First as an opening remark for why I had to write this wiki with so many convoluted workarounds.
- Microsoft infuriatingly made all Windows 8.1 media reject Windows 8.0 OEM/Retail product keys. → Fixed by installation with generic product key and activating with Windows 8.0 product key.
- Microsoft frustratingly made the downloader for Windows 8.1 reject Windows 8.0 product keys despite Windows 8.1 being a free update or Service Pack for Windows 8.0. → Fixed by tricking the downloader.
- Microsoft made OEM BIOS Embedded product keys hidden → Fixed by obtaining the product key with RW-Everything.
- Microsoft unnecessarily elevated system requirements for the 64 Bit version of the service pack users who don’t met the elevated system requirements much switch from 64 Bit to 32 Bit. Moreover the badly thought out downloader only lets you download the same architecture as currently installed. You need to use a Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1 64 Bit computer to download the Windows 8.1 64 Bit retail .iso and a Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1 32 Bit computer to download a Windows 8.1 32 Bit .iso. → Fixed by clean installing with the Download Windows 7 .iso of the desired architecture, clean install Windows 7 without inputting a product key and run the downloader.
- Microsoft unfortunately made the retail downloader inaccessible for major OEM vendor and small system builder OEM Product Keys. → No current fix to use the downloader except to use a retail key if you have one or obtain a MSDN/Technet .iso from unofficial sources.
- Note the download requires a retail product key (Windows 8.0 or 8.1) and will not work with OEM Product Keys from major vendors which are hidden and reside within the system BIOS or minor system builder OEM licenses with a 25 digit product code.
- The .iso obtained via this method is locked to the Windows edition (Core or Professional) unlike a MSDN/Technet .iso. It is however possible to download a retail .iso and use it to clean install on an OEM system providing both license are Windows 8.0/8.1 (C0re) or both licenses are Windows 8.0/8.1 Professional.
I have no idea why Microsoft made such a variety of these flaws with Windows 8.1′s media distribution and warned about them during the release of Windows 8.0. The fact is OEMs do not always install Windows properly and this combined with the forcing of such a critical update via the Microsoft store leads to a very negative migration to Windows 8.1 for many a user.
How to download a Windows 8.1 .iso with a windows 8.0 Product Key
First download both WindowsSetupBox.exe (Windows 8.1) and Windows8-Setup (Windows 8) direct from Microsoft and save (do not run).
For UK and US customers use the link below. For other customers change en-gb to your region.
- UK Customers: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows-8/upgrade-product-key-only
- US Customers: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/upgrade-product-key-only
Note if you run WindowsSetupBox.exe directly it will reject your Windows 8 product key.
I will use the UK setups as an example here.
Run the Windows8-Setup
Enter your Windows 8 Product Key
Follow through the instructions and press next. When Windows 8 starts downloading cancel the setup.
Now run WindowsSetupBox.exe
The Windows 8.1 installer will now start downloading directly because you have entered a valid product key with the Windows 8 installer and the checks have passed i.e. will skip the part where you are prompted to enter a product key.
To make media for installation of Windows 8.1 using a Windows 8.0 product key see Creating a Bootable Windows 8.1 USB for clean installation of Windows 8.0 using the Generic Product Key.
For product activation see: Product Activation Using a Windows 8.0 Product Key in Windows 8.0 via Change Key
For installation instructions see: A Clean Install of Windows 8.1.
The “We can’t Connect at the Moment” error.
This is a badly worded error resulting in much wastage of time trying to diagnose connection errors. This error ironically shows after it says the key is recognised and stated to be okay. As mentioned before there are many flaws with the Windows 8.0/Windows 8.1 downloader and I am not a fan of it. Essentially the downloader is rejecting your key despite telling you its valid and you can try all fixes to connect it to the internet and time settings but its unlikely to help. This error is exclusively due to the downloader rejecting the key and not due to the fact that you are trying to download a Windows 8.1 .iso.
The generic key is recognised for instance and then will always show this error. Both of my keys previously worked and now yield this error if I input them into the downloader; I assume some quota is put per download per key; in order to stop piracy. The error should be reworded something similar to:
“Your product key has been recognised as a Windows 8.0/8.1 Core/Professional Product Key however has been used to download Windows 8.0/8.1 Core/Professional too many times please contact the Microsoft Electronic Software Download Support for your region http://support.microsoft.com/gp/esd-support-phone-numbers“
Note if you are getting this error when you are contacting Electronic Software mention you are just trying to download Windows 8.0 (as the error is occurring at this stage) as they will likely try to sell you a new product key if you mention you are trying to download Windows 8.1. Microsoft have some absurd policies in this area considering its meant to be a free update. I would assume Microsoft should be doing their best to make migration to Windows 8.1 as easy as possible but it seems like they have deliberately set up some serious roadblocks for their users.
I suggest you leave negative feedback on their website regarding failure to provide a direct link to the .iso.
It is recommended to view Customising and Using Windows 8.1 where I demonstrate how to make Windows 8.1 more user friendly to Desktop and Laptop users.
Download workaround taken originally from EightForums here you may join the forums there to thank them and ghacks.net here. I integrated this workaround with generic product key installation for a complete solution.