Software & Apps Windows Where Can I Download Windows 8 or 8.1? How to get your hands on an ISO image of Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 By Tim Fisher General Manager, VP, Lifewire.com Tim Fisher has 30+ years' professional technology support experience. He writes troubleshooting content and is the General Manager of Lifewire. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Tim Fisher Updated December 11, 2019 Windows The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide Tweet Share Email There are any number of reasons why someone might want to download Windows 8, or maybe the newer Windows 8.1. Most obviously, if you don't have Windows 8, getting your hands on the operating system via a download is much easier than buying a boxed copy. Even if you already have Windows 8 on a computer, most manufacturers don't include a copy, making a clean install of Windows 8 or 8.1 pretty much impossible. Plus, having a copy of Windows 8 makes some kinds of troubleshooting a lot easier. Lifewire / Kaley McKean Maybe you just want to give it a try on a spare computer or on a virtual machine. You've seen the prices for Windows 8 and it isn't cheap. There are probably free copies of Windows 8 floating around somewhere, right? Windows 10 is the most recent version of Windows available and can be upgraded to from a currently installed Windows 8 or Windows 7 OS. You can download Windows 10 just as easy as Windows 8. Where Can I Download Windows 8 or 8.1? There are several ways to download Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 online, but of them are only a couple of completely legal methods. There is a Windows 8 trial option, as well as some not-so-legal methods of downloading Windows 8, all of which are discussed below. If you do have a copy of Windows 8 or 8.1 (in ISO format or on a disc or flash drive) and also have that copy of Windows 8 installed and working but you've lost your product key, there may be a way to find it. Here's how to find your Windows 8 or 8.1 product key. Download Windows 8 & 8.1 the Legal Way There are three, completely legal ways to download a full copy of Windows 8.1. If you're new to Windows 8, purchasing Windows 8.1 (Windows 8 with the 8.1 update already included) is probably the smartest choice. Sometimes you can find a less expensive boxed copy of Windows 8 (before the 8.1 update) from general retailers like Amazon or from an electronics outlet like NewEgg, which you can then update to Windows 8.1 for free after installation. Your second option, useful if you have experience working with ISO images, is to download Windows 8.1 directly from Microsoft. Please note, however, that unlike buying Windows 8 new, a Windows 8 download from Microsoft doesn't get you the product key you need to activate Windows. Visit Microsoft's download Windows 8.1 disc image (ISO file) page. Pick the Windows 8.1 edition you want, and select Confirm. Unless there's a specific reason to pick another option, most people should select Windows 8.1. Choose your language, and select Confirm. Choose the Windows 8.1 ISO download you want. There's both a 32-bit and 64-bit download option. Download Windows 8 and 8.1 Using a Visual Studio Subscription Your final option is to download Windows 8.1 or Windows 8 for "free" as part of a paid Visual Studio subscription (previously called an MSDN subscription), which runs for several hundred dollars per year. You'll get a copy of Windows 8.1 in ISO format, ready for burning to a disc or transferring to a USB device. This is a professional subscription program available for purchase by anyone but designed for software developers. You get access to all full versions of Windows 8 & 8.1, including valid product keys, in addition to software and keys for almost every software and operating system Microsoft has ever created. The Visual Studio subscription program is anything but cheap. Unless you're a software developer or some other professional IT person that needs access to multiple operating systems, a Visual Studio subscription probably isn't a cost-effective way to legally download Windows 8. If you already have a Windows 8 or 8.1 disc or ISO and are only trying to download Windows 8 because you need to install it on a computer without an optical drive, there is a way to get the files from the disc or ISO onto a flash drive. Here's how to install Windows 8 or 8.1 from USB. It's important to follow the disc or USB creation instructions linked above if you want to put your Windows 8 download on a DVD or flash drive. You can't boot to the Windows 8 media just by downloading the ISO directly onto the disc or drive. A very specific process, explained in those links, is what you need to follow to make the Windows 8 download bootable. Other "Free" Windows 8 & 8.1 Downloads Any other free or incredibly inexpensive Windows 8 or 8.1 download you find online is almost certainly illegal, including Windows 8 ISO files you might find on torrent sites. Legal issues aside, these Windows 8 downloads, unlike the official ones from Microsoft, run the very serious risk of containing a surprise or two. For example, a number of Windows 8 & 8.1 downloads available from unofficial sources are "cracked" versions of Windows 8 installation discs, meaning that they've been changed for one reason or another and could easily contain malware. It would be very unfortunate to install Windows 8 on your computer and be automatically infected with a virus. Please know that when you pay for Windows 8, what you're actually paying for is the product key used to activate Windows 8. In other words, even if you do download Windows 8 from someone other than Microsoft, whether it's a clean and legitimate copy of Windows 8 or not, you'll still need a valid Windows 8 product key to use the operating system. Don't Download Windows 8: Replace It A much better option for those of you with lost or broken, but valid, copies of Windows 8 or 8.1 is to order replacement media. In your case, there's no reason to pay full price for another copy of Windows 8 or risk being infected with malware. If Windows 8 came preinstalled on your computer, and you did have DVD or flash media but now it's damaged or lost, contact your computer maker for a replacement. Depending on their policy, your computer maker might provide you with Windows 8 media for free or a small fee. If you purchased a retail Windows 8 DVD, you can contact the Microsoft Supplemental Parts team and request a replacement. While not a replacement for Windows 8, please know that you also have the option to create a Recovery Drive for Windows 8 using a friend's Windows 8 PC, all for the cost of a small flash drive. Your Recovery Drive can be used to perform all the diagnostic and repair functions that a full copy of Windows 8 can. Here's how to create a Windows 8 or 8.1 recovery drive for instructions.