Microsoft has released details about which operating systems will and won't be able to upgrade to Windows 8 when it finally arrives in non-preview form.
According to a private announcement made by Microsoft to select partners and handily leaked to ZDNet
, users will be able to upgrade to an equivalent or better Windows 8 version without losing their files providing they're sticking with the same processor architecture. In other words, upgrading from 32-bit Windows 7 to 32-bit Windows 8 is fine - but upgrading from 32-bit Windows 7 to 64-bit Windows 8 is a no-no.
The 'equivalent or better' proviso means that users of higher-end versions of previous Windows operating systems are locked to a similarly-priced version when they upgrade. In other words: if you splashed out on Windows 7 Ultimate but decide you don't really need the extra features, you'll be pushed toward Windows 8 Pro anyway.
Those running Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows Vista and - surprisingly - Windows XP will be given the option of upgrading to the basic Windows 8 release. Users with Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate don't get the option of Windows 8, instead finding Windows 8 Pro as their entry-level upgrade option. Finally, those running Windows 7 Enterprise will - unsurprisingly - be forced to buy Windows 8 Enterprise.
There's nothing to stop users spending extra and making the upgrade a bigger jump - even a Windows 8 Starter Edition can be upgraded to Windows 8 Pro or Enterprise should you so choose.
If you're eyeing up the Windows XP upgrade option and wondering if it's finally time to retire your old faithful friend, there is a slight catch: users upgrading from Windows XP SP3 or higher or Windows Vista pre-SP1 will find their installed programs and settings wiped, although their personal files transferred intact. Users upgrading from Windows Vista post-SP1, meanwhile, will be allowed to keep their settings.
Sadly, the leaked documents did not include the most important upgrade fact of all: the price.