Upgrading from Windows 8.1. Professional retail product key to Windows 10 -- what happens to your product key and right to reinstall?

I have seen people asking this and similar questions over and over again in different format, but so far Microsoft has failed to provide any answer.

The scenario is as follows -- I have a retail product key for Windows 8.1 Professional which I have bought online in Microsoft Store and the workstation computer is my own build.

With a retail product key, I can format my disk at any time and reinstall from scratch using Windows 8.1 Professional retail ISO image.

Now the questions:

1. Is Windows 10 upgrade an in-place upgrade or a clean install?

2. If it is an in-place upgrade will it be possible to do a clean install of Windows 10 from a retail ISO?

3. What will happen to my existing Windows 8.1 Professional retail product key if I upgrade to Windows 10? Will I be issued a new retail product key with the same installation/usage rights or will I kep using the same product key?

4. If for any reason (including me not liking it) Windows 10 doesn't work for me, is there a downgrade path back to Windows 8.1 or would that require purchase of a new Windows 8.1 license?

5. Are there any specific restrictions in Windows 10 upgrade as opposed to the full retail version when it comes to hardware replacement/upgrade? For example, changing the mainboard, disk, or video card?

Please don't post answers about the use of recovery media with Windows 10 -- I am not interested in using that feature at all. Thanks in advance.

Regards,
Igor Levicki
 

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Last updated May 26, 2019 Views 4,820 Applies to:

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I have seen people asking this and similar questions over and over again in different format, but so far Microsoft has failed to provide any answer.

The scenario is as follows -- I have a retail product key for Windows 8.1 Professional which I have bought online in Microsoft Store and the workstation computer is my own build.

With a retail product key, I can format my disk at any time and reinstall from scratch using Windows 8.1 Professional retail ISO image.

Now the questions:

1. Is Windows 10 upgrade an in-place upgrade or a clean install?

In place upgrade.

2. If it is an in-place upgrade will it be possible to do a clean install of Windows 10 from a retail ISO?

Will users who take advantage of the upgrade offer for Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 also be able to obtain recovery media?

Microsoft recently noted the following options available:

 With Windows 10, you can create your own recovery media and back up the pristine state of the operating system and preinstalled software. If things go wrong and you are unable to refresh or reset your device successfully, you can boot the device using recovery media and reset to the prior pristine state.

Source: http://blogs.windows.com/bloggingwindows/2015/03/16/how-windows-10-achieves-its-compact-footprint/

You can also initiate a clean install by doing the following:

You can do a clean install a couple ways.

Press Windows key + i

Click Update and Security

Click Recovery

Under Remove everything and reinstall Windows, click Get started

or

At the Sign in screen

Hold down the shift key on your keyboard while clicking the Power icon on the screen

Continue to hold down the shift key while clicking Restart

Continue to hold down the shift key until the Advanced Recovery Options menu appears

Click Troubleshoot

Click Reset

 


3. What will happen to my existing Windows 8.1 Professional retail product key if I upgrade to Windows 10? Will I be issued a new retail product key with the same installation/usage rights or will I kep using the same product key?

When I upgrade a preinstalled (OEM) version of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 license to Windows 10, does that license remain OEM or become a retail license?

If you upgrade from a OEM version of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 to the free Windows 10 upgrade this summer, the license is consumed into it. Because the free upgrade is derived from an OEM base qualifying license, Windows 10 will carry this type of licensing too.

If you upgrade from a retail version, it carries the rights of a retail version.

Full version (Retail):

- Includes transfer rights to another computer.

- Doesn't require a previous qualifying version of Windows.

- Expensive

Upgrade version (Retail):

- Includes transfer rights to another computer.

- require a previous qualifying version of Windows.

- Expensive, but cheaper than full version

OEM :

OEM versions of Windows are identical to Full License Retail versions except for the following:

- OEM versions do not offer any free Microsoft direct support from Microsoft support personnel

- OEM licenses are tied to the very first computer you install and activate it on

- OEM versions allow all hardware upgrades except for an upgrade to a different model motherboard

- OEM versions cannot be used to directly upgrade from an older Windows operating system

What happens if I change my motherboard?

This will invalidate the Windows 10 upgrade license because it will no longer have a previous based qualifying license which is required for the free upgrade. You will then have to purchase a full retail Windows 10 license.


4. If for any reason (including me not liking it) Windows 10 doesn't work for me, is there a downgrade path back to Windows 8.1 or would that require purchase of a new Windows 8.1 license?

Can I uninstall Windows 10 if I do not like it?

See the following: How to: Rollback to a previous version of Windows from Windows 10


5. Are there any specific restrictions in Windows 10 upgrade as opposed to the full retail version when it comes to hardware replacement/upgrade? For example, changing the mainboard, disk, or video card?
See previous answer.
Please don't post answers about the use of recovery media with Windows 10 -- I am not interested in using that feature at all. Thanks in advance.

Regards,
Igor Levicki

Best,
Andre
Windows Insider MVP
MVP-Windows and Devices for IT
twitter/adacosta
groovypost.com

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If I read that reply right you're saying that our Retail key's are going to get consumed.  So if we have to change our Motherboard we no longer get Win 10 and our old Retail keys won't work?

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Answers are still unclear, let me rephrase the questions:

1. Do I get a Windows 10 retail key during upgrade from retail version of Windows 8.1 so I can install from scratch using ISO image or I must always install Windows 8.1 first and then upgrade it in place? If I have to go through the upgrade, for how long will that be allowed?

2. What happens if I have retail Windows 8.1, I use free upgrade to Windows 10, and later change my PC's motherboard?

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And once again, with so much nasty malware and rootkits available on Windows platform I don't care about recovery media -- I am interested only in a clean ISO install.

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My win 7 ultimate is acting "funny" especially in email; computer seems slow; will win 10 fix these things?

Can I reinstall win 10 after the upgrade (clean install?)

Should I reinstall win 7 before the upgrade or does it matter; can I do a clean install after the upgrade?

If I clean install win 7 do I have to restart the reservation?

Can I clean install win 7 after the upgrade and still have win 10?

How can I tell if my win 7 ultimate, 64 bit is considered a retail version or an oem?

I have too much data in my recovery disk partition (2 backups, I think); will win 10 fix this or what's my best approach to rectify?

I suspect a clean install is likely the best remedy to get to pristine?

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Good luck getting an answer.  As I'm sure you've noticed, myself and many others have been trying to get straight answers to these questions with no luck.  All we seem to be getting is "cookie cutter" copy and paste "answers" that are vague and do not answer the specific questions we have. 

I almost feel like there's a "sleight of hand" issue going on with all of this "free" Windows 10 stuff.  It may be a free upgrade now but I think we're going to end up paying for it somehow in the end.  I'm very skeptical to upgrade myself at least until I find out for certain if we will have the ability to install Windows 10 from scratch on a new hard drive if we upgrade and then our hard drive fails and we have to reinstall.

They want us to upgrade but they won't give us the answers to our concerns so I say we don't give them what they want until they give us what we want.

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Good luck getting an answer.  As I'm sure you've noticed, myself and many others have been trying to get straight answers to these questions with no luck.  All we seem to be getting is "cookie cutter" copy and paste "answers" that are vague and do not answer the specific questions we have. 

Exactly.

If I do upgrade in August this year and in August next year I need to reinstall will the upgrade path still work?

It is really unclear whether "one year free upgrade" means just "you have one year to choose whether to upgrade for free or not" or also "but your free upgrade path will stop working after one year and you will have to buy a license to reinstall". I hope it's the former, but with Microsoft you can never be too carefull.

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To answer all your questions, I will convert Microsoft language, which is a dialect in it self, to USA English, Here goes:

1. There is no one answer to licenses, all licenses are different and each one has its privileges, its hard to find out what license but it doesn't matter, your license will have full Win 10 and license becomes the win 10 license, so you can do whatever your current license allows whether it retail or oem, so the answer is yes your license transfers

2. Now whether you need qualifying product to upgrade to win 10, again depends on license. I have a full license I pay extra but its worth it to avoid all these upgrade scenarios, so next time you buy windows buy a full license and request a CD of the windows and presto no worries. When we sell our PC's we always load with full license and PROVIDE the CD of windows, where not talking much extra $25-$50 depending on if its standard, or professional. I have the win 8.1 prof, so my license will give me full win 10 reformat capabilities

3. Eligibility of upgrade, if you sign up for the upgrade you will get it, the 1 year means, you have 1 year to download the win 10, it does not mean you can use win 10 for a year, all that is saying is that you have year to download, that's it, so when you download make sure you download the image and burn it on a CD because after 1 year you wont be able to download for FREE, so if your pc breaks after one year, and you don't have a CD copy of win 10 than your SOL.... 

4. Also the famous question of should I load windows 10 clean instead of upgrading. The answer is yes, it is good practice to load win 10 clean, in general, good practice dictates, you shouldn't upgrade windows versions unless there clean installs on any version. I'm sure allot of you will say blah blah that's not a problem, we are suggesting our customers not to upgrade at this point, because if your machine is older than 1 year, chances are you will not have the performance for windows 10, and it will slow you down and it will cause problems, you need a minimum of Intel 4th gen i5 CPU, win 10 is really made for 5th generation i7. So unless you have a 4th gen CPU i5 or better, and a minimum of 4 gig SRAM, I wouldn't upgrade....

5. here are specs from Microsoft which surprise me, important notes

http://www.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/windows-10-specifications 

they claim this, this is nonsense

Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC

  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 1024x600

    If your system is similar to above, do not install it you will regret it....also below very important

    Feature deprecation section

    • If you have Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, or Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center and you install Windows 10, Windows Media Center will be removed.

    6. So boys and girls nothing in life is free, except Grace.

    7. Win 8.1 is awesome it works great, check your hardware twice, and you better think if this is going to be nice, this is what we suggest for minimum hardware

    Processor: 4th Generation i5 or faster processor 

  • RAM:  4 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 1024x600

    we are Intel technology and Microsoft Technology partners, both Microsoft and Intel have conveyed the message, that the hardware is important. If you have a 32 bit machine its time to chuck it or send it to a PC museum do not upgrade on a 32 bit machine

    8. If its time for a new PC then this is the time to buy one because windows 10 is a completely different architecture and it will stay with us for quite some time, it is much better than win 8.1. So hopefully you have a nice machine and you an upgrade if you don't, we have them and we always provide a CD windows, you'll thank us when you need it http://ebbm.net

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    I hate cookie cutter answers also (very unacceptable today in the days of super cheap offshored labor, exceptional support should be always available in situations like this) however I would like to remind you that this is a free upgrade and anything "for free" is going to have reason to want more.  If you get everything "for free" then what do I get if I am willing to pay for it?  If I listened to all the skeptics I would have never purchased Win 8.1.  After using it I found most of the skeptics that I spoke can talk the talk but can't walk the walk and IMO seem rather lazy and uniformed to being with.  I admit some lesser skilled MS folks fit into this group as well.  If you have too much doubt just keep using the product that you paid for and DO NOT UPGRADE. 

    I have a question maybe someone can answer.

    If I am happy now with Win 8.1 Pro w/ media center, why do I need to update to Win 10 again?

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    Wow... I must give you credit for one thing -- you know how to write a lengthy diatribe full of incorrect assumptions.

    First off, I am not from the USA nor is English my first language so I see no point in your "translation". Now to address your "answers":

    1. According to the currently available information from Microsoft, once you upgrade your retail license it becomes non-transferrable to another PC (i.e. it becomes an OEM license tied to specific hardware). Source:

    https://twitter.com/GabeAul/status/605900073277325312

    Key words: "the same device will reactivate". Many people including me have asked Gabriel Aul for clarification. He promised to follow up with more details, but so far there is no clear answer.

    As to your other points they are totally irrelevant to this topic.

    What is relevant is to get written assurance from Microsoft that your original license will keep its original rights instead of being downgraded to OEM license which will expire together with your hardware taking away your previous full retail license with it.

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