Windows 8.1 Preview Expiry Problems

Windows 8.1 Preview Expiry Problems

Be warned, this isn’t so much a tech article as a rant about the inadequacies of the Windows 8 update process and the the Windows 8 App store.

A few days ago I turned on my laptop and was prompted with a command from Microsoft stating:

Reinstall Windows Now!

Your license to use this evaluation version of Windows will expire soon. When it expires, your PC will restart every two hours. Get the latest version of Windows to avoid these interruptions.

Ok there may not have been an exclamation mark but it still shouted out at me.  My first thought was – what the hell?  I have a legitimate version of Windows – why is it expiring?  Then I remembered that I applied the Windows 8.1 Update Preview.  It seems Microsoft doesn’t view this as an update – like a service pack – but rather a separate product.  I know have two weeks before my laptop is forced to reboot every two hours.  Bearing in mind that the update to Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro for users with a Windows 8.0 Pro license (like me) is free, why they have aggressive stance on the update – especially given that the means to run the update, the Windows Store, is hit and miss at the best of times.

I’d happily uninstall the 8.1 Preview if I had any confidence that it would do so cleanly but 20 years of experience with Windows has taught me that it is seldom the case.

After a bit of research I discovered that the Windows 8.1 Pro update is free to Windows 8 users but that there are numerous potential hurdles for some of us:

  1. You cannot download the Windows 8.1 installer with a Windows 8 product key (why oh why Microsoft?)
  2. You cannot simply download the update from the Microsoft website
  3. The update is available via the ‘Windows Store’ but it is an abomination that seldom works

So I decided to dutifully follow the instructions, starting by clicking the ‘Get Windows’ button – that’s when the trouble started.  I was taken to the much dreaded ‘Windows Store’ which appeared to be broken – no surprises there – the ‘Download’ button for the software is hidden behind the page heading.  Nothing on the page is clickable other than the back button:

Screenshot of Windows Store Issues

I then tried to access the store from directly from my Apps page, which gave me this wonderful message:

Windows Store Unavailable Message

The Nightmare Begins: Attempting to Reinstall from the Windows 8.1 Media

After weeks of trying the Windows 8 Store, the expiry date passed and my laptop is rebooting every two hours and still no luck getting the store working on my machine, I’ve now decided to download the full Windows 8.1 ISO from Microsoft, to do this you will need a Windows 8 product key (as it’s the full installer), I’m hoping that this installer will be smart enough to just update my Windows 8.1 Preview to Windows 8.1 Pro – not do a full ‘repair install’ over the top of it (yeah right).

The steps are:

1) Go to the Windows 8.1 download and click the blue ‘Install Windows 8,1’ button: Upgrade Windows with only a product key

2) Run the executable once downloaded (I had to run it as an Administrator)

3) Enter your product key and begin the download

4) Once the download finishes, you have the option to create media (I created an ISO)

Attempting Upgrade from Media: Fail

I mounted the ISO, ran the installer and was given two options of what to keep:

  1. Nothing
  2. Personal Files

Not a great start, knowing full well that I have a backup of everything I hit ‘personal files’, sure enough rather than the installer being ‘smart’ and updating from Windows 8.1 Preview to Windows 8.1, it completely reinstalled Windows, losing all my application installs, accounts and preferences.  So knowing that my OS has been messed around with repeatedly now (Windows 8.0 to 8.1 Preview, 8.1 Preview Reinstall over 8.1 Pro) I’m thinking a clean install is a good idea and hopefully this will give me the chance to get the Hardware Accelerated BitLocker working properly as it didn’t when I installed previously (see http://www.anandtech.com/show/6891/ for more info).

The Nightmare Continues: Installing from Scratch

Shiny  new Windows 8.1 Pro media  in hand, I begin the installation from scratch – the first thing I’m asked for is a product key – this suprises me as my laptop has it embedded in the UEFI bios.  No worries I think,  I’ll try the one provided when I generated the media:

We couldn’t verify the product key.  Please check your installation media

Ok, lucky for me I have a Microsoft Action Pack subscription – I’ll use the Windows 8 Pro product key I have written down from there:

We couldn’t verify the product key.  Please check your installation media

The Nightmare has a Sub-Plot: The Great Microsoft Partner/Action Pack Shambes of 2014

“Right” I think, I’ll login to my Microsoft Partner account and get the key from there because I’m lucky enough to have that option.  Despite using this all the time, today I get this in depth and helpful message:

Error Code: 100
User not authorized for digital distribution.

Well this is going swimmingly well. I decide to check on my companies partner membership details and get this message indicating Microsoft are incapable of making a standards based, cross-browser website:

Problem Encountered
Microsoft Internet Explorer is the preferred browser for the Partner Membership Center. Supported versions are available at our product site. Our site is not optimized for the browser you are using. You may experience rendering issues if you proceed to the requested page.

Throwing all caution to the wind, I click proceed anyway and honestly can’t tell if the site isn’t behaving as it should because I’m using Chrome or if it’s the same old piece of crap it’s always been, irrespective of the browser you’re using.  So it seems that our action pack subscription had expired but Microsoft had decided not to tell us, I ticked the box and click ‘Renew’ and – you guessed it – it still doesn’t work. I go back again and see a message saying:

Your re-enrollment request is being processed. This may take up to one hour.

As you’d expect, the message has been there for a few of hours now so I’ve given up.

The Nightmare Ends: The Baffling Conclusion

In the end I downloaded the Windows 8 ISO from this page Upgrade Windows with only a product key and installed plain old Windows 8 Pro (not Windows 8.1), everything went through with the usual Microsoft hassle (being forced to create a Microsoft Account and to use that, then to create a normal local account, installing Classic Shell Start Menu to get a decent GUI experience back) – I then went to hunt down the 8.1 update in the store but no look.  When checking out my system, it now reports itself as Windows 8.1!?

The moral of the story?  Stick with Windows 7, Windows 8 sucks.

 

 

Bob McKay

About Bob McKay

Bob McKay works at Perfect Image, is a father, programmer and a self confessed techie-geek type.

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