What you need to know if you’re upgrading from Windows Phone 7 to 8

This guide is aimed at those who already have a previous generation Windows Phone handset but can also be worthwhile for those of you who are new to the platform.

We’re going to cover what you need to know in order to ease the transition from old to new so you can get back to top speed and start enjoying your new device.

When you first switch on your new handset it will talk you through the main bits about signing in with your Microsoft ID. It’s really important that you get signed in as soon as possible as it will bring down all your account information, contacts, emails, calendar and some other items.

Where are my apps?

One of the great things about Windows Phone is that if you ever bought an app from the marketplace you won’t have to buy it again when you get a replacement device. That same rule applies to Windows Phone 8 devices too. If you bought an app on your old handset you can install it on your new one by browsing the Windows Phone Store to find it and then click “buy”. Don’t worry though, you won’t be buying the app again, the system will then register that you already bought it in the past and ask if you want to install it again.

Sign in and check purchase history from www.windowsphone.com

Get your purchase history and start reinstalling on the windows Phone website

Remembering what apps you bought can be a pain so there are few things you can do to help this process on. Firstly you can head over to www.windowsphone.com (opens in new tab) and sign in with that Microsoft ID, click on the menu and select ‘Purchase History’. From the following page(s) you can reinstall your previous apps from the comfort of your web browser. Best to make sure your phone is connected to Wi-Fi and plugged in and charging while you do that bit.

Backup your old Phone before you forget!

While it’s easy to get blinded by the newest thing in the room, make sure you plug in your previous Windows Phone and backup your photos and any music you have there. If you’re using a PC, you’ll need the easy to use Zune Desktop Client which you can grab here or if you’re using an Apple Mac then you’ll need the Mac Connector Client which you can grab from here (opens in new tab). If it’s been a while since you last connected up the phone, you might be surprised at what you’ll find.

Syncing your content on Windows Phone 8

Things have changed with the latest version of Windows Phone, you’ll now have a number of ways to move data back and forth between your computer and your handset.

Windows 8/RT App

Windows 8 WinRT sync client

Windows 8 Sync App

If you’re your running Microsoft’s latest and greatest OS, Windows 8 you will need to jump to the App Store and grab the touch friendly WinRT software there. The app will let you automatically import your photos and videos from the phone and of course let you add music, video and photos back to the device.

When adding music you can choose to add songs individually or by just selecting a folder. The app also gives you some shortcuts to browse for apps in the web version of the app store as well as pointing you to www.windowsphone.com (opens in new tab) which we already covered at the start of this feature.  The app is rather light on features at the moment, you may even notice there is no podcast support here we’ll tackle that later in the article.

Windows 7 Windows 8 Desktop syncing software

Desktop application - podcast syncing is possible via iTunes.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 Desktop Software

At the moment the desktop version of the syncing tool is probably the best option for the time being as it simply has more functionality. It can even make things easier if you predominantly use iTunes to buy and manage your collection (how things change!). The software works on both Windows 7 and 8 and it runs as a desktop application. As it is a desktop application this means you cannot install and use this if you have a Surface tablet running Windows RT, you’ll need to stick to the WinRT app mentioned previously.

With the desktop app you can check to see how the space is being used on your device and can of course import your photos and videos to your PC. The software shows you two views, one of the phones content and the other of the PC’s content. If you’re looking at the PC content you get to choose to sync things piecemeal or by selecting ‘sync all music’ it will do the lot. You also get similar options for syncing photos and videos.

What about those podcasts?

In the settings menu of the Windows Phone sync software its likely setup to ‘sync music, videos and more’ using Windows Libraries. Unfortunately in this mode it currently doesn’t understand or recognise podcasts. If you have been using the Zune desktop software in the past to download and manage your podcasts from your PC then that content won’t show up at present, we hope this changes rapidly.

The other option in the sync software is to use *gasp* iTunes as the source instead of Windows Libraries. The advantage of this is it gives you the option to manage podcast subscriptions on the iTunes software (which frankly does a better job of it and works globally). With iTunes comes the task of “adding” your music and video to its catalogue, once you have done that (you can just drag and drop your music folder onto iTunes when it’s open to kick this off). The content gets indexed by iTunes and will become visible in the Windows Phone syncing software. Your podcasts can now be synced properly to your device.

itunes and windows phone sync to make podcasts happy

Desktop App now using iTunes to manage content - happy to see iTunes back?

At present the desktop Windows Phone syncing software is still in ‘preview’ form so things are bound to change and features will be added. At the moment though, especially if you’re keen to keep up to date on your podcasts we recommend using iTunes. If you’re in the USA then you can browse and subscribe to podcasts from the Store on your phone. Microsoft have never allowed folks outside the US to subscribe to podcasts using their Store mechanism, we are unable to find out why or even if this will change.

You can now drag and drop content to and from your device

Windows Phone 8 now reveals itself properly in Windows Explorer, when you plug it in to your machine it will simply appear as a storage device under ‘Computer’, just like a removal disk such as a USB stick or memory card does. You can now simply double click on the phone and add and remove content as you see fit. Just drag and drop things in there, it’s really easy. We covered this in depth a while back so we’d urge you to go and take a look. For video syncing and converting the drag and drop method seems to work best at the moment.

Music you have bought from the Zune Marketplace or Xbox Music

Music you have bought from the Zune Marketplace or Xbox Music

Get your previous purchases on your Windows Phone 8 device.

Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8 and the Windows 8 apps now allow you to download your past purchases. On Windows Phone 8 launch Xbox Music, hit settings and ensure that “Xbox Music cloud collection” is enabled. Once you have done that your previous purchases will show up in your music collection. You can then just stream them on your device or if you press and hold you can opt to download the tracks to your phone.

Sounding off

As you can see there are plenty of ways to get your new phone back up and running like you had it before. The syncing software for Windows 8 is in its very early stages and we expect much of this to settle down and get better along the way.

If you have any tips or ideas for getting started or moving your things to your new device then please get in touch and let us know. The comments below are a good place to start but if you have more to say you can drop me a line using the contact form below.

  • Great article, just at the right time. I'll be heading over to my local ATT store to grab my 920 just as soon as they open.
  • I would, but they have no yellow!!
  • Thanks, will come in handy when I'll get my L920! :)
  • I think syncing music is a mess. The "Metro" App is terrible to use on a desktop computer, and it - aswell as the Desktop-App - lacks functionality. After getting used to Zune this is just a huge disappointment.
  • What's the name of the RT version?
  • "Windows Phone"
  • I agree, if it's not bad enough as it is its even worse if you store music on a network share.
  • That's discouraging. Does it still work though? All of my music is via a network.
  • You can sync your music to your WP8 from network shares, no problem. Using either the desktop application or the Windows 8 style UI app.
  • I'm simply not upgrading until they remedy this HORRIBLE network share morass.  They have completely broken a functional music workflow.
  • I think you're the 1st person I've ever seen saying they want the Zune software back. 
  • It's true.  The XBOX Music App is really really bad.  They are trying to push a Spotify market structure now and it doesn't play nice with local or networked music.  I'll gladly take my Zune back.
  • I love the Zune software.
  • Zune software is really good, and very mature.   There's no good way to manage the music you own, along with your subscription.   Zune did a great job at that.   Plus no podcast support, no ability to edit meta-tag, no ability to add album art., etc...
    PLUS, the zune account allowed me to keep / sync my music to 3 phones, which was great for my kids.   Now, that's also gone.
  • I thought the Zune software was a bit quriky at first, but I've grow to like it ok. That said, I still wanted drag and drop, so this is welcome. Still, a version of Zune would be a nice option for syncing.
  • Nope. I've said it countless times before. Zune was extremely well rounded and a powerful piece of software to manage and edit your music collection. I used to try to edit song info in the properties windows of an mp3 file and it would never carry over. Zune edit's the tag fields for the music file. I'm a huge nut when it comes to my music having the correct album art too. So not being able to do that is super lame.
  • I want the Zune software back, for sure! I listen to a few podcasts (This American Life, The Moth, The Truth) and I don't want to jump through hoops or infect my computer with iTunes to make it happen.  Ugh.
  • I want the Zune software back, for sure! I listen to a few podcasts (This American Life, The Moth, The Truth) and I don't want to jump through hoops or infect my computer with iTunes to make it happen.  Ugh.
  • I want the Zune software back, for sure! I listen to a few podcasts (This American Life, The Moth, The Truth) and I don't want to jump through hoops or infect my computer with iTunes to make it happen.  Ugh.
  • Couldn't agree more.   I don't understand why they jut couldn't rebrand the zune software.   It's such a major let down and a total cluster on Microsoft's part.
  • On the windows phone 8's you can just open "My computer" and drag and drop into the folders from what others are telling me in canada that got their Lumia 920's already :)
  • That's not the point. Music management is what we want.
  • I love the Zune software and use it for organizing all my music. Works perfect for me. I can't believe Microsoft didn't just build on this for WP8. It sounds like they've taken a huge step backwards overall. The last thing in the world I want to have to do is manually drag and drop my music to my phone. This is certainly going to prevent people from switching platforms, and will keep me from upgrading my L900 to an L920 until they get this figured out!
  • I get that Zune wasn't a hit but there are some of us who used the heck out of that software to sync and now I can't really sync music by the song without playlists and I live on PODCASTS sheesh.. this is my 1st negative since getting a windows phone last year..
  • Maybe this is best left for the forums, but has anybody messed with changing their Hotmail.com account over to an Outlook.com email, that was also associated with a Zune pass?  Did it all transfer over alright?
  • This has been covered extensively before... Search the site for old articles (a few months ago) or search the forums for the same thing. Lots of step-by-step info
  • Yep, I did that about a month ago and it all went smooth as silk for me.
  • Didnt you feature an app for reinstalling your old apps?.. Can't remember the name of the top of my head though :/
  • I believe it was "reinstaller"
  • Reinstaller app is not coming back. Got a reply from the developer. Head over to my post at Marketplace apps here on WPcentral to see full details and offer any help you can to the developer. The new WP site is giving him lots of problems and he needs ideas to overcome it.
  • What do you mean? It was fixed & working again a few weeks ago. Is that no longer the case?
  • Although I just tested it and it crashed out :(
  • Oh man! That was the best app ever. I will give it a shot today when I pick up my 920.
  • I just tried it on my 7.5 and it crashed :(
  • The app crashes at the app count stage when it came back, wrote to the developer and got a sad reply. He actually needs help with the new site so I posted a thread here at Marketplace apps for suggestions. Check it out for details
  • Link here: http://forums.wpcentral.com/marketplace-apps/201106.htm
  • Yes its REINSTALLER!!!
  • I can't believe MSFT doesn't have an app like Reinstaller (which worked awesome by the way previously, but doesn't work now). People moving to WP8 expect a mature ecosystem. MSFT has not provided one with all this crap.
  • I can't believe they made the podcast situation even worse - it was a right pain in WP7. The iTunes trick doesn't seem to work with the Win8 client either.
  • Excellent! But, where can we get the "desktop version of the syncing tool"?
  • You can get it here:
  • Thanks!
  • Not completely related, but I hope Microsoft implement a way to remove apps from the purchase history. Wading through all the bad apps to get my phone back up doesn't sound too fun. Yeah, the app is called Reinstaller: http://windowsphone.com/s?appid=b9d1115b-2c0d-4e5d-afc6-fa6dcd84dda4
  • As usual, Microsoft giving their users a subpar experience compared to apple users. Gits.
  • Couldn't agree more. Their overall performance is totally disappointing, at best a C. They come up with a nice enough new OS and then doesn't put all the pieces in place to make it either pleasurable to migrate to it or seamless to use it.
    Sucks that I'll be forced to choose between putting up with the poor audio on my Focus S just just so I can keep my SMS messages, and moving to a new phone where folks can consistently hear me but I lose all my SMS history. Sucks.
  • I don't have a WP8 handset just yet but can you set playlists on your computer, sans itunes, and transfer them over?
  • Yes you can.
  • Thank you. :D
  • Can you directly sync the playlists or are you referring to the cloud sync? If you're talking about cloud sync, won't that only sync music that you bought or is available in the store?
  • If you use Windows 8/RT your playlist will stay in sync between the phone and Windows 8/RT assuming you use the same Windows id
  • Any way to transfer SMS from wp7 to wp8?
  • I know of no way to backup SMS in WP7.
  • Wait, wait... Is there a way to transfer the SMD from a WP7 backup to a new WP8?
    I've got a million of them, and I don't want to loose then when I switch to a new WP8.
    Isn't loosing all the app data enough?
  • SMD or SMS? Nope...
  • LOL, that was a typo, my LG Optimus 7 lags a bit when writing into an app :) Yes, I meant SMS. Damn... -.-"
  • You forgot step 1: Cancel your preexisting contract.
  • A lot of people are upgrading on an existing contract, or not on contract. Either way, it has no relation to a mobile upgrade... In much the same way that upgrading your router has no relation to your ISP contract.
  • I have a Samsung Focus and planning to move on to either Lumia 822 or Ativ S. Can I use the memory card formatted on WP7 in WP8? I have to have my 32GB memory card go to waste.
  • I don't know this first hand but I would take the SD card (after backing up anything on it before removing it) and reformat it under windows and you should be able to insert it back into your new handset. I am not sure how they partitioned or formated it under WP7, but I am sure the above procedure should work. Of course that would mean your Focus would have to be hard reset lossing all the information on it right now (lossing SMS is a real sore spot for me). 
  • Hi, What if you are still using Vista?  Does Zune still work on Windows Phone 8?  What are my options?  
    Going to be picking up a Lumia 920 for my wife and the Lumia 820 for me in 2 hours!
  • You might wanna consider spending the 40$ for a win8 upgrade.... Short money and it will probably run better than Vista.
  • I am planning to upgrade eventually.
    Just was wondering if I will be able to sync my music to Windows Phone 8 if I have Vista.
  • Yeah, and plan on wiping your disks clean if you do that.  I paid something like $200+ for the Win7 upgrade that was supposed to work with Vista.  Didn't work for me.  Never got it resolved.  And last I heard, to go to Win8, you have to backup everything you have first and then basically wipe out the disk.
    One problem with that is I have software that is ONLY for this machine and Vista (Adobe Premiere Pro).  And that software doesn't come with any installation disks.  It can only be "recovered" and that puts Vista back on the disk.  And there is hardware too that will only work with Adobe Premiere Pro.  So if I were to upgrade with OS relacement, I would lose the hardware.
    I was hoping I could just upgrade over the existing Vista so I wouldn't have to spend a week or two with backups, etc. etc. (lots of software because I'm a long time developer + loads of pictures.  at least 9,000 pictures).
  • I did the Windows 8 upgrade and it installed flawlessly. No loss of data or need to back up anything. I upgraded from Windows 7.
  • Sadly, I am also a vista user. Only reason I didn't upgrade to 7 was price at the time cause I have ultimate. I have a copy of win8 beside me and I am backing up 3 years worth of stuff. Ugh, hate this. Miss the old days when 1gb seemed huge and windows upgraded or did full install from same disk.
  • Is the wp8 like wp7, connecting to a computer. is it specific to only 1 computer with wins 8 like Zune only allowing 3 computers 3 devices?
  • Ok, I got the WPcentral app when y'all had it up for free at one point. When I upgrade, will I have to buy the app this time or can I re-install it? Either way I will get it but I'm just wondering lol
  • A purchase, even at $0, is still a purchase
  • Fair enough lol hopefully getting the 920 today after work!
  • Very nice article.. !! Specialy handy since my 8x should arive today to replace my omnia 7.. Was wondering about the apps I bought on the wp7 device, nice MS thought of that aswell.. :-D
  • Be aware I was on the phone with Microsoft today if you install wins 8, install ms updates 1 @ a time people have been having issues. Watch for the update KB2756872 peoples haven't been running right ever since. My desktop and my wife's laptop are running fine.
  • What's the issue?
  • Anyone know if u switch your hotmail email to outlook if u lose your apps and games since it's a different email? I know there was an article back a few months ago on this but I can't find it. Thanks
  • Great tips, I did not back up my stuff, I will get right on that, thanks a bunch.
  • Hi Carlos, yes you will lose all your apps. Outlook.com is another new domain. It's not a direct port from hotmail.com. They are retiring hotmail, but that doesn't mean they are porting over to outlook.com. You still have to create your account there. I am using outlook.com and all my purchased under my hotmail are gone. Logically though so I can't complain.
  • I went from an old Messenger account (actually registered to a btinternet.com address!) to a live.co.uk address, to an outlook.com address (and back to a live.co.uk address because i didn't want to reset my WP7!!) and kept all my apps.
  • That's kinda silly why would u lose all ur paid apps because Microsoft is no longer supporting hotmail why would anyone with a wp7 switch to outlook email ?
  • Look up the Xbox account transfer method. It takes 4 days total for everything to be moved over.
  • What a out Windows Media Player? If you can sync with that, forget that POS iTunes.
    Also, you should mention that when moving to WP8 you'll no longer have FM radio. Only reason I'm waiting right now. Huge piss off for me that they removed such a basic feature...
  • Luckily, I don't USE the FM.  But that is the first I have heard that.  I HATE when something is removed.  Like Silverlight. :-(
  • From what I read, wp8 is capable of FM but at least the 920 does not utilize this feature. Haven't looked to see if the 8x or ativ S do cause I don't use this feature myself. I just read the other day about the lumia 920. It was marked as one of the few minor disappointments with the 920.
  • Any of them may be capable of it, but WP8 is the one that's restricting the FM radio. And this is on every single WP8 phone, because it's not the hardware manufacturers choice at this point, entirely Microsoft who seem to have decided they didn't need FM radio...
  • Oh dear, no podcast support right now?  that's almost a dealbreaker in and of itself, since Zune and WP7  manage podcasts so invisibly and conveniently.  
  • They could have just rebranded the zune desktop app and tweaked it a little wherever required. Would have saved double development time and trouble...
  • There is a great article out there that shows you how to control and sync the music, video and podcasts (including playlists) using Windows Media Player and getting all the functionality that Zune has except for WiFi syncing and file conversion. Here is the link: http://pocketnow.com/2012/11/05/how-to-sync-windows-phone-8-automatically
  • Great article!
    Do you guys know if I will be able to re-installed pulled games (like Star Wars Hoth) that I have on my WP7 to my WP8?
  • Have they figured a way to backup/move my texts from WP7 to WP8?
  • No.
  • Yea if you look anywhere, WP8 does not have FM radio at all. They nuked it for no reason and I don't understand why they thought it'd be a good idea.
    I likely won't be moving away from my Lumia 900 until they bring back FM radio. And I know there are a decent amount of others who agree.
  • is there a savvy tipster who knows about transferring playlists from iTunes. if you've previously been using iTunes for music management and are moving to Windows8 and Windows Phone8 how do you bring all of your music playlists that I'm dependent on. looking for a quickie Apple divorce to get on with the Windows Phone healing...
  • Actually Windows Media Player will do fine!
  • Dang, look at how small the Lumia 800 is compared to the 920.
  • I have to say I am disappointed by Xbox music and video. The app is no where near as complete or smooth as Zune. That has been the biggest letdown by my Surface and it looks like it will be the same on WP8 / 7.8. Wish they just rebranded Zune...
  • Seriously, I can't believe Microsoft hasn't improved the process of reinstalling apps when upgrading a phone.  There is zero reason to have to do so manually, one by one.  It's a miserable experience, and they fixed that in Windows RT and Windows 8 by including a section that shows your applications in the Store, and by allowing for batch install.  Windows Phone 8 needs this as well.
  • I won't be a bet tester AGAIN!! im sticking with my L900
  • You are a beta tester for each and every phone you buy.  No matter the manufacturer, os designer, ect.... this is reality.  Deal with it and move on!
  • Do you lose your purchase history if you update you Microsoft account to, @outlook.com before switching over to WP8