I purchased Windows 8 online from Microsoft a while ago. Today Windows 8.1 was released as a free update to Windows 8 users over the Windows Store.

I was planning to do a fresh install of Windows 8.1 to have a clean system again and UEFI support because I got new hardware since the Windows 8 installation.

So my questions are:

  • Where do I get the ISO installation medium for Windows 8.1 64-bit? I tried this microsoft site where I initially got my Windows 8 ISO from, but when entering my Windows 8 key in the Windows 8.1 installer, it says the key is wrong.
  • Even if I get the ISO, will my old key work? I'm concerned because it didn't work in their installer (see previous point)

Do they seriously want me to reinstall Windows 8 and after that upgrade to Windows 8.1 through their Store?!

  • 1
    @typ1232 This article maybe of interest winbeta.org/news/…
    – Simon
    Oct 20, 2013 at 13:49
  • @Simon Thank you! This is working for me. Consider posting this as an answer to this question. The now accepted one is only working if you already have the ISO.
    – typ1232
    Oct 20, 2013 at 14:02
  • @typ1232 Done :)
    – Simon
    Oct 20, 2013 at 17:16

5 Answers 5


Here are the steps that lets you download the Windows 8.1 ISO using a legitimate retail Windows 8 product key:

  • Download both the Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 setup installers from here.
  • Once downloaded launch the Windows 8 installer and enter your product key when prompted to do so.
  • Once the download begins, immediately pause your download at 1%. Do not quit the installer at the estimating time screen. Once you pause the download at 1%, quit the installer.
  • Now, run the Windows 8.1 installer and you will notice that it will tell you "download did not complete successfully" and that there was an "element not found" error. This is normal. Close the installer.
  • Now, re-launch the same Windows 8.1 installer. You will now be downloading the Windows 8.1 ISO. After the download is complete, you can save it as an ISO or create the USB media immediately.
  • You can install Windows 8.1 using the ISO or even burn it to a DVD or make a bootable USB thumb drive with the media.

There is also an accompanying youtube video to the aforementioned step by step instructions that can be found alongside the full article entitled "How to download the Windows 8.1 ISO using your Windows 8 retail key" here.

  • 1
    You still need the key to run the installer from the ISO…
    – kinokijuf
    Oct 21, 2013 at 18:24
  • @kinokijuf Thats why it says in the first line of my answer "using a legitimate retail Windows 8 product key"
    – Simon
    Oct 22, 2013 at 11:21
  • @kinokijuf Without the key this article would be of assistance pureinfotech.com/2013/10/21/…
    – Simon
    Oct 22, 2013 at 12:58
  • 7
    This works until the point of creating an .ISO for Windows 8.1. However, during install, you'll be prompted for a key and your Windows 8 key WILL FAIL. It still requires a Windows 8.1 key. I found this the hard way.
    – caiosm1005
    Nov 26, 2013 at 16:08
  • 3
    This doesn't seem to work anymore: The Windows 8.1 installer doesn't give any error and simply asks for the key again.
    – yuriks
    Oct 4, 2014 at 23:34

The Windows 8.1 installer from the ISO does not accept Windows 8 keys. You need to install the system with a generic key (334NH-RXG76-64THK-C7CKG-D3VPT for Core, XHQ8N-C3MCJ-RQXB6-WCHYG-C9WKB for Professional) and then enter your Windows 8 key after installing.

Note to moderators: these are not usable Windows keys. They are embedded in Windows itself as a placeholder default key and do not let you activate.

  • Have you tested this or have a source that my key will be accepted on the freshly installed Windows 8.1? It would be quite tedious to just try and then have to got back. The other answer says they key will not be accepted.
    – typ1232
    Oct 17, 2013 at 16:09
  • @typ1232 I haven’t, but thousands of early adopters have.
    – kinokijuf
    Oct 17, 2013 at 16:10
  • Thank you then! I'll give it a go, once the installer is able to connect to Mircosoft :p
    – typ1232
    Oct 17, 2013 at 16:12
  • 1
    Thanks for the hint of using an illegal key and later on using the legit one. Way to go, Microsoft, locking paying customers out with their legal keys. May 15, 2014 at 8:47
  • 3
    @AndreasReiff this key is not an “illegal” one, rather it is the generic key hardcoded in Windows which does not activate. If, instead of installing, you only unpack the install.wim, you end up with this key.
    – kinokijuf
    May 15, 2014 at 13:48

If you don't have access to an MSDN or Technet subscription or you're not a volume licence customer, the only way to get your hands on an ISO is to download it from somewhere else. Microsoft's own server is IMHO far better than any torrent site. Contrary to what Microsoft wants you to believe, you can use the generic key provided in this thread, download the ISO and burn it to a blank DVD from their own site. Boot your system with the DVD you just burned, enter the same generic key to install and proceed on. Activate your Windows installation afterwards with your own Windows 8 key.

Then why not just use the Store? Using the official method you end up with no install media, no product key and no way to use the built-in recovery later on ('missing files' error). Microsoft really messed this up by not providing an official way to do a fresh installation from an ISO for free upgrades.

Microsoft installer and ISO download


The generic key, although accepted as 'working' in the installer, won't start downloading the ISO -- an error message citing "We cannot connect now. Please try again later." is displayed forever no matter how many times you try. I found a solution to this. Download both the Windows 8 installer (Windows8-Setup.exe) and the Windows 8.1 installer (WindowsSetupBox.exe) from Microsoft's site. Run the Win 8 installer and start downloading but cancel it by closing the program. Now, start the Win 8.1 installer and it will accept your Windows 8 key and start downloading the new 8.1 ISO.

  • This link now redirects to Windows 10 downloads only, I can't see how to not make it redirect automatically? Aug 24, 2016 at 15:23

If you're an existing Windows 8 user, updating to 8.1 should be relatively easy, via Windows update. Microsoft also says that existing users with Windows 8 licence cannot clean install 8.1 using that key and will need to reinstall their Windows 8 before moving to 8.1. Otherway, they have to purchase a new key.

I'm running the Win 8 Enterprise, and we were able to activate clean Win 8.1 installations with Win 8 key. So I suppose that new key requirement is valid only for OEM and Retail Windows 8.1

  • 2
    Thanks. I can't find any source that Mircosoft said that a Windows 8 key does not work for Windows 8.1. It wouldn't really make sence since the update is free, right? Oh well, this really makes things unneccessarily complicated.
    – typ1232
    Oct 17, 2013 at 15:59
  • Yes, agree with you completely. Having option to upgrade for free, but not to install using the same key is... Ok, let say strange :) But I assume that this is some of the famous MS anti-counterfeiting reason or what else they will come out with :( Oct 17, 2013 at 16:05
  • How did you upgrade to Enterprise 8.1? Through volume licensing or by creating the ISO from the installer? I have a retail Enterprise key, not a VLK, and can't seem to get the upgrade to work.
    – Alyce
    Feb 3, 2014 at 3:35

You can actually download the single language ISOs directly.

Just head over to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows8ISO (from Mac or Linux, or change your user agent so it doesn't redirect you to download manager), and download the ISO. I've just updated my W8 oem laptop's license to W10 that way. Just don't add any CD key whenever asked, it both acticates W8.1, and (after official upgrade procedure) W10.

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