November 27, 2011, 8:08 AM — Microsoft wants to make upgrading to Windows 8 from older Windows versions easier and faster through online delivery, no product key entry for at least one installation method and a process that involves 82% fewer screen clicks.
"Our aim in improving setup is to reduce the time from start to finish," Microsoft's Windows chief, Steven Sinofsky, said in a recent post on the Building Windows 8 blog.
Windows installations have always been a pain, and even when they're easy the process can still take as long as four hours as my colleague Jeff Bertolucci mentioned during the Windows 7 launch. Microsoft hopes to improve its upgrade process to convince the more than 450 million Windows 7 PCs capable of running Windows 8 to upgrade. Not to mention the large number of users with modern PCs running Vista and XP that may be finally willing to try a new Microsoft OS.
To make it easier to get started, Microsoft will favor selling downloads of Windows 8 instead of having users purchase a physical disc at a local retailer. This is similar to what Apple did with the release of OS X Lion. If online downloads aren't your thing, you can still purchase a Windows 8 DVD, but Microsoft is hoping more people will opt for the download option. Microsoft did not mention whether there would be a pricing difference between online downloads and physical DVD purchases of Windows 8.
If you opt for online delivery, you will still be able to create a bootable thumb drive or DVD to install your new version of Windows. This might be your preference if you plan on backing up your files on another hard drive and then wiping your system to do a clean install of Windows 8.
No annoying product keys
If you want to take the easier way out, you can start the upgrade wizard online and then complete the move to Windows 8 on your desktop. Microsoft claims this process will be "one continuous integrated experience from beginning to end." Even better, the easy install option doesn't involve entering an annoying 25-digit product key to activate your copy of Windows. Microsoft says it will embed the product key into the disk image you download during the setup process.