I’ve advocated using the Windows 8 web installer because it’s the simplest and safest way to upgrade an existing PC to Windows 8. But if you didn’t create Setup media using the web installer, you may be concerned about what happens if you need to start over again from scratch in the future. No worries: You will be able to install Windows 8 later if need be.
Be sure to read Windows 8 Feature Focus: Web-Based Setup for more information about this new Windows 8 installation option.
To be clear, most Windows 8 reinstalls can be accomplished quickly and easily with Push Button Reset, which provides quick PC Reset and RC Refresh functionality. But many readers have expressed concern about what happens if they simply want or need to reinstall from scratch. There are a number of approaches to Windows 8 disaster recovery—the old Windows 7-era image-based backup infrastructure is still there, for example—but the point is certainly valid: If you used the web-based installer, and did not create Setup media as part of the process, it’s unclear how you can go back and do so after the fact.
Thanks to a little digging by my Windows 8 Secrets co-author Rafael Rivera, I’m pleased to report that you can indeed create Windows 8 Setup media—a bootable Windows 8 Setup DVD or USB-based disk—after you’ve already upgraded to (or otherwise installed) Windows 8 using the web-based installer. (You can also do this from Windows XP, Vista, or 7.)
It’s simple: Just visit the How to upgrade to Windows 8 with only a product key page on the new Windows web site and pretend that you’re going to install Windows 8. You can do this from any PC (running Windows, obviously).
The Install Windows 8 button triggers a software download that’s similar to—because it’s a stripped down version of—the normal web-based installer. In the first phase of this wizard-based application, you must enter a valid Windows 8 product key, which you have because Microsoft mailed you one when you first used the web-based installer.
After you enter the key and the application verifies that it’s OK, just step through the wizard. The only downside to this process is that you must download the Windows 8 Setup files, which can take several minutes or more, depending on your connection. But you will eventually reach the stage where it asks you to choose between the following three choices.
Choose Install by creating media.
Then, as with the normal web-based installer, you can choose to create a USB flash drive-based Setup disk or write it to an ISO file that you can save to your hard drive. That ISO file can be turned into a DVD-based Setup disc or, using the Windows 7 USB/DVD download tool, a USB flash drive-based Setup disk. Since the latter choice, for the ISO file, works both ways, I recommend that option. But either way you’ve acquired your Setup media. You can cancel the wizard after you have the ISO file (or have created the USB flash drive Setup disk).