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What happens when the Windows 8 Release Preview expires? Do I have to buy Windows 8? Can I renew the preview? Will it revert to the former operating system? Will I be locked out of the computer entirely and need to reinstall?

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That doesn't tell whether you have to buy it or not, that just explains the expiration. –  zzg Jul 15 '12 at 4:02
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You don't have to buy Windows 8. You could install something else (like Linux or some other Windows version) after it expires. It's your computer. –  Michael Hampton Jul 15 '12 at 4:03
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Answer: If you want to keep Windows 8 then Yes –  KronoS Jul 15 '12 at 4:03
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It's worse than you think. You must install fresh. There is no upgrade path from the release preview to any other edition. This is true even if you make the purchase. You still have to re-install everything. –  Joel Coehoorn Jul 15 '12 at 4:29
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

When the preview expires, your computer will boot to a limited functionality mode that will warn you the preview has expired. You will not be able to run programs such as games, web browsers, etc. You may be able to use explorer to save files somewhere (like a usb stick) that can be read on another system, but I wouldn't count on it.

At this point, you will not be able to extend the preview, you will not be able to revert directly to your old operating system, and you will not be able to purchase a retail license to activate or update the preview to the RTM (Release to Manufacturing) version. You must install a new operating system on the computer from scratch. This could be the old operating system (upgrading to the preview does not void your old license), but you still must re-install it from scratch.

For this reason, you may want to use virtual machine software such as VirtualBox or VMWare Player to try out the preview. If you go this route, remember that there is a performance penalty for running in a virtual machine, and take that into account when evaluating the performance of the new operating system.

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Where's the proof that preview can't go into RTM? –  zzg Jul 17 '12 at 6:53
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Yes, you will still have to buy Windows 8. I do believe, however, that you can upgrade from Windows 7 Professional for 15 bucks after Windows 8 comes out.

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this is only true if you've recently purchased a new Windows 7 machine. –  KronoS Jul 15 '12 at 4:14
    
@KronoS - You are incorrect. You can purchase a Windows 8 Upgrade license for $39.99 from the Windows Store. All you need to have is a previous version of Windows installed including the Release Preview ( fresh install only user files are transfered ). theverge.com/2012/7/2/3132514/… really lame to correct somebody without proof. –  Ramhound Jul 16 '12 at 16:25
    
@Ramhound can you provide proof of that? –  KronoS Jul 16 '12 at 16:29
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@Ramhound: How is KronoS incorrect? Last I checked, 15 bucks doesn't mean $39.99. –  Ben Voigt Jul 16 '12 at 16:38
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"To qualify for the discount, consumers must buy a new Windows 7 PC between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. They will have until February 28, 2013, to download the Windows 8 Pro upgrade. The offer is available in 131 markets." that's according to the source I linked in my first comment. –  KronoS Jul 17 '12 at 2:01
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