Windows 8 will be cheap, sort of

On Monday Microsoft announced that a Windows 8 upgrade would cost just $39.99 for users running Windows 7, Vista, or XP. And new details about the OS suggest that installing Windows 8 should be a pretty painless process.

David McNew/Reuters/File
Microsoft announced on Monday that Windows 8 will cost just under $40 for those upgrading from Windows 7, Vista, or XP. Here, a Microsoft employee holds the company's Surface tablet (running Windows 8) at an event in Los Angeles.

We don't yet know when Windows 8 will be available, but at least we know how much it'll cost: just a penny shy of $40, assuming you're upgrading from Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Microsoft announced the upgrade pricing on Monday, adding that the upgrade will be available through the website -- no need to pick up a packaged copy (you can buy an upgrade DVD if you want, but it'll set you back $70).

The (relatively) cheap price will be available through the end of January 2013. For comparison's sake, Windows 7 upgrade discs cost from $120 to $220, but many retailers knock at least 20 bucks off the official price. Even upgrading from one version of Windows 7 to another cost about $80.

Microsoft assures us that upgrading to Windows 8 will be a seamless process. An "upgrade assistant" will walk you through configuring and installing the new OS, and will double-check to make sure your computer supports Windows 8. It should even notify you if the installation will break any of your applications or device drivers.

Depending on what software you're running now, Microsoft says, the Windows 8 upgrade will look a little different. If you're on a consumer edition of Windows 7, you can migrate your personal files, settings, and even applications (everything that ran on Windows 7 should work just fine on Windows 8). If you're running Vista, you'll be able to carry over your files and settings. If you're on XP, you'll only be able to bring your files over.

There's also the option, of course, of starting fresh -- bringing files over only as you need them -- to get rid of old programs, outdated system resources, and other accumulated "cruft" from your last operating system.

Windows 8 will be even cheaper for customers who pull the trigger on a new PC now. Microsoft announced a few weeks back that people who buy new Windows 7 computers between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013 can upgrade to Windows 8 for $14.99. No word yet on how much a standalone version of Windows 8 will cost.

Microsoft said back in May that it was stripping Windows Media Center -- including the ability to play DVDs -- out of Windows 8 to keep costs down. That's still technically true, but you'll be able to add the software for free after installing Windows 8 Pro. Keep in mind, though, that a lot of devices won't need this feature: Windows 8 is designed to run on tablets as well as computers, and growing numbers of laptops don't have DVD drives anyway (think Ultrabooks).

Public reaction to Microsoft's announcement has been cautiously optimistic. Monitor readers, do you share the enthusiasm? Are you planning to upgrade once Windows 8 becomes available? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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