FAQ: The ins and out of Windows 8 pricing

What's it cost to whom and for what

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What about Windows 8? What will it cost to upgrade to the consumer version, rather than Windows 8 Pro We don't know because Microsoft's not saying.

Among the blank spots in an imaginary Windows 8 pricing chart are those for the entry-level edition. So far, Microsoft's only talked about upgrades to Windows 8 Pro.

The company may be waiting until Oct. 26 to divulge a price for a Windows 8 upgrade, or dawdling until early next year, after the discounted $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade offer expires.

Or the omission may mean more. It's possible that Microsoft won't even bother to sell an upgrade to Windows 8, leaving that SKU to OEMs to pre-install on their least-expensive consumer PCs, and to the System Builder line.

Clues to that include: The silence surrounding Windows 8, the Oct. 26 availability of Windows 8 Pro Pack, and the absence of a multi-license SKU for Windows 8. Microsoft sold one dubbed "Family Pack" for $150 that was able to upgrade three PCs to Windows 7 Home Premium, but Microsoft's said nothing of something similar for Windows 8.

If the sans-Windows 8 alternative is what Microsoft chooses, it will be even more important for upgraders to move before Jan. 31, 2013, when the $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade expires.

Minus a Windows 8 upgrade option, the choices would narrow to a $199.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, or one of the System Builders, which don't provide support from Microsoft. Neither sounds very attractive.

What if I hate Windows 8? How much will it cost me to get Windows 7 back? Depends.

If it's an old PC you've upgraded to Windows 8 Pro, it should cost you nothing except a lot of time. You'll need to reinstall the previous OS from your media -- which is why it's a good idea to make sure you have it before you try Windows 8 -- and all your applications, as well as restore your files and other data from a backup.

But if you bought a new PC with the new OS already installed, you may need to pony up. Only Windows 8 Pro comes with "downgrade" rights, and then only to Windows 7 Professional, so you'll need media for the latter to use the license that came with the machine.

If you don't have that media, or have Windows 8 on the PC, you'll have to fork over for a new Windows 7 license. Your best bet: A System Builder-like "OEM" Windows 7 license. As we said earlier, Amazon sells that for $92 for Windows 7 Home Premium, $128 for Windows 7 Professional. On Newegg, the prices are $99.99 and $139.99, respectively.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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