While a lot of attention has been paid to Windows 8’s web-based installer, Microsoft is still offering a traditional retail Upgrade package as well. And depending on your needs, this isn’t a bad option.
Plus, it comes in a fun new box.
Or, more precisely, four of them: Microsoft is offering the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade in five different retail package versions, each with its own unique design.
Box beauty aside, each contains a welcome card, separate (and nicely labeled) 32-bit and 64-bit Setup discs and a card containing your product key.
So why pay $69.99 for the Windows 8 Pro Upgrade retail package when you can get the product electronically via the web installer for just $39.99 (through the end of January)? There are a few reasons.
First, if you’re currently running a 32-bit version of a previous Windows version, the web installer will only allow you to install the 32-bit version of Windows 8 Pro. This is true no matter which install type you choose (in-place upgrade, clean install, etc.). But with the retail package, you can boot your PC with the 64-bit disc and do a clean install that way.
Second, while it’s not terrifically hard to use the web installer to download the Setup ISO and then burn it to disc (or create a USB-based installer), those who need or want to install Windows by booting their PC from Setup media will find that it’s quicker and easier to just get the retail package. $30 easier? That’s up to you.
(For the record, I do think the web installer makes more sense for most people, since it comes with some additional features, including an Upgrade Advisor. I will be writing a Feature Focus article about the web installer soon.)
Note that Microsoft does not make the basic version of Windows 8, called Windows 8 Core, available at retail in Upgrade form. You can only obtain this software via a new PC purchase or by getting a more expensive System Builder (formerly called OEM) version. Windows 8 Core is $99.99 at NewEgg.com, for example.
Likewise, Microsoft is not offering a Full retail package for Windows 8 Pro, either: That product has been replaced by a System Builder (formerly OEM) version, which is $139.99 at NewEgg.com.