Is it safe to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview to Final? Not really

C:Windows.old subdirectoriesReally wish I’d done this:

But I didn’t – I read in three or four places that updating from this summer’s Windows 8.1 Pro x64 Consumer Preview edition would cause my “apps” to be lost. Who cares – Hardly use ’em.

Apparently I should have kept reading.

Running total of what the Windows 8.1 upgrader removed, four reboots later when it finally let me log in. Might as well have just backed up and started from scratch.

  • All contents of “C:Program Files”
  • All contents of “C:Program Files (x86)”
  • All contents of “C:Program Data”
  • Several subdirectories of %user% –
    • Most importantly: “AppData”, including mundane and unthreatening information like your browser profiles and Chrome/Firefox bookmarks, that wouldn’t have been affected by the upgrade.
    • If you had IE Favorites or Desktop shortcuts that weren’t moved over, they may have also wound up in C:Windows.oldUser<username>
  • All drivers, even including my WDMI-signed, Windows Update-sourced ATI Radeon driver.
  • And basically any modifications ever made directly to the registry, whether by 3rd party applications or manual settings changes, including some key remappings and graphical settings.
  • All Window Store apps, although reinstallation was made fairly trivial w/download buttons on large icons for many frequently used apps, right on the Start Screen.
  • And, of course, the betta fish boot logo. This one, of course, was expected.

What it didn’t wipe:

  • grub – Remarkably, this incredibly destructive upgrade didn’t seem to wipe my Linux bootloader, even on my single-disk desktop.
  • Boot to HyperV – Weirdly, a deleted Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview test install, however, was still in Microsoft’s boot menu. Didn’t test it at that time, however, as that VM and all others were missing from Hyper-V manager. The feature works just fine, however, after restoring the VM with original UUID and in its original paths.
If anyone else is in these same shoes, here’s a few rough, general notes on how I got back everything I really cared about – Much of what was lost was backed up to C:Windows.old, including:
  • Program data: Selectively restoring certain components of some larger applications was fairly easy, but restoring whole programs was all but impossible in my case.
  • Steam: Not the cleanest solution in the world, but basically do this to restore the bulk of your Steam games from the “steamapps” folder.
      • UPDATE, Nov 12: Looks like that wasn’t quite clean enough. Having to verify and redownload some files in most games, to ensure stability. Here’s how.
  • Browser profiles: Much of your IE information should remain intact, or will have been stored in the registry in difficult-to-recover ways. For Chrome and Firefox, however, (and possibly other Mozilla and Google products): Before reinstalling Chrome, just restore the Mozilla and/or Google folders from “C:Windows.oldUsers\AppDataLocal” by copying them out of Windows.old and into the same folder structure from the drive’s root. i.e. C:Windows.oldUsersGuest_000AppDataLocalGoogle just gets copied to C:UsersGuest_000AppDataLocalGoogle
  • Saved games: Applications that responsibly use the saved games file library seem to be fine. Everyone else? Check for any missing saved games in your old user folder’s AppData subfolders. If you’ve reinstalled a game that doesn’t see your old saves, you can likely exit the game, delete or archive its freshly-created user AppData folder, and copy the old one back in its place from C:Windows.oldUsers. If the game was really sloppily written, lacking multi-user support, you might also check its old installation at “C:Windows.oldProgram Files” or “C:Windows.oldProgram Files (x86)”
  • Desktop backgrounds/themes: Backed up in C:Windows.oldUsers%username%AppDataLocalMicrosoftWindowsThemes – Just had to copy its contents over the existing directory and reselect my Desktop Background Set et al. This one evaded my notice for over a week, as the Windows 8.1 upgrader weirdly retained the current background, but not its parent set.

And Hyper-V:

  1. Ensure that any user-defined Hyper-V host settings still exist, or have been redefined. (In my case, just needed to recreate my deleted “Virtual Switch.”)
  2. To restore lost Hyper-V instances, restore your VHDs: Move or copy “UsersPublicDocumentsHyper-VVirtual hard disks” out of “C:Windows.old” and into C:
  3. Right click on your host and “Import Virtual Machine.” Each VM can then be re-imported from “C:Windows.oldProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsHyper-VVirtual Machines”
  4. Select “Restore the virtual machine” and note your newly restored “C:UsersPublicDocumentsHyper-VVirtual Hard Disks” VHD folder.
  5. Beyond that, most everything else is just a “Next” “Next” “Next” –> “Finish”
  6. Start and log into your virtual machine(s) to confirm success.
  7. The one desktop feature that matters/The one feature that makes Hyper-V worth playing with at all worked fine after re-importing my VMs: Boot to VHD required no additional configuration, as the upgrader left the boot options in tact.

Selectively reinstalling these items proved good enough for me.

Eventually, it’ll be safe to walk away from all or most of the the C:Windows.old directory and a ~600+MB installer directory. Guide here, if needed.


Oh, and of course, the move from Ubuntu 13.10’s beta to final, performed just a few minutes before this ordeal began?

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade -y #ever painless.

2 thoughts on “Is it safe to upgrade from Windows 8.1 Preview to Final? Not really”

  1. I would guess the answer is “mostly no,” but backups are your friend – Applications installed to a second hard drive might break (and likely require reinstallation), and Windows libraries on the second hard drive might be adversely impacted.

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