How to Install and Upgrade Windows 8

  • 4/15/2013
This chapter from Exam Ref 70-687: Configuring Windows 8 shows how to plan effectively for installing or migrating to Windows 8, how to install the operating system in a trouble-free manner, and how to migrate user files, settings, and programs to the new operating system.

You might have heard the phrase “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Personally, I prefer to say “if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing only once.” This is especially true when installing or migrating to a new operating system, which can be time-consuming, especially if you have many machines onto which you need to install the Windows operating system, software, and updates—a process that can be tricky in places and is rarely as simple as it might first appear. With Windows 8, for example, the basic hardware requirements of the operating system are effectively lower than they were with Windows 7; however, this doesn’t mean that Windows 8 will work properly on every computer that Windows 7 ran on.

If you want to upgrade their existing copy of the operating system to the new version, you face a different set of issues with Windows 8. Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista are all very similar “under the hood,” but some upgrade paths that were previously blocked are now open, whereas others that were simple and straightforward are now much more complex.

Finally, you have the issue of software compatibility. In theory, all software that works in Windows 7 and Windows Vista will work in Windows 8. In reality, the sheer number of software packages available for the platform and the complexity of the operating system mean that complete software compatibility can’t be guaranteed. In addition, there are many scenarios in which you or a computer user might prefer—or when a situation might demand—a new-style app instead.

This chapter shows how to plan effectively for installing or migrating to Windows 8, how to install the operating system in a trouble-free manner, and how to migrate user files, settings, and programs to the new operating system.

Objectives in this chapter:

  • Objective 1.1: Evaluate hardware readiness and compatibility

  • Objective 1.2: Install Windows 8

  • Objective 1.3: Migrate and configure user data

Objective 1.1: Evaluate hardware readiness and compatibility

The following are primary considerations when installing or upgrading a computer to Windows 8:

  • Windows 8 edition required

  • 64-bit hardware support

  • 64-bit software support

  • 64-bit device driver availability

In addition, you need to be aware of common application compatibility problems and how to manage them.

Identifying the correct version of Windows 8

When you set out to install Windows 8 in any environment, you need to consider whether the hardware onto which you will be installing the operating system is suitable for running both Windows 8 and the version of Windows 8 you want to install. This means breaking the various Windows 8 editions down so that you can see, at a glance, what hardware and edition you require to use the features you want and need on a particular computer. The base hardware requirements of Windows 8 are shown in Table 1-1.

TABLE 1-1 Windows 8 hardware requirements

32-bit (x86)

64-bit (x64)


1 GHz

1 GHz


1 GB

2 GB


DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0

DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0


16 GB

20 GB

Secure boot



In addition to these requirements, each edition of Windows 8 has its own limitations, such as the maximum amount of memory that it can access and the location from which it is available. These are shown in Table 1-2.

TABLE 1-2 Memory and availability limits

32-bit memory limit

64-bit memory limit


Windows 8

4 GB*

16 GB


Windows 8 Pro

4 GB*

192 GB


Windows 8 Enterprise

4 GB*

192 GB

Volume licensing

*including graphics card memory

The editions also have feature differences, as shown in Table 1-3.

TABLE 1-3 Feature differences among versions

Windows 8

Windows 8 Pro

Windows 8 Enterprise

Bitlocker and bitlocker to go




Boot from virtual hard disk (VHD)




Client hyper-V




Domain join




Encrypting file system




Group policy
















Side-load apps




Virtualization through remotefx




Windows to go




If you know that you will need to use BranchCache or Group Policy on a system, the base edition of Windows 8 won’t be suitable. Indeed, the standard edition of Windows 8 is aimed primarily at consumers and will unlikely support any features a business will usually require.

Hardware support: differences between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 8

What about the 32-bit/64-bit question? Determining which to use isn’t simply a case of installing the best available edition of Windows 8 because you might find that the hardware and even software you require won’t work with that edition.

The 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems have the following differences:

  • A 64-bit processor can process more data in each clock cycle, enabling applications to run more quickly.

  • A 64-bit operating system can access significantly more memory than its 32-bit counterpart. For a 32-bit operating system, the maximum memory ceiling is 4 GB, which includes the memory on the graphics card. Also, memory can be seen by the Windows operating system only in discrete memory card units, meaning that if a computer has 4×1 GB memory cards and a graphics card with 1.5 GB of its own memory, only two of the motherboard memory cards will be seen (2×1 GB + 1.5 GB graphics = 3.5 GB seen). Each 64-bit processor has a memory ceiling so high that if you work on a computer that has reached that ceiling, you should consider yourself very lucky indeed.

  • A 64-bit processor supports additional security features, such as Kernel Patch Protection (KPP), kernel-mode driver signing, and Data Execution Prevention (DEP).

  • As shown in Table 1-3, the Hyper-V virtualization client is supported only in the 64-bit editions of Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise. But Hyper-V also requires a processor that supports Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), which reduces the overhead incurred with virtual-to-physical address mapping.

  • A 64-bit operating system can be installed only on hardware with 64-bit architecture support, whereas a 32-bit operating system can be installed on 32-bit and 64-bit architecture.

  • A 64-bit version of Windows 8 doesn’t support older 16-bit Windows software. That software will need to be installed on a 32-bit version of Windows 8 or within a Hyper-V virtualized environment.

Software compatibility and Windows 8

Assume that you will install Windows 8 in an accounting or financial business where the staff needs to work on extremely large Excel spreadsheets that have in excess of 256 columns or 65,536 rows. The 64-bit edition of Excel allows for up to 16,384 columns and 1 million rows.

Suppose also that the company needs to use specific 64-bit software, which could include such programs as AutoCAD or Adobe Photoshop, where the 64-bit version is required either due to nature of the work the staff does, or because the company doesn’t have a 32-bit license for the software.

No 64-bit software will run on a 32-bit Windows version. Therefore, if your company is moving from the 32-bit version of software such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop to the 64-bit version as part of a planned upgrade, you should first ensure that 64-bit versions of the plug-ins for the software exist. Many plug-ins have yet to be rewritten for the 64-bit architecture.

Also consider support for Hyper-V. If the business requires client virtualization, remember that only the 64-bit editions of Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise include this feature.

Hardware compatibility in Windows 8

After identifying any software compatibility issues, you need to identify any hardware compatibility issues such as problems with drivers. You should check the manufacturer’s website for the latest compatible versions of hardware drivers before migrating to Windows 8. Indeed, you should download and store all of these. Check that a 64-bit version of the driver is available for any hardware the client uses, including any external peripherals such as printers, scanners, and biometric devices.

Common application compatibility problems

As mentioned previously in this objective, not all existing software will run (or run happily) on Windows 8. The two most common reasons for this problem are:

  • Changes to the underlying architecture that Microsoft implemented with Windows Vista. This new architecture removed some components that earlier Windows versions required to operate fully and changed other components in significant ways, also resulting in incompatibilities with older software.

  • Workarounds that software authors occasionally employed before User Account Control was introduced. These workarounds would often use the blanket administrator privileges of Windows users to provide quick workarounds for programming issues that otherwise would have required more complex coding.

Some older software won’t run or will produce errors in the operating system for other reasons as well.

User Account Control

Considering the problems just discussed, some legacy and older software was written by programmers who designed software that included tasks that require administrator rights. This was done primarily to simplify the programmer’s life because writing code to perform the same tasks using standard user rights is more complex. The User Account Control (UAC) program will prompt you for your credentials when it encounters a program that requires administrator rights. If the user does not have the required administrator rights, UAC will block the program and the program will not run.

Other software types might be blocked by UAC for a variety of reasons. These include the following:

  • Poorly written installers, updaters, and uninstallers might not be automatically elevated to have administrator rights by Windows 8.

  • Standard application events, as detailed previously, that require elevated privileges might not be able to obtain them.

  • Applications to be run specifically by administrators can fail when used by people on standard user accounts.

  • Dynamic Link Library (DLL) applications using the RunDLL32.exe program might not function properly if they try to perform global operations that affect other user accounts or core Windows 8 settings.

  • Everyday applications that attempt to make file-level changes to Windows operating system areas or those of other user accounts will be blocked.

Windows Resource Protection

Windows Resource Protection (WRP) is a system that maintains critical Windows resources, files, folders, and registry entries in a read-only state. Access to these resources is permitted only to trusted software and hardware installers. These kinds of problems can occur:

  • Any installers that attempt to overwrite, modify, or delete registry keys, files, or folders protected by WRP can fail with a message informing users that the resource can’t be updated.

  • Installers that attempt to create new registry keys or values in protected registry keys can fail with a message saying that access is denied.

  • Any application that attempts to write to protected resources can fail if it relies on the use of protected registry keys.

Incompatibilities of 64-bit

The 64-bit version of Windows 8 can run all 32-bit Windows 8 software, thanks to the Windows 32-bit on Windows 64-bit (WOW64) emulator. However, software can fail on a 64-bit installation of Windows 8 under some circumstances:

  • Older 16-bit software won’t run on the 64-bit version of Windows 8. To use such legacy software, you need a 32-bit version of Windows installed on a Hyper-V virtualization client.

  • All 32-bit hardware and kernel drivers will fail to work or will malfunction in the 64-bit version of Windows 8. You need 64-bit versions of all your drivers.

  • Attempting to install unsigned 64-bit drivers will fail on Windows 8, including drivers added manually by editing the Windows registry.

Windows Filtering Platform

The Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) includes application program interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to write code that interacts with the data packet processing and filtering that occurs in the Windows 8 networking stack and elsewhere in the operating system. Problems can occur if software uses an earlier version of the API, resulting in errors when applications such as firewalls, anti-malware programs, and other security software are running.

Kernel-mode drivers

Any kernel-mode hardware drivers in Windows 8 need to be written or recoded to follow the Microsoft Windows User Mode Driver Framework (UMDF), a device-driver platform first introduced with Windows Vista. Incompatible drivers will fail to install or will cause errors in operation.

Operating system version number changes

Occasionally when older software looks for a Windows version number, it might not recognize Windows 8 as a new version of the operating system. This can happen if the software is poorly coded. Should this happen, the software will return an Incompatible Version of Windows error.

Managing application compatibility in Windows 8

If you are performing a stand-alone installation of Windows 8, the installer will inform you of any local hardware and software incompatibilities. However, this last-minute approach to determining application and hardware compatibility isn’t ideal because if you encounter a significant problem, you have to decide whether to continue with an installation that’s already partly underway or to abandon it and try again later. The best way to determine application compatibility in Windows has always been and continues to be to download the free Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) from

Using ACT is advantageous for multiple reasons. The ACT allows you to verify compatibility with Windows 8 for any software. (Note that this will apply only to desktop programs, because Windows Store apps will already be written to be compatible.) Another benefit of the ACT is that it allows you to test web applications with the latest version of the Internet Explorer web browser. Many compatibility problems in business are caused by older web applications originally written for the non-standards–compliant IE6 browser.

If you encounter an application that has compatibility problems with Windows 8, you can rectify the situation by following several possible courses of action—although some will require some software recoding:

  • Update the software so that stored file locations, registry entries, or file and folder permissions can be changed.

  • Change the security configuration for the software. Remember that the UAC displays an alert if software tries to perform an action that changes a setting or perform a modification in folder locations that affects other computer users, even if no other user accounts currently exist.

  • Find fixes, updates, and service packs for the software that will rectify the problems and issues that cause incompatibilities. If you are using off-the-shelf software, finding these items is reasonably likely unless all development on the product has ceased.

  • Upgrade the software to a newer and compatible version. If a newer version of the software exists, investigate whether the company can migrate to that version while also moving to Windows 8.

  • Use Hyper-V in Windows 8 to run the application in a virtualized environment. This will require installing an earlier Windows version into the Hyper-V client software. You will see more about this topic shortly.

  • Migrate to a different software package that is compatible with Windows 8. Sometimes moving to a different software package can be a good thing, because it can introduce new features and other enhancements while maintaining file compatibility.

  • Use the application compatibility features in Windows 8 to run the software in compatibility mode (more information about this shortly).

Running earlier Windows versions in Hyper-V: What to look for

You see how to set up and configure an operating system in Hyper-V in Chapter 2 but here you need to look at the issue of security and stability when using earlier versions of the operating system. Consider some of the potential problems and pitfalls involved with using an earlier Windows version:

  • When will support for security and stability updates end? Extended product support for Windows 7 won’t end until 2020. However, with Windows 7 and Windows 8 sharing much of the same core architecture, any software that works properly in Windows 7 will likely also run in Windows 8, so using Windows 7 in Hyper-V really isn’t necessary. With Windows XP, however, you more than likely need to run a copy in the virtual machine. All support for Windows XP with Service Pack 3 installed (the final service pack for the operating system) ends in April 2014. After that date, Microsoft will no longer support that operating system.

  • Does the application need access to the Internet? If you can completely isolate the operating system by denying it access to the Internet and to files held on local computers (which have a risk of malware infection), it is highly unlikely that the copy of Windows XP will ever be exposed to malware itself. Indeed, Hyper-V can be set up so that a virtual machine can get network access only to other virtual machines, so that data can be shared between them.

  • Will the virtualized operating system also require maintenance by the systems team? If the virtualized operating system requires access to the local file system on your Windows 8 computers, you will need to maintain the security on those virtualized copies of Windows XP, which adds an extra layer of complexity to your overall systems support role. Most importantly, if network access is granted, Internet access is automatically granted with it. One way around this is on computers that connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. On such systems, the virtual machine’s networking can be set to use the physical Ethernet system. If no cable is plugged into this on the host computer, the virtual machine will have local file access but no Internet access.

Regarding the final support date of April 2014, any remaining security problems left unrepaired on this date will likely be exploited by malware writers extensively because Windows XP is still widely used in some emerging economies.

Setting application compatibility in Windows 8

You can manually set compatibility for desktop programs that are installed in Windows 8 but were written either for an earlier version of the operating system or aren’t included with the operating system as it ships from Microsoft. These compatibility settings run the program with parameters that tell the operating system how to modify its interaction with the program to ensure it runs smoothly and properly.

To access the program compatibility settings, follow these steps:

  1. From the Start screen or the All Apps view, right-click the program you want to set compatibility for and click Open File Location.

  2. File Explorer opens on the desktop, displaying the link to the program. Right-click the program and click Properties from the options that appear.

  3. In the dialog box that appears for the program, click the Compatibility tab (see Figure 1-1).

Here, you can choose from several options. If you aren’t sure which compatibility options to set for the program, you can run the compatibility troubleshooter program. This troubleshooter will ask you a series of questions about the circumstances under which the program ran previously, and will then automatically set compatibility options based on the answers you provide.


FIGURE 1-1 Setting program compatibility in Windows 8

If you choose to set compatibility manually, you can choose from the following main options:

  • Compatibility mode. This option sets general, overall compatibility for the program for a previous Windows version (including service pack builds) going all the way back to Windows 95. Service pack builds are included for Windows XP and Windows Vista because some service packs included significant changes that can alter how software works in the operating system.

  • Reduced Ccolor mode. If an older program isn’t displaying correctly onscreen, you can set it to work in either 8-bit (256 color) or 16-bit (65,536 color) mode.

  • Run in 640 × 480 screen sesolution. If an older program isn’t displaying correctly, this setting locks the program into 640×480 pixel resolution.

  • Run this program as an administrator. Some older software might not work correctly if it was coded using what shortcuts and workarounds that require administrator-level access to system files and folders—and these were blocked with the introduction of User Account Control (UAC) in Windows Vista. If a program requires administrator rights to function correctly, you can enable this setting, but keep in mind that the program will always open a UAC dialog box when it is run, and some users might not have password access to authorize this action.

  • Change settings for all users. Setting program compatibility changes the registry settings for that program, but each user has her own registry file, so setting compatibility will make the changes only for the user who is logged in at that time. Clicking this button will set program compatibility for all users on the computer.

Objective summary

  • Not all editions of Windows 8 support the features required in the workplace, such as Group Policy or BitLocker.

  • No migration path exists between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows editions.

  • Windows 8 allows you to upgrade from Windows XP while keeping your files and folders intact.

  • The Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) can help you to determine the readiness of your software and hardware for Windows 8.

  • You can manually set compatibility for older software.

Objective review

Answer the following questions to test your knowledge of the information in this objective. You can find the answers to these questions and explanations of why each answer choice is correct or incorrect in the “Answers” section at the end of this chapter.

  1. A business is upgrading its copy of Microsoft Office alongside its Windows 8 installations, and the accounting department has said it needs to work with Excel files in excess of 256 columns. That department also has several third-party Excel plug-in apps that it needs to continue using. What does this mean for your deployment plans?

    1. The accounting department needs the 64-bit version of Windows 8 installed.

    2. The accounting department needs 64-bit Windows 8 and 64-bit Microsoft Office.

    3. The accounting department can install 64-bit Excel in compatibility mode in 32-bit Windows 8.

    4. The accounting department needs 64-bit Windows 8, 64-bit Office, and also compatible 64-bit third-party plug-ins.

  2. A business is upgrading several computers from the 64-bit version of Windows Vista to Windows 8. Which one of these statements is true?

    1. You can perform a straight upgrade, keeping the existing software.

    2. You have to perform a clean installation on each workstation.

    3. The company’s existing software won’t work with Windows 8.

    4. You can upgrade the company computers, keeping files and settings, but will need to reinstall all software afterward.

  3. You are planning to upgrade several computers running Windows XP to Windows 8. Which of the following factors do you need to consider? Select all that apply.

    1. You need updated drivers for all the hardware, including external devices.

    2. You need new drivers for the internal hardware, but USB devices will be fine.

    3. You can check your hardware on the Microsoft website to determine Windows 8 compatibility.

    4. You might need to install some software in a Hyper-V environment running Windows XP.

  4. Some older software a company has been using doesn’t work properly in Windows 8 and keeps reporting a Cannot Write To File error. What is the cause of this?

    1. The file the software is attempting to write to is protected by User Account Control (UAC).

    2. The software isn’t being run in compatibility mode.

    3. The software is attempting to write to a system file or folder location that is protected by Windows Resource Protection (WRP).

    4. The software is being run inside Hyper-V.