Windows 8 versions and SA pricing explained

With the global launch of Windows 8 done and dusted, which included a big launch party in Johannesburg, for those interested in the new operating system it is worth taking a moment to figure out which version of Windows 8 you should buy.

There has been some confusion about the different versions of Windows 8 that will be available for sale, possibly because Microsoft has changed the way it usually does things.

Two of the more notable changes are that Microsoft will be offering upgrades to Windows 8 as a downloadable purchase from their website, and that all Windows 8 retail boxes are upgrades, not stand-alone licenses.

Business lead for Windows at Microsoft South Africa, Colin Erasmus, explained that at launch only Windows 8 Pro will be sold in retail boxes, and that an existing Windows 7, Vista, or XP (running Service Pack 3) license is needed.

Getting a full stand-alone version of Windows 8 will be a very technical exercise, Erasmus explained, though “system builder” (OEM/DSP) versions of the operating system will still be available.

Earlier this week Incredible Connection announced that it would offer the Windows 8 Pro upgrade for R699.95.

The table below summarises the various upgrade and system builder options available for Windows 8. There are system builder licenses of a single language version of Windows 8 available at online computer hardware stores in South Africa, but these are not shown.

Windows 8 version Recently bought PC Need old Windows Includes DVD Pricing: SA Pricing: US
Windows 8 Pro upgrade download only (Windows 7 PC bought 2 June 2012 – 31 January 2013) Yes Yes No ±R130 (Microsoft) $14.99
Windows 8 Pro upgrade download only No Yes No ±R350 (Microsoft) $39.99
Windows 8 Pro upgrade – Retail introductory pricing No Yes Yes R600 (Groupon)
R700 (Incredible Connection)
$70
Windows 8 retail OEM/DSP No No Yes R1,000 (Prophecy) $100
Windows 8 Pro retail OEM/DSP No No Yes R1,630-R1,690 (Sybaritic, ComX) $140

The following versions of Windows may be upgraded to Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro:

  • Windows XP Service Pack 3;
  • Windows Vista (with, or without Service Pack 1);
  • Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium.

The following versions of Windows may only be upgraded to Windows 8 Pro:

  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Ultimate

In addition to the boxed copies of Windows 8, Microsoft will also be offering cheaper download-only upgrades through its online store for $40 (US).

If you bought a new (not second-hand) PC with Windows 7 (legally) pre-installed between 2 June 2012 and 31 January 2013 you are entitled to an even cheaper downloadable upgrade of $15.

For this you need to register your purchase on the Windows 8 upgrade offer website, after which Microsoft will let you redeem the upgrade.

Erasmus previously explained that South Africans would be able to make use of both these deals with their locally issued credit cards.

Windows 8 Charm Bar Menu
Windows 8 Charm Bar Menu

OEM/DSP (system builder) license changes

Users that can’t make use of the upgrade options will have to either buy a full retail copy of a previous version of Windows in addition to the upgrade, or get a system builder version of Windows 8.

Although Microsoft’s OEM partner site still says that system builder licenses are not for hobbyists who build their own PCs, ZDNet reported earlier this year that a personal use clause has been added to the new Windows 8 system builder licenses.

This lets users transfer the licenses between computers they own, rather than the license being linked to a specific computer.

Windows licenses that come with a new PC live and die with that machine. Microsoft explains on its website that users are allowed to upgrade their PCs without losing their Windows licenses, except in the case of a motherboard upgrade.

Upgrades for (almost) everyone!

In short, you should have no problem with the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro if you’re running Windows 7, Vista, or XP with Service Pack 3.

You should also consider the even cheaper download-only upgrade options if you have an uncapped Internet connection with a reasonable fair usage policy.

If you can’t use the Windows 8 upgrade for whatever reason, your cheapest bet is to look at a “system builder” (OEM/DSP) version of Windows 8 Pro.

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Windows 8 versions and SA pricing explained