In the past using a pre-release version of a Microsoft OS was a one way ticket to nowhere. Sure you got a chance to test out the latest and greatest version of Windows months before it launched, but the final version typically involved doing a clean install, wiping out all your data in the process. To make matters worse, if you were buying the “upgrade edition”, this sometimes also involved re-installing the older version before moving to the final release. Most of us assumed this would still be the case with Windows 8; we were wrong.
Microsoft has confirmed to ComputerWorld that the Windows 8 $39.99 upgrade offer will work with the Release Preview, as long as a version of Windows XP or newer was present on the drive when it was installed. This doesn’t mean the transition is seamless however, and the process still essentially blows away the release preview, along with your settings. Data on the other hand “should” copy over automatically.
While it wasn’t specifically mentioned, it’s safe to assume users of the 2011 Developer Preview, along with the February 2012 Consumer Preview are out of luck. Presumably anyone who falls into this category will need to reinstall a copy of Windows XP or newer back on the machine if they plan to take advantage of the $39.99 upgrade offer.
We are impressed Microsoft is actually taking the time to consider users who have helped them beta test over the last several months, rather than leaving them in the dust. We would be more impressed if the upgrade was a more seamless process that preserved settings, but we’ll take what we can get I suppose.