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Or go here to find out how to download Windows 10 Technical Preview.The original story from October 21, 2013 follows below. If you’re using Windows 8, upgrading to Windows 8.1 is both easy and free.If you don’t want to wait for October 17 or 18, there are two options for downloading Windows 8.1: You can obtain a copy (and a license key) from a friend/colleague with an MSDN, Tech Net, or Dream Spark (student) subscription, or you can download a Windows 8.1 RTM ISO from your favorite file-sharing website (The Pirate Bay, Mega, etc.)While we’re not going to write a guide on how to obtain Windows 8.1 RTM from non-official sources, we will at least tell you to check the SHA-1 hash of the ISO that you download to make sure that it’s legitimate.If you hit up the MSDN Subscriber Downloads page, and then click Details under the version that you’ve obtained from elsewhere, you’ll find the SHA-1 hash.Follow the onscreen instructions to see if the application fares better with settings that emulate an older edition of the operating system. Since its touch-focused features won’t be relevant to your old system, you may prefer to upgrade to Windows 7.

Updated 4/9/15: This article is out of date; for the latest information with active links, here’s how to download and install the latest version of Windows 8.1 Update for free.

In many cases, your easiest option will be simply to buy a new PC with a more up-to-date version of Windows preinstalled – especially if your current system dates from the early years of Windows XP.

But if that doesn’t suit, there are several other options for a Windows XP system that’s reaching the end of the line.

You can check exactly how ready your PC is for Windows 8 by downloading Microsoft’s Upgrade Assistant.

This free tool will scan your system and check that it meets the hardware requirements, and if you connect your peripherals it will scan those for compatibility too.