In mid 2012, a friend gave me a defunct laptop - a Toshiba Satellite P300 (Core 2 Duo P7450, 4GB memory), perhaps 4 or 5 years old. It turned out that the hard drive had failed completely.

At about this time the Windows 8 Release Preview came out. I was able to get hold of a 60GB hard drive, big enough to install Windows, so I figured this would make an ideal test bed for the new operating system.

First, I installed the laptop's original OS, which was Vista 64-bit. Straight away I realised why Vista was so widely criticised at the time - hardly anything on the laptop was detected (not even the video card), and a lengthy search on the manufacturer's website for drivers ensued.

Then I installed Windows 8 Release Preview. Almost everything was detected first go! Only one or two devices (one being the inbuilt card reader, from memory) had to have a separate driver installation; within no time at all I was up and running and connected to the Internet.

Encouraged by this early success, I obtained a larger hard drive and purchased Windows 8 Pro within a few days of its release in late October 2012. Similarly, the install process was quite painless.

Next in line was the home desktop computer. This is used extensively for photo processing (Photoshop, Lightroom and a host of other related utilities) as well as general web surfing and occasional after-hours work in cases where tight deadlines have to be met.

The hardware specs on this machine: a Core 2 Duo 8200 processor, but running on a newish motherboard with DDR3 RAM and three hard drives. First up was a RAM upgrade from 4GB to 8GB, which cost only about $25. This would greatly benefit photo processing programs such as Lightroom and Raw Therapee, which are available in 64-bit versions and can make use of the extra memory.

Here's where I made a big mistake. I thought I'd be clever and copy the C: drive to one of the other drives (let's say Drive E:), with the intention of making it bootable so that I could boot into the old Windows XP if ever I needed to. I didn't want a dual-boot setup (thinking that it would probably only be needed on rare occasions, such as locating old files and settings) so I figured I'd just use the BIOS boot options if I had to boot Windows XP for any reason. I used Volume Shadow Copy to do this, and everything tested OK.

However, at some point I must have forgotten to set the boot drive back to C:, with the result that Windows 8 started installing itself on Drive E:. But I don't think the BIOS setting is sticky, and at the first reboot, the computer booted off C: and attempted to install the rest of itself there! Needless to say, this messed up everything and I had to start over.

Fortunately - I'd backed up the original C: drive to an external hard drive first, so I'd lost nothing other than a few hours of my time. Also I had the disc upgrade version on this occasion and would be able to boot the computer with that in order to re-do the installation.

So: Lesson No. 1 - BACK UP before installation; Lesson No. 2 - make sure you have a bootable Windows 8 DVD (you can create one if you purchase a download); Lesson No. 3 - be VERY careful with dual boot installations!

I eventually pulled myself out of the mess. The old Windows XP installation was no longer bootable, but most of the files were intact and still qualified for the upgrade. Installation was pretty plain sailing after the initial setback.

The last and most important upgrade was the work computer. This is an AMD Athlon 64 X2-6000+. I finished work for the year on the Friday before Xmas, and set aside the next weekend for the upgrade, figuring that if I experienced any real problems I'd have the entire Xmas holidays to rectify things. This system also got a Xmas present, in the form of extra RAM.

This also went very well, and after reinstalling software I was up and running Windows 8 by the end of that weekend.

In summary, I was very pleased with the Windows 8 upgrade experience, and I'll put down the second installation attempt to experience.

The software aspect of the upgrade will be the subject of the next part of this article. Given that I'd jumped three versions of Windows, from XP to 8, and from 32-bit to 64-bit, would I be courting disaster?

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