How To Prepare Your Computer For Windows 8

Windows 8 has arrived. If you’re thinking of upgrading, here’s what you should do to prepare.

You can download the Pro version of Windows 8 directly from Microsoft for $39.99 if you’re running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7. Boxed versions with discs will cost an extra $30 at retail stores (though several are offering specials). While the installation process is straightforward, you can make the move to Windows 8 a lot smoother by following these steps.

Step One: Check Compatibility

Can your computer run Windows 8?

The minimum system requirements for Windows 8 are fairly accommodating. Microsoft says that if your computer can run Windows 7, it should be able to run Windows 8.

Even if your machine is older, you can run Windows 8 if it meets these basic system requirements :

  • Processor: 1GHz or faster
  • Memory: 2GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit) RAM
  • Hard disk space: 16GB (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

You can check your system specs by right-clicking on My Computer in the Start Menu and going to Properties (or go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information, or type Windows Key-Break).

Special requirements

Some reports suggest that a few more recently released Windows 7 PCs (mostly tablets and netbooks) won’t be able to run Windows 8, because they use Intel’s Atom Cedar Trail processor, which has problems with the new OS. If you use one of these devices, you should probably hold off on upgrading until a patch is issued.

For specific features, Windows 8 has additional requirements. To use touch options, obviously you’ll need a tablet or monitor that supports multitouch, though some laptops will get extra trackpad gestures through the new OS. Windows Store apps (which includes most of the new ‘Modern’ interface options) require a screen resolution of at least 1024 by 768, and app snapping requires at least 1366 by 768. This can be a problem for netbooks, which typically have a resolution of lower resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels. There’s a somewhat clunky registry hack to fix that, and you can still install Windows 8 on netbooks if you’re happy to only use the conventional desktop mode.

Check if your programs and devices are Windows 8-compatible

Most apps and devices that work on Windows 7 should be fine on Windows 8. To check specific programs, visit Microsoft’s Compatibility Center or run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant, which scans your computer and checks for software and hardware compatibility.

Step Two: Clean Up And Optimise Your Hard Drive

If you’re doing a clean install (that is, letting Windows wipe everything off your drive before upgrading) or installing Windows 8 onto a new partition or in a virtual machine, you can skip this step. But if you’re planning to do an in-place upgrade to keep your documents, programs and settings intact, now is the time for a little housekeeping, so you don’t have junk carried over to the new OS.

(By the way, what gets migrated or carried over during an in-place upgrade depends on the version of Windows you’re running.)

Our guide to speeding up, cleaning up, and reviving your PC walks you through spring cleaning your Windows computer, including uninstalling apps you don’t use and freeing up disk space. For a quick refresher, here are the tools we recommend for the task:

  • Remove apps you no longer need: Revo Uninstaller (free), our favorite app uninstaller for Windows, completely deletes every trace of a program with just a few clicks.
  • Clean out the junk files: The speedy Ccleaner will banish temporary files, log files, and other space-hogging stuff you don’t want on your new Windows 8 system.
  • Defrag your drive: Even though we don’t generally recommend defragging Windows Vista or Windows 7 PCs because they are already configured to defragment your drives, it’s a good idea to check if your drive actually has been defragmented. By default, the defrag runs at 1am every Wednesday, so if your computer isn’t on at that time, it might not actually be defragged. While the built-in defragmenter is fine, a third-party tool such as Piriform’s Defraggler offers more features. Also note that if you have a SSD, you do not want to defrag.

Step Three: Run System And Third-Party Software Updates

Windows might balk if you try to upgrade but are missing important patches. Save yourself some time tomorrow and get the latest updates (especially service packs) now. (If your programs are updated, you also have a better chance of them running properly on Windows 8.)

Run system updates by going to the Windows > Software Update. To check which programs need updating, you can use a utility dedicated to that purpose, such as Update Notifier or a tool like Soluto, which also speeds up your system boot time and fixes slowdowns.

Step Four: Back Up Your Computer

Whether you’re doing a clean install or an in-place upgrade, there’s no two ways about it: you need to back up your computer and make sure the backup actually works. Backing up your PC with Windows’ built-in utility is really easy: plug in an external drive and just say yes to using it as a backup drive. Test the backups by doing a few restores of older and newer files to make sure you can recover your files if needed. This is also a good time to make sure your online backup tool has recently backed up 100%.

Offline backup tools offer more options, including automatically verifying backups and creating a complete image of your PC, so you might want to use one of those for this special task, just to be sure you can completely backtrack if the upgrade goes awry (or you absolutely hate Windows 8).

Step Five: Save Your System Drivers And Locate Your Program Keys

Lastly, make sure you have the media and product keys for all of your programs. Take a stroll through your programs folder or export a list of installed programs from CCleaner.

For good measure, also make sure you have the drivers for at least your network card(s). With those steps taken, you’re ready to install Windows 8.

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