Dell recommends Windows 8.

Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?

Brien Posey, Freelance Writer and Former CIO | 2/20/2013 | 47 comments

Brien Posey
Ask most IT professionals if it is better to do an in-place upgrade to Windows 8 or to perform a clean installation, and most will tell you that you should always go with a clean install. While I generally agree with this philosophy, this would be an extremely short article if there weren't a bit more to the story.

The main reason why experienced IT professionals tend to recommend performing a clean installation of a new operating system is because clean installations tend to be more reliable. Anytime that you perform an in-place installation, there are certain things that carry over from the old operating system to the new operating system. This "baggage" obviously includes applications, but it can include other things as well, such as hardware drivers or malware, both of which can be problematic. When you perform a clean installation of a new operating system you can rest assured that the new operating system is not trying to use outdated drivers that were intended for the old operating system and that there aren't any malware infections present.

Another advantage behind performing a clean installation is that you can ensure a consistent end-user experience. Typically all but the smallest organizations perform image-based deployments of desktop operating systems. In other words, the administrator installs Windows onto a physical or virtual machine, adds drivers and applications, and then packages the operating system and applications for distribution. This method is much less time consuming than upgrading each desktop individually. More importantly, however, the administrator is able to meticulously test the deployment image prior to rolling the image out to the end users. This helps to ensure that the end user's desktop will be stable and reliable after the new operating system has been installed.

After reading the previous three paragraphs, it probably seems as though it is better to perform a clean installation of a new operating system than to try to perform an in-place upgrade. In most cases, a clean installation really is the best method of deploying Windows 8. However, there are definitely some circumstances that warrant an in-place upgrade.

Sometimes applications, especially legacy systems, can dictate the need for an in upgrade. One of the steps that I always take when preparing to transition to a new operating system is to run a software inventory of the machines that are to be upgraded. When I inventoried the desktops in question, there was one particular application that I didn't recognize.

When I spoke to the guy in charge about the application, he informed me that the application was an accounting package that had been custom written for the company. I asked him if he had a copy of the installation media so that I could test the application prior to performing the upgrade. This is where things got interesting.

Apparently the application had been developed quite some time ago. The developer had provided the application on a 3.5 inch floppy disk that had since become demagnetized. Worse still, the firm that had developed the application had later gone out of business, so there was no way to get a new copy of the application.

Given the circumstances, I didn't want to move forward with the operating system upgrade, but the company was insistent even after I had explained the risks. Needless to say, I performed a full system backup of each computer prior to the upgrade just in case anything went wrong.

I was also forced to do an upgrade since there was no way to reinstall the application. In order to minimize the risks, I replaced each computer's hard drive with a brand new drive and restored the backups to the new drives. I labeled the old hard drives and put them somewhere for safe keeping. That way, if anything went wrong with the upgrade, I could simply reinstall the original, unaltered hard drives and it would be as if nothing had ever happened. Thankfully, the operating system upgrade went off without a hitch and the application worked perfectly with the new operating system.

Another factor that can sometimes justify an in-place upgrade is if PCs are running especially complex configurations. When I was with the military, there was one particular unit that used a lot of proprietary peripherals and that used a rather complex network configuration (sorry, I am not allowed to discuss the details). When it came time for an operating system upgrade, the decision was made that it would be less risky and less expensive to do an in-place upgrade than to do a clean installation and a lot of specialized configuration work.

When it comes to deciding whether to do a clean installation of Windows 8 or an upgrade, you have to do what makes the most sense for your own unique circumstances. Clean installations are generally recommended, but they are not always practical. Regardless of which method you decide to use however, it is important to test your implementation plan prior to moving forward with the deployment.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 5   >   >>
J-Lo   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/12/2013 2:39:32 AM
Re: Windows 8
This real time saving of data is probably ensured in banks, hospitals etc. What about large enterprise, do they usually opt for real time data back up. Over here it is still preodic data back up is a norm of business for most of large scales businesses and SMB.
Randomus   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/4/2013 11:15:53 AM
Re: Windows 8
J-Lo: I've heard of companies saving in real-time or at a set time (end of day, end of 48 hours, end of week, etc.).  Each storage method has pros and cons, and I think it depends on what type of business is being operated.
J-Lo   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/3/2013 8:15:04 PM
Re: Windows 8
Keith, you are right. We all have been using cloud for a long time without knowing we have been using it. We call it email but never realize how much data we have saved in emails and that's all saved with a server exactly as a cloud service provider will keep it for us.
J-Lo   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/3/2013 4:05:34 AM
Re: Windows 8
Randomus, in a very fast paced enterprise or a bank, where data keeps on changing on daily basis. Does IT take daily back up? Or the data is continuously saved and backed up in real time all the time?
J-Lo   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/3/2013 3:42:18 AM
Re: Windows 8
"how often do they test a restore from the backups?" this point seems very important and I am not sure if it is widely applied. To my knowledge I have seen companies taking back up, but restoring from a backup is never heard off (as an exercise)
J-Lo   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/3/2013 3:34:38 AM
Re: Windows 8
Trek, how many backups of back up is considered safe? As a backup too is vulnerable, right. It seems like a never ending story. But keeping in mind the afforability of operational cost are 2 backups enough?

J-Lo   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   3/3/2013 3:30:29 AM
Re: Windows 8
Randomus, than you for the brief elaboration. My second question would be, what is the ratio or percentage of Amazon crashing over local hard drive? I agree having a local back up is good and handy. But for small businesses do you think saving cost on local back up drives and relying only on cloud is a wise alternate?
PositivelyKeith   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   2/28/2013 7:28:40 PM
Re: Windows 8
@Trek it seems like you are sitting on a cloud experience already!

I think many of us are heading for a total cloud experience than we realise!
Trek   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   2/28/2013 5:09:59 PM
Re: Windows 8
Luckily for me, most docs I have can be secured in an email cloud server and on a thumb drive and of course my work places actual network.  So I always have two to three backups. But that's because I'm mostly letting some other agency such as my email service worry about that for me.  (And of course I have a file box.)

However, I don't use complex databases at home. And what large companies need is for an instant switch, so that customers never notice anything is wrong. 
PositivelyKeith   Should You Perform a Windows 8 Upgrade or a Clean Installation?   2/28/2013 12:29:50 PM
Re: Windows 8
I always worry about those that run their businesses from home.


Where do they keep their offsite data back up?

In the car on the drive?

The tool shed?
Page 1 / 5   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Brien Posey
Brien Posey   9/5/2013   10 comments
One of the main benefits of virtual desktop infrastructure is the ability to run many virtual machines on a single host, making the most efficient possible use of the resources available. ...
Brien Posey   8/28/2013   57 comments
By now you know that Windows 8.1 will release to the public on October 18. You may not know that with Windows 8.1, Microsoft is releasing a brand new version of Internet Explorer, IE 11.
Brien Posey   8/22/2013   22 comments
Operating system upgrades have always been something of a crapshoot. We as administrators make every effort to follow all of the recommended best practices, but it is difficult to know ...
Brien Posey   8/15/2013   20 comments
Significant changes are coming to Microsoft TechNet. If your organization uses TechNet software for planning or testing, you may need to modify your approach.
Brien Posey   8/6/2013   10 comments
The tool of choice for Microsoft operating system deployments is System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM). For those who have never worked through a bare metal Windows 8 deployment, it ...
Dell Information Resources
On-demand Video with Chat
The culture of work is changing. Tech-savvy and always-connected people want faster, more intuitive technology, uninterrupted services, and freedom to work anywhere, anytime, on a variety of devices.
Latest Archived Broadcast
Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) is about more than just a device.
© 2018 UBM TechWeb - Privacy Policy