Drive Encryption.
- Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE) is not available, and you cannot refresh or reset a Windows To Go workspace.
Unlike in Windows 8, Windows To Go workspaces for Windows 8.1 are able to use Microsoft accounts and access the Microsoft store. Windows To Go discovers available hardware and installs necessary drivers upon first boot on a host computer. The next time you start Windows To Go on that host computer, Windows To Go identifies the host computer and loads the correct drivers automatically. Applications that you want to run from a Windows To Go workspace must support roaming.
Unlike Windows 8, Windows 8.1 includes a Windows To Go creator tool. You can access this tool and create a Windows To Go workspace by completing the following steps:
- Insert a 32-GB or larger USB drive into a USB port on your computer.
- In Control Panel, tap or click Large Icons or Small Icons as the View By option.
- Tap or click the Windows To Go option.
- In the Create A Windows To Go Workspace dialog box, tap or click the USB drive on which you want to create the Windows To Go workspace.
- Tap or click Next, and then follow the prompts.