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Considerations for a Windows 8 to Windows 10 upgrade

Until mid-2016, eligible Windows 8 customers can upgrade to Windows 10 for free, but it's important to keep hardware requirements and app function in mind before making the jump.

Windows 10 is the last desktop edition of Windows according to Microsoft, and the company offers a free upgrade from most editions of Windows 8 through the middle of 2016, so it makes a lot of sense to seriously consider moving from Windows 8 to Window 10 soon.

Before committing to an upgrade, you must determine if you are eligible for one, and if your hardware can handle the new OS. The Windows 8 edition you currently run determines whether you are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10, and dictates which edition of Windows 10 you receive.

Windows 8.1 (the standard edition) and Windows 8.1 with Bing both have free upgrades to Windows 10 Home Edition. Windows 8.1 Pro -- including Windows 8.1 Pro for Students -- has a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. Windows Phone 8.1 will go to Windows 10 Mobile. Windows 8.1 Enterprise isn't eligible for a free upgrade, and Windows RT is being retired so there's no upgrade path available.

If you are eligible for a free upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10 then time is of the essence. Microsoft made Windows 10 available on July 29, 2015 and the free upgrade offer is only valid for one year. On July 29, 2016 if you haven't migrated to Windows 10 yet, you must purchase a Windows 10 license if you want to upgrade. (A Windows 10 Home Edition license currently sells for $119, and a license for Windows 10 Pro costs $199.)

Once you confirm your upgrade eligibility, you have to verify that your desktops have the necessary hardware. As a general rule, any PC comfortably running Windows 8.1 should be able to handle the migration to Windows 10. Even so, it's always a good idea to confirm you have the hardware you need.

Hardware requirements for Windows 8 to Windows 10 migrations

The minimum hardware requirements for Windows 10 vary slightly between the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. If you will perform an in-place migration from Windows 8.1, then the version of Windows 10 you get matches the version of Windows 8.1 you had. In other words, if you currently run the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1, then the upgrade process installs the 32-bit version of Windows 10. If you have the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 and you want to move to the 64-bit version of Windows 10, you won't be able to perform an in-place upgrade. Instead, you have to perform a clean install.

The minimum hardware requirements for Windows 10 include:

  • A 1 GHz or faster CPU
  • 1 GB of RAM (2 GB for the 64-bit version)
  • 16 GB of free disk space (20 GB for the 64-bit version)
  • A video card that supports DirectX 9 with WDDM 1.0
  • A display that supports at least a 1024 x 600 resolution

Some Windows 10 features have special hardware requirements you must keep in mind. For example, Windows Hello requires a special camera, you need a touch screen to take advantage of gestures, and you need a microphone if you want to give Cortana voice commands. Plus the number of apps that Windows 10 can display on the screen simultaneously depends on your video resolution.

Other migration considerations

There are two other major considerations to account for before you migrate from Windows 8 to Windows 10. First, the upgrade process requires your desktops run Windows 8.1 (plus a couple of subsequent updates that deliver the upgrade). This shouldn't be an issue for most organizations, but if you haven't kept up with the Windows 8.1 updates, you'll have to bring all of your PCs up to date.

The other major consideration is that an in-place upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10 could break your apps. The upgrade leaves applications and most of your system settings intact, but there is no guarantee your applications will continue to function after the upgrade. Therefore, it is critically important to take an application inventory and do some research to find out if any of your applications experience issues running on Windows 10. Most applications that work with Windows 8 work fine with Windows 10, but you may need to patch an application prior to the upgrade.

Next Steps

How to upgrade from XP to Windows 10

Make the jump from Windows 7 to Windows 10

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Comprehensive Windows 10 upgrade and compatibility guide

This was last published in November 2015

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How will you prepare to move from Windows 8 to Windows 10?
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Given the issues that I had upgrading from 8.1 to 10, I think I’ll just stay on 8.1 and wait until I need another machine.
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Upgrading from 8.1 to 10 can still have hardware related issues, even with those hardware requirements in mind. I took the plunge on my Lenovo Yoga Pro 2, and wound up reverting back to 8.1 due to hardware incompatibility issues that made the machine unusable.
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