Installing a new operating system can sometimes be a daunting task. For the average user, installing or reinstalling Windows has always been a relatively hassle-free process. However, thanks to its “upgrade for free” nature, Microsoft has changed the rules around the process of installing everyone’s favorite OS.
Hopefully, chapter 3 has cleared all your doubts and misconceptions about upgrading, while chapter 4 sure should have you well prepared for the bevy of new features introduced by Windows 10.
NOTE: Before we go ahead, it is important you identify what type of Windows license you own: Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) or Retail? If you purchased your system/laptop with Windows preinstalled, then you have what is called an OEM license. However, if you purchased a copy of Windows from Microsoft’s online store or a retailer, you have a retail license (costs a bit more than an OEM license).
The major point of difference between these two license types is that an OEM license copy of Windows is valid only on the first system (i.e. motherboard) that it is installed. Retail licenses, on the other hand, allow you to reinstall Windows on a new computer without having to worry about activation.
As stated in Chapter 3, the free upgrade to Windows 10 is valid for both OEM and retail licenses. However, if you own an OEM copy of Windows 7/8/8.1, do not try to install Windows 10 on a NEW PC, especially if you are changing the motherboard. After the upgrade, Windows 10 will still have an OEM license which will not be valid for a new system.
So how exactly should I backup my system?
Step 1: Backup your files on another drive The first files that you prioritize for a backup are personal files like photos and work-related documents stored on your primary system drive, i.e. the drive on which your operating system is installed (generally C: drive). Since a clean reinstall of Windows wipes all files on your primary system drive, you should copy these files over to another drive on your PC (D:, E:, etc.).
Note that if something goes wrong during your installation process and you cannot boot into you OS, you will not be able to access the files on your backup drive until you successfully reinstall/restore your OS or else physically connect the hard drive to another PC. The best way to avoid this hassle is to use an external hard drive for the backup.
This way, should you botch the installation, you can at least be assured of having easy access to your backup files. Another excellent option for this type of backup is to use a cloud storage service like Dropbox, Google Photos/Google Drive, or Microsoft OneDrive. This is especially more convenient if you have access to good internet speeds.
Step 2: Check if you have the installation disk for your original OS Should anything go wrong during the installation process, you also have the option of reinstalling your original OS. If you purchased a retail copy of Windows, your best option is to use the DVD for the reinstall, just make sure you also have the product key.
This can be found on a slip inside the box packaging or on the DVD itself. You can also use a tool like Belarc Advisor or Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder to extract your Windows product key on the system it is installed in.
Further, if you have misplaced your installation disk (or do not have one), you can download a Windows ISO from Microsoft’s website (yes, even Windows XP) and burn this on a DVD or USB. (Sidenote: For direct download links for Windows 7 ISOs ). The steps to reinstall your OS using the bootable DVD/USB are similar to those outlined later in the chapter for doing a clean install of Windows.
Step 3: Create a USB recovery (Optional but recommended) There’s always the possibility that you are not extremely happy with the whole overhauled experience of Window 10 and now want to go back to your old operating system.
While you can always reinstall your original OS using the installation disk or bootable DVD/USB outlined in Step 2, Windows 7 and 8.1 users have a more convenient option: creating a recovery disk for your OS on an external drive – either a USB hard drive, DVD or network drive.
To do this, first ensure your destination drive (for the backup) is larger than the space used in the primary drive. The more programs/data you have in your primary drive, the more the time required for the backup and restore.
Hence, if you insist on creating a backup image, it is recommended that you uninstall unnecessary applications and move all media and other file types to another drive before making the backup.
You will also need either a Windows installation disk (either DVD or bootable USB) or you can create a system repair disk for which you will need a DVDR and a blank DVD.
Steps for creating the system image backup:
1. Go to control panel -> Backup and Restore -> Click on “Create a system image” on the left
2. Now select the drive to which you wish to the backup image – ensure there’s enough space and click next
3. Click “Start Backup” to confirm and wait for the process to complete
4. If you do not have the Windows ISO, you have to create a bootable disk using a blank DVD.
5. To create the drive, go to control panel -> Backup and Restore -> Click on “Create a system repair disk” on the left.
6. Select the DVD drive and wait for the tool to burn the bootable repair disk.
To restore from this drive:
1. Ensure the recovery image drive and Windows installation DVD/ bootable USB (or system repair disk) are plugged in and reboot your PC.
2. While it is rebooting, keep hitting the F8 key till you come across the boot menu (this key can vary across motherboard types; check the instruction manual or Google your MoBo model number to confirm).
3. From the boot menu, select the Windows installation DVD/bootable USB (or system repair disk). If you selected the system repair disk, the system will boot into System Recovery. Select System Image Recovery and follow the steps till your system is restored.
If you used the Windows DVD/USB, it will take you to the Windows setup screen. From here: [Steps outlined are for Windows 8.1. Windows 7 and below will have slightly different screens]
1. Select “Repair your Computer”
2. Click on Troubleshoot
3. Click Advanced Options
4. click on System Image Recovery icon
5. Choose the target operating system (Windows 8.1)
6. After you reach the re-image screen, select a system image (you can select the auto-detected latest image.
7. Unless you changed the partition, there is no need to check the “Format and repartition disks”. Click next.
8. Confirm the re-imaging process by clicking on finish and click “Yes” to the warning that pops up.
9. After the re-imaging is done, you can restart your system and it should be in the exact state it was when you created the image.
So I am done backing up all my data. How do I go about upgrading to/installing Windows 10?
Upgrading from Windows 7/8/8.1
First, it depends on your operating system. The easiest path is if you are running a non-Enterprise edition of Windows 7/8/8.1. In this case, chances are that you have already upgraded to Windows 10 via the reservation system.
If you haven’t already, Microsoft is providing an excellent upgrade tool on their website. Go to the above link and – depending on your processor type – download either the 32- or 64-bit version of the tool (if you are unsure, check “Control Panel” > “System and Security” > “System” and check System type). Run the tool after it has completed downloading. The tool will now present you with two options.
Option 1 – “Upgrade this PC now” – provides an extremely hassle-free method to upgrade and requires very little intervention from the user. After clicking on this option, Setup will give you three options regarding what data you want kept on your system after the upgrade:
a) Keep your personal files and apps
b) Keep your personal files only
c) Nothing After selecting your preferred method, all you have to do is click “Next” is to wait for Windows to download the required files.
The download is approximately 4 GB, so ensure you have enough space and bandwidth for the download. After the download is complete, simply follow all the onscreen prompts and your computer should restart, following which Windows will begin installation. Make sure you click “Next” when required, and setup Windows as per your requirements once it boots into the now upgraded OS.
So which of these options is best for me?
Option (a) is ideal if you do not want to be bothered with making any sort of backup. You can also roll back to your original operating system if you’re not happy with the Windows 10 experience. Unfortunately, the convenience of this method does entail a few drawbacks.
There’s always the possibility of some compatibility issue rearing its ugly head. Maybe the drivers need to be reinstalled or maybe some corrupt registry entries have broken other programs.
If you want to backup your personal files including photos and videos and do not mind having to reconfigure Windows while also reinstalling programs, then option (b) is the way to go. For those who want to install Windows with a clean slate and with factory settings, Option (c) will help you with just that.
It will wipe your system partition clean so you will lose all files and programs stored on it. Just ensure you have all your important files backed up.
Nice. I now have Windows installed. What was the point of that second option?
Performing a clean install of Windows 10 Well, “Create installation media for another PC” in essence allows you to make a bootable disk (DVD or USB stick) which you can use to perform a clean installation of Windows.
Most experienced Windows users will tell you that a clean install of Windows (or any operating system) is the best way to purge your system of any and all software-related issues—from broken applications to malware injections.
Upgrading the operating system provides a perfect opportunity for a clean install, and it is obvious many users will want to take advantage of installing their new OS on a blank system. **IMPORTANT: Note that Microsoft has stated in its support forums that you must use the “Upgrade this PC now” option if you are upgrading from Windows 7/8/8.1.
This is the only way to get your copy of Windows 10 activated. The only way you can use a product key to activate Windows 10 is if you obtained one purchasing a brand new retail copy. You cannot use your Windows 7/8/8.1 product key during the installation. Microsoft is handling activation slightly differently for PCs upgraded to Windows 10. Your upgraded copy will be associated with a hardware hash that is unique to your system.
So once your system is upgraded, you can reinstall Windows 10 on it without having to worry about the product key as Microsoft has stored you PC’s hardware hash in its database as the owner of a legitimate copy of Windows 10. This, however, raises a serious problem: **If you are upgrading Windows 7/8/8.1 to Windows 10, you CANNOT reinstall Windows 10 on a new system (i.e., new motherboard) without first installing your original, purchased copy of Windows 7/8/8.1. While this is a tedious process, you have to do it only the first time, after which that PC is registered with Windows 10 for life.
The catch is that you can only do this till July 29, 2016. So if you want to install Windows 10 on a new PC after that date, you are out of luck since you cannot upgrade your copy of Windows 7/8/8.1 anymore.
To perform a clean install of Windows 10 from an existing OS, ensure you have a blank DVD or USB stick on which the tool can burn the bootable Windows 10 ISO.
Run the media creation tool (as mentioned in the previous section) and select “Create installation media for another PC”. Select the correct language, edition, and architecture of the version of Windows you intend to download. Put in your preferred language and correct architecture and select the SAME edition as the one you are upgrading from (Home or Pro).
In the next screen, select the type of media. Note that if you select ISO, you will need to burn the downloaded ISO on a DVD using a third-party app like PowerISO or Daemon tools. If you select USB stick, just select the correct drive from the next screen and click finish after it’s done downloading.
The USB stick is ready for booting. Now, keep the installation media connected to your PC and perform a system reboot. The following are standard steps that you have to follows to perform a clean install of Windows 10 (just as you would any other operating system):
1. Hit F8 as the PC is rebooting to access the boot menu.
2. Select the installation media (DVD or USB stick).
3. You should come across the “enter product key” screen. If you have purchased a retail copy of Windows 10 and this is your first install, enter your product key here. However, if you have upgraded from Windows 8.1, and you do not have a Windows 10 product key, just click “Skip”.
4. Keep hitting “Next” until you reach the screen that asks “Which type of installation do you want?”
5. Select “Custom”
6. At the drive partition screen, partition your drive however you want and go ahead with the install.
7. Note: [If this is your first time installing an OS and you are not familiar with this screen, don’t fret. All you have to do is format the system partition (the drive on which Windows 10 was installed) and then select the same partition for the install.]
8. After the installation is complete, your system will reboot into your now clean Windows 10 install.
9. Now follow all the on-screen prompts to initialize your OS and you are good to go.
My mom’s PC has Windows Vista. How can I get her the Windows 10 upgrade?
Firstly, you will have to purchase a license. Microsoft is only offering the free upgrade to users of Windows 7 and above.
So users with Windows Vista and lower can either purchase a boxed copy of Windows 10 and the follow normal installation procedure, or purchase a license from the Microsoft store and use the Windows 10 installation tool with the same procedure as outlined above.
A third, more drawn-out method would be to buy a DVD of Windows 7/8, and use that license for the free upgrade to Windows 10. This is of course not recommended as you will no longer be able to upgrade Windows after the 29th July, 2016, effectively leaving you stuck with your now worthless copy of Windows 7**.
Keep in mind that if you do decide to upgrade a Windows Vista (or lower) PC to Windows 10, you will have to perform a clean install. Ensure you backup any and all important data before installing.
Doing a clean install looks extremely tedious. Is there an easier alternative?
Yes. Windows 8.1 had introduced two excellent features called Refresh and Reset, which are also available in Windows 10. “Refresh” lets you reinstalls Windows while keeping your personal files and settings intact.
It also retains any preinstalled apps installed by the manufacturer that came with your PC and apps installed from the Windows Store. “Reset” reinstalls Windows but also wipes all files, settings, and apps, except for any that may have come preinstalled with your system. While neither is a perfect substitute for a clean install, it is a good idea to try either or both of these functions as a last ditch fix.
I like Windows 10, but I would breathe easier if I knew there was a quick way to access my older OS should anything go wrong. Any solution for that?
What you are looking for is a dual-boot system with Windows 10 as one bootable OS and your original OS as the other. This way you can boot into the older OS should you face any issues while running Windows 10. The following instructions should guide you in setting up a dual boot OS system.
It goes without saying, backup all your important files before attempting this. Since we will be installing Windows 10 on a partition other than your system partition (the drive on which your original OS is installed), you need not take a backup of the data on it.
First, ensure that you have ample hard disk space to store both operating systems. Each operating system need to be installed on a different disk partition. Ensure the secondary partition is over 20GB in size (space required for Windows 10). If you have two separate physical hard drives in your computer, you can install Windows 10 on the second drive.
Keep in mind that the drive that you choose to install Windows on will have to be formatted. Alternatively, you can partition your existing system drive to create space for another partition by using Disk Management to reduce the size of an active partition. Do this by first locating your system partition, i.e., the folder your C: partition). Right-click and select “Shrink Volume.”
If you have multiple partitions on your hard drive, try resizing a different partition to free up space the required space. Now follow the exact same steps as outlined in the “reinstall Windows 10” section and create a Windows 10 bootable DVD or flash drive. Now boot into this USB drive and install Windows as you would any normal OS.
Just be sure to install Windows 10 on a partition chosen on the basis of the above steps. After the installation is done, you’ll now be able to choose between Windows 10 and your original operating system when you boot your PC. To switch between them, restart your computer and select your desired OS from the boot menu