Microsoft has released a preview version of Windows 8.1 for anyone running Windows 8 to try. The problem for many in the UK is that it isn't compatible with UK English version of Windows 8. One workaround is to download the ISO file, but then you have to install Windows 8 from scratch. That means backing up all your files and reinstalling all your programs and apps.
Here's another workaround which will allow you to try out 8.1 Preview without any hassle (we'd recommend backing up your precious files just in case, though).
If you have English UK set as your base language, i.e. it's the language you chose when installing Windows 8, then no amount of uninstalling and reinstalling language packs will stop the "This update is not applicable to your computer" message when you run the Update tool from the Windows 8.1 Preview page on Microsoft's website.
UPDATE: It's possible to change the base language to US English which allows the 8.1 Pro Preview to be downloaded in the Windows Store. If you're getting the message "The Windows 8.1 Preview isn't available right now" in Step 9 below, then do the following (you will have to live with US English as your default language, though). Also, thanks to John Wheal for pointing out that even when you change the system locale, you still need to manually install the US language pack. You can see his article here, and video below.
- Go to the Control Panel and click on Clock, Language and Region.
- Click Region, then the Location tab, and change Home location to United States.
- Click on the Administrative tab, then Change system locale... and set it to English (United States). Reboot if prompted.
- Install the US language pack by typing Language on the Start screen and clicking Settings on the right. Click Lanugage in the list of results. Double-click on the Engligh (United States) entry and click the link: Download and install language pack.
- Ensure you set this as the primary language once installed (which can take half an hour). Restart if prompted.
- From the Start Screen, type regedit.exe and hit Enter. This will launch the Registry editor.
- Go to this key, by navigating through the tree, starting with HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\NIs\Language
- Scroll down to the bottom of the list and find InstallLanguage. Double-click and change the value from 0809 to 0409.
- Close regedit and reboot your machine. Go back to the Store and you'll see the big Update Windows purple tile. Click it, and you should now be able to download 8.1 Pro Preview.
Once this is done, you can go to step 1 below, run the executable instead of using the command prompt, and you should jump down to step 8.
Here's what you need to do:
Step 1. Go to Microsoft's website and click the Get it now button.
Find the file which downloads and rename it preview.msu
Copy this file to a new folder in the root of your main boot drive, say c:\8preview
Press the Windows key + X together and choose Command Prompt (admin) from the menu which appears. (Don't choose the plain Command Prompt as you need admin privileges)
Type: Expand –F:* c:\8preview\preview.msu c:\8preview\
This will unpack the files in the MSU file into the same folder.
Type: DISM.exe /Online /Add-Package /PackagePath:c:\8preview\Windows8-RT-KB2849636-x64.cab
Note: if you are running the 32-bit version of Windows 8, then type this:
DISM.exe /Online /Add-Package /PackagePath:c:\8preview\Windows8-RT-KB2849636-x86.cab
Once the process has completed, you'll see a message in the command prompt asking if you want to restart your computer now. Type y to restart it.
When you reboot, you should see a message saying that Windows 8.1 Preview is available. Click the Go to the Store button.
The store should open on the update page, where you can click the Download button. Before installing, it will run a series of compatibility checks. If a problem is found, the installation won't go ahead.
If all is ok, your PC or laptop should reboot a few times as Windows 8.1 Preview installs.
UPDATE: If you get to the point where the download stays on 'Pending', then do the following. From the Start screen, type Troubleshooting and click Settings on the right. Click this in the list of results and then click Fix problems with Windows Update under System and Security. When prompted, click Try troubleshooting as an administrator. A couple of problems should be found and fixed, and then you can go back to the Windows store and install the update. Thanks to John Wheal for providing this tip.
After the installation, you will have to click through a few screens, including signing into your Microsoft account.
Now you can explore the new features of Windows 8.1