The Problems With Upgrading to Windows 8.1

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Upgrading to Windows 8.1 is no easy task. I've found that in some cases it's a process that can't be accomplished at all. Because of one particularly severe problem, Microsoft was forced to halt all Windows RT upgrades.

This summer, Microsoft offered users of both Windows Pro (running on Intel processors) and Windows RT (running on ARM-based processors) a chance to preview its (then) future Windows 8.1 operating system. The beta offered a glimpse of the hundreds of improvements Microsoft was going to offer in its first major revision.

At that time, we installed the preview editions of both Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 on a number of machines. The process was painless and we appreciated the improvements Microsoft had made. We especially loved the return of the familiar "Start" button on the traditional Windows screen.

Last Thursday, Microsoft officially released Windows 8.1 and RT 8.1 to the public. The software for both platforms was offered as free downloads via the Windows online store. It took hours for any of my computers to get into the store. The system was swamped. It wasn't until early Friday morning that I could even try to access the upgrades.

If you didn't install the beta software, upgrading to 8.1 is easy. First, you must make sure your computer's software has installed all the recent updates. Then press just one button and you're on your way. Those who installed the preview edition have to endure a two-step process -- uninstalling the preview software (rolling back to Windows 8) then downloading/installing 8.1 from the store.

As for our devices, upgrading the Lenovo (Windows Pro) laptop was straightforward but fatiguing. Just the first step, uninstalling the Windows 8.1 beta, took nearly 12 hours. I was able to keep track of the glacial process while working on other computers. I think the actual download and upgrading to the new 8.1 RT software took another hour or so. I don't know for sure. I was fast asleep by that time.

Upgrading the two Windows RT machines was a different story. Neither the Microsoft Surface RT nor the Asus Vivo Tab RT test machines could complete the first step in the process. I could not get them to roll back to Windows 8 no matter what I tried.

I decided to ask for an explanation. I contacted Microsoft's "Rapid Response Team" for journalists. I received an answer from the public relations team within 30 minutes.. Six hours later I received a call from one of Microsoft's global escalation engineers in India. After a number of conversations, he admitted he was stumped. Since Friday evening we've been in touch a number of times. His last message said I'd be updated on the situation sometime Monday.