Windows 8.1 Upgrade

Windows 8.1 came out recently. For Windows 8 users the upgrade is free. Some of you will see it pop up as a standard Windows update without your doing anything.

Be warned! There are a certain number of computers that cannot handle the upgrade to Win8.1.

So Sad - Image by: Jason Lander - Flickr

So Sad – Image by: Jason Lander – Flickr

About 10/18 Microsoft started receiving reports of the Windows Update pushed out to users was failing. Some of the problems have been tracked to driver issues. The update installs Windows basic divers that are simply not compatible with the hardware.

But, the problem extends beyond just driver compatibility. In some cases systems do not have the hardware to support the new software.

Additionally there is a problem that Microsoft has yet to figure out. 

If the update process fails, you may not be able to boot your computer. Then you may hit the following problems that most people will not expect.

Big Problem

Windows 8 departs from the usual Windows Certificate of Authenticity (COA) or Product key. This is the sticker that was placed on all computers that has the OS key needed to run the OS (operating system). Win8 does not place the key on the unit. They have tiny little sticker and no key number.

If you need to reinstall the system because your hard disk fails, you are out of luck. You may well have to buy a new key at US$150 to $300, depending.

The Win8 key is now only provided when you purchase upgrade software/disks. If the manufacture installed your OS, it is then an OEM version. The manufacturer installs the key in the new boot section of the hard disk. Or if they are a big company like Dell or HP then the key may be placed in the BIOS chip. Either way, you can only get the key by running a special utility to retrieve it. If you haven’t already captured a copy of the key and the unit is having problems, you cannot get the key.

This makes it much harder for pirates to steal operating systems. But, it also makes it much harder for people to repair computers. Support personnel at Best Buy, Geeks Squad, and Toshiba are clueless about this problem. I suspect most computer support people have no idea about this problem.

So, if you are running Win8, look to see if you have the COA/Product Key. If you can’t find it, consider using a program called a product key finder to retrieve the key before you run into problems.

Not all product key finders can find the Win8 key. Belarc Advisor is known to work and is free. You can find other programs here: Free Key Finder Programs.

Backup/Recovery Disks

Many laptops come without installation disks. They expect you to by writable DVD’s and make your own. If you haven’t done that, do it now while your computer is running.

Better yet, make regular backups of your system.


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