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While Windows 8 users will be getting the new Upgrade a Windows 7 computer to Windows 8.1 as a free download next month, Microsoft is making it easier for those with older versions of Windows to install its latest operating system. According to a post on a company blog, the full stand-alone version of Windows 8.1 will be available both as a download and as a retail DVD.

Windows 7 users will be able to Upgrade a Windows 7 computer to Windows 8.1 to buy Windows 8.1 for a list price of $119.99 starting Oct. 18. The installation should keep the files and folders on the computer intact during the upgrade process from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1, but desktop applications will need to be reinstalled. You may want to start looking for the original installer discs or files for programs like Microsoft Office, and everything else you use on your current Windows 7 machine. Before investing in a copy of Windows 8.1 when it arrives, check theCompatibility Center page and the system requirements (which are the same as those for Windows 8) to make sure your computer can handle the new software — and back up your computer before you install anything.

Although some older hardware may not be quite up to running the new operating system, the stand-alone version of Windows 8.1 can also be used by those with compatible machines who want to upgrade from older Windows Vista and Windows XP systems. Microsoft recommends upgrading from the bootable Windows 8.1 DVD, since those older versions of Windows will require that the new system be installed from scratch. All programs, files, folders and settings will need to be backed up before the upgrade and then reinstalled and reconfigured after Windows 8.1 is in place.

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