Getting Started And The Upgrade Process
So far, Microsoft has been rolling out the upgrade in waves and stages. If you are not one of the ‘lucky’ ones to be in the first wave, you can take matters into your own hands and begin the upgrade process manually. While the process is mostly simple, it won’t be for everyone.
Backup FirstBefore you even attempt the upgrade process, it goes without saying that you should backup any important files first. While it’s unlikely that something catastrophic will happen that hoses your data, there is still a chance, and you should at least prepare for the worst. Take any files that you keep in your user directory, such as My Documents, pictures, save games, etc, as well as any other important data, and copy it over to an external hard drive or upload them to one of the many cloud-based storage solutions. For the paranoid, a full disk backup might be required, using something like Acronis.
Get Drivers ReadyEven though your system may be operational now, it may not remain so once the upgrade finishes, and drivers are likely to be one of the major issues that you’ll run into. So along with your backups, download any essential drivers for devices like your network card, wireless controller, chipset and graphics / video drivers. Windows 10 comes with USB 3.0 and common networks drivers already, but keep spares handy just in case.
It’s worth noting that motherboard, proprietary peripheral utilities, and tweaking tools like EVGA e-Leet are likely to throw warnings at you (in my case, the ASUS software stack used with my motherboard would throw error messages at me every reboot). So far, the Corsair suite, however, has worked without issue.
The Upgrade Process
Currently, it would be best to avoid the Windows Update upgrade, at least for the time being. Numerous issues with licensing have been reported, requiring manual activation either through the dreaded phone call, or by running slmgr.vbs /ato at the command prompt to force license registration.
Due to the issues with the automated method, we will be using the manual method, i.e. using the Media Creation Tool and downloading the ISO image. The main advantage with this is that should the upgrade not work out very well, we can reboot and perform a fresh install instead. The Media Creation Tool also allows you to perform the upgrade on the system directly, without downloading the ISO, should you wish to do so. You can read our guide to the Media Creation Tool here.
There are different versions of Windows 10, including Home, Pro, x86, x64, and the N editions (N being the EU compliant versions). Which version you need depends on your current OS. Windows 7 Starter, Basic and Home, and Windows 8/8.1 Home will need the Windows 10 Home edition. Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate, and Windows 8/8.1 Pro will need the Windows 10 Pro edition. If you are uncertain if you are using an x86 or x64 system (32 or 64-bit), you can go with the dual edition download, but chances are it’s safe to go with x64 these days, as most systems are now 64-bit.
Once you have downloaded the ISO image you can either burn it to a DVD or, if you prefer the modern method, create a bootable USB drive with something like
With the boot media created, you can either reboot and launch the boot-mode installer, or you can launch it straight from within Windows and begin the upgrade process.
CautionIt is strongly advised that you perform an Upgrade first. Do not start with a fresh install.
In order to perform a new install in the future, you will need to upgrade your existing OS first. Part of the upgrade process converts your existing OS license key over to the new Windows 10 key. Performing a fresh install will not work with existing Windows 7 and 8 keys. Further details on this can be found later in this article, but what you'll essentially have to do is upgrade your OS, extract your new Windows 10 key, and then you can do fresh installs from that point forward without issue.
The Media Creation ToolAll the steps offered with Microsoft's Media Creation and upgrade tool are pretty much self explanatory. Choose whether you are to perform a fresh install or upgrade. The upgrade allows you to either keep all settings and files (which is what we will be doing), or only keep files (effectively removing all applications).
For those coming from Windows 8, most of this won't be new, and you’ll be able to sign in with your Microsoft Account as usual. If you have come from Windows 7 and have not been introduced to all these extra privacy options, then it all may be a bit of shock. By default, a local account will be created. If you wish to take advantage of the new features, such as Cortana, then you will need to create and setup a Microsoft Account.
With basic account settings updated and/or Microsoft Account activated, you’ll be presented with a mostly familiar desktop, with all your settings carried over, but with the brand new Windows 10 styling and features.