Microsoft promised to deliver its highly anticipated Windows 8.1 update to Windows 8 users free of charge, and that's still true. Starting October 18th, Windows 8.1 will be a free update from the Windows Store. At the same time, users new to the touch-friendly operating system altogether can jump straight into the Windows 8.1 release by purchasing a full version either as a download from Windows.com or at a local store in retail boxed copy form.
"While pricing varies by market, in the U.S., Windows 8.1 will be available for $119.99 ERP (U.S.) and Windows 8.1 Pro will be available for $199.99 ERP (U.S.)," Microsoft stated in a blog post. "The pricing and editions for Windows 8.1 are similar to what we have today for Windows 8."
The full version of Windows 8.1 doesn't require a previous version of Windows in order to be installed. Microsoft said it decided to give users this option based on feedback it received about wanting more flexibility in specific technical scenarios, like building a PC from scratch, running Windows 8.1 in a Virtual Machine (VM), or installing it on a secondary hard drive partition.
If you're coming from Windows 7, the Windows 8.1 retail DVD and download software will bring along all your files, but you'll be required to reinstall desktop apps, even Office. Windows XP and Vista users will have to backup their own files and perform a clean install. Microsoft also says these users should opt to boot from the Windows 8.1 DVD rather than use the download version.
Finally, if you buy a Windows 8.1 device later this year, you'll be able to purchase the Windows 8.1 Pro Pack for $100. This unlocks all the features found in Pro, as well as Windows Media Center. If you're already on Windows 8.1 Pro, you can snag Windows Media Center for $10.