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FAQ: Microsoft offers cheapest-ever Windows upgrade

July 5, 2012 06:48 AM ET

Vista-to-Windows 8 transfers settings and data files, while XP moves the least, just personal files.

Can I upgrade from one of the Windows 8 previews Microsoft has shipped this year? Maybe.

In follow-up answers, Microsoft said that users running Windows 8 Release Preview -- the newer of the two sneak peeks, shipped on May 31 -- can upgrade using the upgrade tool and pay the $40.

However, the only bits that are retained during that upgrade are personal data files. Other elements, including the applications, Windows settings and user accounts that migrate from Windows 7, do not.

So, for anyone running Windows 8 Release Candidate, the "upgrade" is only as effective as that from ... wait for it ... the 11-year-old Windows XP, which also keeps only personal files. Go figure.

Although Microsoft did not spell out what options are available to those who stuck with 2011's Developer Preview or the February 2012 Consumer Preview, our assumption is that such an upgrade won't be supported.

I don't live in the U.S. Is the deal for me too? Yes, the promotion will be available in 131 countries and Windows 8 Pro comes in 37 languages.

Microsoft has already listed the countries and languages in this FAQ for the Windows Upgrade Offer, the $14.99 program for buyers of new Windows PCs.

Is there a Family Pack? No, not with this upgrade offer.

Microsoft's Family Pack for Windows 7 -- a three-install upgrade bundle the company sold in 2009, pulled off the market but then restored in 2010 -- brought the per-PC price down to $50 ... as long as the number of machines you wanted to update came in increments of three.

In this deal, users simply pay $40 per PC, with no additional volume discounts.

I used a Family Pack, which supplied one product key for Windows 7 upgrades to three of my PCs. Since they're all under the same license, do I buy just one Windows 8 upgrade to migrate all three machines, or do I have to buy three new upgrades? The second.

"Each PC you have installed Windows 7 on via the Windows 7 Family Pack can be upgraded one at a time ... for $39.99 [each]," said Microsoft spokesman Brandon LeBlanc in a reply to one of the hundreds of comments posted on the blog that announced the deal this week.

Is there a limit to the number of PCs I can upgrade? Yes, five.

We're not sure how Microsoft is going to enforce this, but officially any one user can only obtain five upgrades at the $40 price. Like the similar restriction for the free upgrade that will be offered to buyers of Windows 7 PCs -- the $14.99 deal Microsoft announced at the end of May -- it's an attempt to weed out businesses that might try to take advantage of the low price rather than subscribe to expensive volume licensing contracts such as Software Assurance.

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