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All about Microsoft Windows 8.0 and 8.1

About Windows 8

Windows 8 is an operating system released by Microsoft in October 2012. Update to Windows 8.1 (available in the Windows Store) to receive feature updates and additions until January 2018 and security patches until January 2023. If you use version 8.1, you can upgrade directly (but no longer for free) to Windows 10.

  • Windows 8 Start Screen

Windows 8 compatibility

Operating systems on Download.com product page

For any Windows product on Download.com, go to the product page and scroll down to Full Specifications. Click or tap the + button at right to expand the section, and look for Operating Systems. If your OS is listed here, the download should be compatible with your PC.


Windows 8 FAQs

Windows 8 has some controversial and potentially confusing design choices that prompt frequent questions. Here are answers to some of the more common ones.

  • Which version of Windows 8 do you have?
    Windows 8 is an umbrella term for versions 8.0 and 8.1. You need to have version 8.1 to get updates from Microsoft and to upgrade directly to Windows 10. To determine which version of Windows 8 you have, press the Windows key, type "winver" (without the quotes) and press Enter. This will open a window that tells you which version of Windows 8 you have.
  • How do you upgrade from Windows 8.0 to 8.1?

    If you've confirmed that you have version 8.0 (see the question before this one), the 8.1 download is not available in Windows Update: You must search for it in the Windows Store app that's built into Windows 8. To access the app, press the Windows key, type "Windows Store," and press Enter. The 8.1 upgrade should be featured prominently. If it's not listed, use the search bar in the upper right-hand corner. Then follow the on-screen instructions. The upgrade will take 30 minutes to an hour, and your computer may restart several times, so save your open documents before you begin.

  • What are the system requirements for Windows 8?
    Windows 8 requires at least a 1GHz CPU, 1GB of system RAM (2GB for the 64-bit version), 16GB of hard drive space (20GB for 64-bit), and a DirectX 9.0 compatible graphics device. These are basically the same requirements as Windows 7 and Windows 10.
  • Can you upgrade to Windows 10 for free?
    It's no longer free to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8. For $120, you can download Windows 10 from Microsoft and its online retail partners, or you can buy the boxed version. The boxed version contains a USB thumb drive instead of an optical disc, since an increasing number of PCs do not come with optical drives.

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Tom is the senior editor covering Windows at Download.com.