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Microsoft will offer Windows 8 upgrade as an online purchase and install, a fairly radical change from the company’s traditional model of boxed software and discs.

“Buying boxed software is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule,” Christa St. Pierre, a member of the Windows Setup and Deployment team, wrote in a Nov. 21 posting on Microsoft s official Building Windows 8 blog, with more and more software being purchased online as broadband penetration increases and large-size media downloads become more common.

Windows 8 users, she added, will have the option of starting their operating-system setup online: “We actually pre-key the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that you don’t have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install.”

Microsoft has experimented with downloading Windows before–as well as some alternative methods for loading Windows onto a PC. In order to give netbook users without a DVD drive the ability to run Windows 7, the company issued a Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool (WUDT), capable of installing the operating system via USB device. That initiative ran into a bit of controversy in November 2009, when Microsoft was forced to yank the tool from its online Microsoft Store after allegations that the program incorporated code from the GPLv2-licensed ImageMaster project, violating the latter s terms of use for open-source code. 

Unlike with Windows 7, where the upgrade process often involved multiple apps or features (including Upgrade Advisor, Setup and Windows Easy Transfer) and a trip to the local box store, Microsoft is concentrating on streamlining the Windows 8 upgrade into what St. Pierre described as “one fast and fluid experience.”

That new setup experience includes a PC scan to determine compatibility ( If an application or device ran on Windows 7, it should run on Windows 8, too ), followed by the actual Windows 8 download. After that, the user will then have a choice to continue installation, or else install the operating system on another partition.

Those upgrading from Windows 7 will have the ability to keep their applications, Windows settings and user accounts and files. Those with Windows Vista can port over their Windows settings, along with their user accounts and files. Windows XP users will only have the option of carrying user accounts and files into Windows 8.

Microsoft has offered a steady stream of updates about Windows 8 over the past few months. Most recently, the Building Windows 8 blog detailed the Windows team’s efforts to refine Windows Update to prove less annoying to those users who hate to constantly restart.

To read the original eWeek article, click here: Microsoft Streamlining Windows 8 Upgrade Process