Each month Ed Bott, over at his Ed Bott Report column at ZD Net, takes a close look at the monthly operating system and browser market share numbers from NetMarketShare and StatCounter.

In his current article about Novembers numbers he points out a very interesting stat about the free upgrades offered to both Windows 8 users and MAC OS X recently:

So how have those free upgrades gone? After one full month, Apple and Microsoft have successfully convinced roughly 30 percent of their respective installed bases to upgrade.

I am surprised, as Ed said he is, that the number is not higher than 30%. Even 50% would be a better number – especially with a free upgrade.

Windows 8.1 is an absolutely free upgrade for any users of Windows 8 and is available in the Windows Store for download and installation.

So what is the hold up in getting to Windows 8.1 on for some of these users?

One of the big issues Ed mentions is that this is a significant upgrade and many users are just not willing to take on such an upgrade because of concerns about encountering problems during the upgrade process.

So what are some steps you can take to help ensure a successful upgrade and protect yourself from any issues that might crop up during that process?

Here are my recommendations:

  • Backup, Backup, Backup.
    • Keep your data safe and have it backed up. Store it on a flash drive, external hard drive, spare internal hard drive or in a cloud storage option like SkyDrive. If you are using a Microsoft Account on your Windows 8 device then you can easily get that data up into the cloud via SkyDrive.
    • Another option is to create a System Image of your entire Windows 8 installation that could be used to restore back to Windows 8 if there is a problem with the upgrade process.
  • Update your system.
    • One of the key issues that caused problems for some upgraders from Windows 8 to 8.1 was that the system was not fully updated through Windows Update with all the latest patches.  Unfortunately, when the upgrade process begins to Windows 8.1 from the Windows Store there is not a check to make sure the system has all current updates installed so you must do this manually. Although some users were able to upgrade to Windows 8.1 without all patches and updates installed it is better to be safe on this one.
  • Drivers.
    • If you have unique hardware that requires special drivers then make sure you have backups for those as well so that you can get those devices working again once the Windows 8.1 update is installed.

Performing a major upgrade to your OS is not a process to take lightly. You likely have significant time invested in setting up your system just the way you want it and the thought of having to redo that work is daunting to say the least.

I am not a fan of having to re-establish my system after a major upgrade but the benefits of that upgrade can outweigh the extra time it may take to get things back up and running.

In my opinion the Windows 8.1 upgrade is worth that effort because it brings great tweaks and additional functionality that Windows 8 was missing.

Here are a few upgrade related posts that can help you better understand the entire process: