Saturday, September 21, 2013

[Guide] Installing and activating Windows 8.1 on the desktop with the original Windows 8 key

Even though Windows 8.1 has RTMed, Microsoft isn't releasing it to public until 18th of October. However, they have made it possible for the MSDN/TechNet Subscribers to download it. They are not releasing it as an individual update though. They are releasing Windows 8.1 as a whole.

Since I have MSDN at work, I could download it. It seems that you cannot install it using the Windows 8 key you own. You need to get a key for Windows 8.1. But as far as we all know, it would be a free update. It seems that is the case only if you download the update via Windows Store.

But, I wanted to use the original Windows 8 key that I own. Of course I won't be "stealing" a key from the office. The issue is, the setup would prompt you to enter the key at the beginning of the install process, and unlike Windows Vista and Windows 7, you cannot skip it.

However, there are a couple of workarounds.

1. Use the default key at the time of install and change to the original key after the setup is done.

Use the corresponding key from below. It will let you install Windows 8.1, but you cannot activate. It's a good thing that the installer doesn't try to activate at the time of install.
Windows 8: 334NH-RXG76-64THK-C7CKG-D3VPT
Windows 8 Pro: XHQ8N-C3MCJ-RQXB6-WCHYG-C9WKB
After you are done, you can go to PC Settings and change the key to your original Windows 8 key. Then you can activate. If it fails to activate, reboot and try. Else, you can activate via phone. (Skype too).

2. Edit the ISO file so that the installer doesn't ask for a key and input the original key after the setup is done.

Open the ISO file in UltraISO (download trial) or any other ISO editing software. Download this file (file name: ei.cfg), and copy it to the Sources folder. Save the ISO file.

The contents of the file is as follows.
[Channel]
_Default
[VL]
0

Now you can use this ISO file as you would use the original ISO file: burn a DVD, mount and run setup then and there, make a bootable USB flash drive etc etc. Afterwards, install Windows and you won't be prompted to enter a key.

After you are done, you can go to PC Settings and change the key to your original Windows 8 key. (Online or Phone)

That's all. Enjoy Windows 8.1.



Edit:
Even if you are not a MSDN/TechNet subscriber, you can find a leaked ISO file "if you know where to look". Make sure it is an untouched ISO file though, because otherwise there could be (most definitely would be) malware embedded on it. Compare the hash codes (MD5) with an original ISO from MSDN and you are good.
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