Fancy a free upgrade from XP to Windows 8.1? Here's how...

Filed Under: Featured, Microsoft, Security threats, Windows

Don't get too excited.

If you're one of those XP users who thinks that Microsoft should support you forever, for nothing, this isn't for you.

But if you're a mobile device manufacturer, it might make you think twice about jumping on the Android bandwagon.

At least for some of your devices.

The "free Windows" announcement was made at Microsoft's developer conference, called Build 2014, that took place at the start of April.

More on that in a moment.

Redmond also used the Build 2014 event to announce a sort-of service pack for the current Windows 8 sort-of service pack, with Windows 8.1 being bumped up to Windows 8.1 Update.

I have a sinking feeling that we may all regret that nomenclature when the first monthly update for Windows 8.1 Update comes out.

We've argued long and hard that Apple ought to follow Microsoft when it comes to the update process - for example: monthly (and every month, if you please), augmented as necessary in emergencies.

In return, Microsoft might consider following Cupertino's fairly predictable naming of major updates.

Apple picks something fairly easy to say and remember.

Apple has used edgy types of cat, for example, or a serious surfing break, like Lion or Mavericks, as monikers for the series of releases in each 10.x family.

So, OS X Mavericks is OS X 10.9, and each successive point release becomes simply Mavericks 10.9.1, Mavericks 10.9.2, and so on.

Imagine, then, that Windows 8 adopted types of coffee drink in its naming, so Windows 8.1 might become, say, "Windows Cold Press."

Cold Press is where you steep your coffee grounds in water at room temperature for 12-18 hours, instead of in water at 90C for 3-4 minutes. Try it. You end up with excellent coffee; you just have to plan further ahead.

Then Windows 8.1 Update would be Cold Press 8.1.1, which would sound groovier.

And Windows 8.1 Update updates would be something like "the latest monthly updates for Cold Press 8.1.1", which would sound much clearer.

But back to your free copy of Windows 8.1 Update.

The official PR statement says:

Microsoft is evolving its Windows business model to enable partners to offer lower-cost devices in the highly competitive smartphone, tablet and PC categories. Microsoft will offer to hardware partners $0 Windows with services including a one-year subscription to Office 365.

So you have to be an OEM or ODM (original equipment or design manufacturer - a company that designs or makes computer hardware), which rules out home or business users of XP.

There's another catch, mentioned elsewhere in the press release, namely that this is:

a $0 royalty licensing program for OEM and ODM partners developing smartphones and tablets with screens under nine inches.

Does the explicit limitation to "smartphones and tablets" mean OEMs can only get Windows Phone, or can they get regular Windows 8.1 Update for free, too?

Does it cover Windows built for Intel chips, or will you need the more locked-down flavour for ARM processors, Windows RT?

We'll have to see how the precise details pan out, and whether or not this attracts mobile device vendors away from Android.

Sadly, however, the headline of this article notwithstanding, you still have to buy Windows 8.1 if you want to switch up from XP on a regular computer.

On the other hand, if you're a bank, and your ATMs have screens smaller than 9", perhaps this is the ideal way to make the great leap forward from XP or XP Embedded without worrying about licensing costs?

PS. If you had a 230mm screen, which converts to 9-and-55-thousands of an inch...do you think you'd qualify?

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23 Responses to Fancy a free upgrade from XP to Windows 8.1? Here's how...

  1. I have a friend that is hell bent on using XP as long as he can. The thing is, even though XP support is officially dropping, Windows 2003 is still supported and many of the hotfixes and updates can be patched to work with XP. I'm not sure if that is the case with XP 32 bit and I doubt it is, but for those of you that have XP x64 edition, you just might want to hold off one more year and see if Windows 7 Pro drops in price some more, Windows 9 makes us feel the way XP made us feel about Me, or some better combination than paying $100 for an OS that is nearly half a decade old. Personally, I think they should make up for the crap chute that Windows 8 is, extend the life of 7, and add the Ultimate features of 7 to all editions for half the price as an apology for making us pay for something we should've been paid for.

    • Paul Ducklin · 148 days ago

      Guess it depends if your security is worth "saving" $100, or if the time you'll eat up patching the patches will have a value less than $100.

      If you think Microsoft has lost the usability plot that badly, why stick with Redmond at all?

      Buy a Mac...OS X 10.9 is free :-)

      • Sieski · 148 days ago

        OSX isn't free, that's why Macs are inflated in prices. I've seen malware on a MAC before you give the the next speech.

    • Anonymous · 148 days ago

      I'll give that a Harumph! Mr. Remisoski.

  2. Anonymous · 148 days ago

    the dutch governement bought xp-updates for one more year from microsoft

  3. Hmm, interesting. In response to the comment that encouraged people to buy a Mac. That's just crazy. I do realize that not all have the hardware to support Windows 7 so in that case it would be a good idea to become familiar with Linux. Maybe just maybe it would prove to be a better fit for you than going to Windows 8 or spending the money to buy a Mac.

    • sally · 131 days ago

      sure we can go to linux, i have a linux test machine up stairs, but one problem, try getting your 60 buck printer to work . only a few companies have or give linux support on their printer's , but not by much.

  4. If you are looking to keep the same hardware you already have then perhaps you can install linux onto it and not have to worry about spending lots of money on a Mac or keep dealing with Microsoft.

  5. I will really go for this! Let's go for XP Again....woooohooo!

  6. Reader · 147 days ago

    A year ago, I installed a trial version of Windows 8. I hate, hate, hated Windows 8 so much that I resorted to wiping my hard drive just to get rid of it. I didn't know of any other way to do so. And I couldn't get rid of it fast enough.

    • Logy · 147 days ago

      Easy there, shill. Let's not get too eager to hate.

      Posted from my Windows 8.1 PC :)

      • Magyver · 147 days ago

        I'm not so sure it was a shill/hater post; it could have been one of two other things.

        Perhaps (don't know, not using it) 8 had bells & whistles that he had no interest in, and/or there were changes that encumbered his normal, simple flow of operation.

        Browser analogy: After 3.5 Firefox decided they knew more about how we should use your browser than we did, and proceded to do irritating things with it that you couldn't control.

        I depended upon certain wigits that FF broke. I rebelled for two years by using a Dell sandboxed version of 3.5 until Adobe flash changes made it unfeasable. I'll never use Firefox again.

        However, this guy could be like me, a power user who values specific features that were changed or eliminated. As a writer I use my computer and browser in wacky ways that make me more productive.

        Once in that highly productive mode, if a new OS disrupted it I would do the same thing he did: Scrap it.

        Case in point: I have no interest whatsoever in 8's "touchy-feely" keyboard free features. My work demands surgical presision with a mouse & cusor pasting in and correcting code.

        I can't "use my fingers" to do that.

    • Anonymous · 134 days ago

      If you hate W8, just wait until you get to W8.1. No options for SSD system drive/HDD data drive, refuses to sleep and pushes you into parking all your data where the NSA can review it...

      I wiped my drives and reloaded W8 after 48 hours. My next upgrade will be to Ubuntu.

  7. Bob · 147 days ago

    We just got a free upgrade for our old XP Netbook. It's now running Xubuntu 12.4 and is way better than it ever was. Should have done this day one.

    As bad as XP was, every version since has been even worse than its predecessor, and more of a resource hog. Both my Vista notebook and 7 netbook were trash out of the box.

    The 7 netbook will follow shortly and spend its remaining days with Xubuntu. The HP notebook should have been the subject of a safety recall, and died almost as soon as the warranty expired.

  8. As far as business users, it's Y2K all over again! They'v known this was coming, and should have upgraded their applications at least a year ago.

    A large number of users, particularly old people, can't afford a new computer that would run Windows 8. I installed Ubuntu on a typical laptop with 500K -- runs fine. I'd charge $200 for installation and data migration. But I suspect a better solution is a Google Tablet at about $300.

  9. Why don't they just offer the upgrade for free...Apple does it.

    • Vito · 145 days ago

      "Why don't they just offer the upgrade for free...Apple does it."

      Apple makes some great software, but they're predominantly a hardware company, with a strong second in services (iTunes). They have some terrific apps in certain pro software markets --- Final Cut Pro (video) and Logic Pro (audio) --- but those are not mass markets in the first place. And those apps aren't free either.

      What's more, anyone who has suffered through Apple's recent (apparent) abandonment of Snow Leopard knows full well that the current Mavericks OS isn't "free". Software that ran perfectly well in Snow Leopard won't run in Mavericks, which necessitates a huge cost in replacing apps that Mavericks doesn't support.

      I'm not happy about it, but I accept it as part of the cost of gaining the other advantages of using a Mac, which still vastly outweigh using Windows for the kind of work I do and the way I like to work. But an honest, realistic assessment of the entire Mac ecosystem reveals that there is a cost in using Mavericks; it most definitely is NOT "free".

      As for why Microsoft doesn't just give away their OS, the reason is that it's a completely different business model. It's called MicroSOFT because it's a software company. Sure, they make some hardware, but it's not their principal source of revenue. Microsoft makes and sells software. They can't stay in business if they give it away.

  10. Michael · 137 days ago

    Ha...Magyver's not so precise about his spelling!

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog