Microsoft remains mum on Windows 8 upgrades from Vista, XP

Limits upgrade path confirmation to 2009's Windows 7

Microsoft today declined to confirm whether users of Windows XP and Vista will be able to upgrade their PCs to Windows 8 when the latter launches later this year.

On Monday, Microsoft spelled out the editions it would offer customers working with 32- and 64-bit Intel and AMD processor-powered PCs and tablets.

In that blog post, the company also noted the upgrade paths to Windows 8 for existing machines, saying that people now running Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic or Home Premium could upgrade to the consumer-oriented Windows 8. Systems running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate will be upgradable to Windows 8 Pro.

Although Microsoft did not specify the upgrade path for customers currently running Windows 7 Enterprise, the assumption is that they will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise, which, like its predecessor, will be distributed only to companies with Software Assurance upgrade agreements.

The omission of the problem-plagued Vista and the nearly 11-year-old XP from Microsoft's explicit upgrade path seemed odd: In February, the company used an FAQ to plainly state that users of those OSes could upgrade to Windows 8's beta, tagged "Consumer Preview."

"You can upgrade to Windows 8 Consumer Preview from Windows Developer Preview, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP," the FAQ stated, "but you might not be able to keep all of your files, programs and settings."

Developer Preview was Microsoft's name for the first public sneak peak at Windows 8 as a work-in-progress, and was issued last September.

In the FAQ, Microsoft said that Vista users who upgraded would retain user accounts and files, as well as Windows settings. XP-to-Windows 8 upgrades would only preserve user accounts and files. Windows 7-to-Windows 8 upgrades, meanwhile, conserved not only user accounts, data files and Windows settings, but also already-installed applications in the move.

Ironically, migrating from Windows 7 is more thorough than from Windows 8's own Developer Preview, which will retain only as much information as an XP-to-Windows 8 transfer.

When asked today whether Vista and XP users would be able to upgrade to Windows 8 RTM, or "release to manufacturing" -- the label used to designate the final code -- as they were allowed in the Consumer Preview, a Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment. "[We have] no information to share outside of what's in the blog," she said in an email.

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