I’ve been running the Windows 8 Release Candidate for about six months now. I’m sure Microsoft probably mentioned at some point during the installation that it would expire on January 15, 2013, but that information had been long forgotten, and, to my disappointment, the operating system that I’ve been using on my primary personal computer did NOT warn me prior to yesterday.
So, imagine my dismay when I got home from work last night and discovered that my PC was a rebooting time-bomb, crashing and re-starting itself in protest every two hours as I was running a now-unlicensed version of Windows.
“No problem,” I thought, “I’ll just pull up my MSDN subscription, grab a valid key, and keep on working, right?”
First, you cannot simply license the Release Candidate. You MUST install one of the retail versions, either via download or conventional media. This was a bit of a problem, as I didn’t have the media, and because I’m on a slower Internet connection at home, I could not download the media in under 2 hours.
Furthermore, Microsoft does not want you to do in-place upgrades from the RC – you can migrate your data with a retail install, but your settings and applications are effectively lost in the process, requiring the usual re-install and re-configuration. While I know the value of clean installs, and understand Microsoft’s motivation, from a supportability standpoint, for requiring this, I found this requirement exceptionally inconvenient, especially having no time to prepare for a lengthy re-configuration of my personal computer in the middle of a busy week.
To solve the 2-hour reboot problem, I was able to simply set my clock back a week on the computer, making sure to disable the Internet time updates (note – if you reboot your machine, your BIOS may “fix” this for you, so you may have changes settings there as well). This gave the machine time to complete the download of the .iso file for the install.
Additionally, some research online determined that I could “fool” the new install into accepting my RC as a valid update client by extracting the .iso to a folder on the hard drive, and editing the /sources/cversion.ini file to look like the following:
This will essentially allow you to update even the earliest developer release of Win8 to the full consumer retail versions, keeping all of your apps and settings intact.
Of course, this work around is completely unsupported by Microsoft, technically, so, don’t expect much help from them if there’s an issue. Doing a clean install is always an option of last resort. As always, be sure to have a backup of your critical files before making any substantial changes like this to your operating system.