Windows 8.1 'Preview' To Expire Next Month

The Windows 8.1 "preview" beta release will expire next month, Microsoft noted this week.

Microsoft released the preview test version of Windows 8.1 back in June, but now those copies are scheduled to expire in January 2014, according to a Microsoft blog post. Moreover, those wanting to get the preview version of the operating system won't find it available for download from Microsoft. A Windows support page explains that "the preview is no longer available."

Windows 8.1 is a free OS update for individuals or organizations licensed to use Windows 8, and those users can just update their machines directly within the OS using the Windows Store function. However, individual or organizations that installed the Windows 8.1 preview version from an ISO file have another hoop to jump through. ISO installers that previously had Windows 8 on their systems can still update through the Windows Store, but they'll get prompted to buy a product license key in order to activate the OS.

Possibly, testers could try reinstalling the preview version of Windows 8.1 by using a previously downloaded ISO file to gain more testing time. However, it seems those users will get prompted to purchase the license key -- at least that's the scenario suggested by Microsoft's support page description.

Microsoft is insisting that those running the preview either will have to update to the final edition of Windows 8.1 from the Windows Store or install the final version. Those are the choices "to avoid interruption in use of the device on which the Windows 8.1 Preview was installed." In the past, expiring Windows releases would signal to users that they were expiring. It's not clear if that same approach will be taken with the Windows 8.1 preview.

Rollback Option
Those preview users wanting to roll back to Windows 8 may be able to do so using the "refresh" function of the OS, but the system's apps will need to be reinstalled, if wanted. Those preview users wanting to roll back to older Windows operating systems will be faced with having to reinstall those older Windows OSes. Microsoft described those caveats when it released Windows 8.1 back in October.

There's also a new warning from Microsoft that product key activation may be required if the "add features" function was used to install the Windows 8.1 preview.

Windows RT 8.1 preview users can't go back to Windows RT 8.0, Microsoft's support page states. Those users will have no choice but to upgrade the OS through the Windows Store function.

Windows 7
PC users wanting to run Windows 7 on a new system can still find new PCs with that OS installed (ZDNet writer Ed Bott suggests looking in stores that sell to businesses to find them). Alternatively, they can purchase new PCs running Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 and then they can "downgrade" the OS to Windows 7. Microsoft allows users to move to an earlier version of Windows via its downgrade rights.

Retail sales of boxed copies of Windows 7 ended on Oct. 30, 2013, according to Microsoft's lifecycle support page. However, in a footnote, Microsoft explains that retail copies of Windows 7 can still be purchased through original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) through Oct. 30, 2014. That's also the end-of-sales date for OEM-supplied PCs running Windows 7.

Update: Microsoft changed its lifecycle support page after this article was posted. That page now indicates "to be determined" for the ending sales date of Windows 7 OEM PCs. A Microsoft spokesperson said that the Oct. 30, 2014 date had been posted "in error." No further clarification was provided.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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