Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends today. While millions of people have upgraded to Windows 10, many more millions do not intend to do that. If you are interested in upgrading and are worried about how to upgrade and the impact it will have on your data, this article is for you.
If you’re lucky, the upgrade process should be simple and hassle free. If not, you’re in some slight trouble.
Why should I upgrade to Windows 10?
It’s free: The biggest reason for upgrading to Windows 10 is that, for better or worse, it’s inevitable. Regardless, you can upgrade to Windows 10 and then rollback to 7 if you don’t like it.
Hardware support: Earlier versions of Windows will NOT be supported on older hardware. Even now, the latest Skylake platform only barely supports Windows 7 with a BIOS tweak. Later on, this will not be the case. If you’re upgrading your system, you will need Window 10.
Security: Windows 7 is more than 7 years old and Microsoft will cease support for the OS by 2020. Windows 7 is a great OS but 7 years is a very long time in the tech world.
Gaming: For gamers, upgrading to Windows 10 should be a no-brainer. DirectX 12 is only available on Windows 10. There may not be many DirectX 12 games available now, but they will be soon and at that point, you’ll regret not having upgraded. Other features like game DVR and Xbox One streaming are only relevant if you use the Xbox One and stream. If you do, Windows 10 is very relevant.
Universal Apps: Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the future. If nothing else, it’s inherently more secure. As with DirectX 12, UWP will be important.
Windows 8/8.1 users: Why are you still on Windows 8/8.1? If you’ve already dumped Windows 7, Windows 10 is leagues better
Again, you can upgrade to Windows 10 and rollback to a previous version if you don’t like it. Even if you rollback, you’ll still have the Windows 10 license registered to your account and PC.
If you’ve come this far, it means that you’re willing to upgrade to Windows 10. Before you do however, there’s some house cleaning that we suggest you do.
- Backup everything essential. This includes your Documents folder, video game save files, sticky notes source file, etc.
- Uninstall unnecessary programs
- Delete unused files, say, in your ‘Downloads’ or ‘Temp’ folder.
- Download all essential drivers, particularly the LAN driver and keep them handy.
Certain programs limit the number of active licenses and might need to be deactivated when migrating to a new PC. This includes games. Another factor you need to keep in mind is the installation location of your programs. If some programs are not installed on the C drive, they may not function properly after an update/upgrade.
Clone your drive
If you plan to restore Windows 7 after installing Windows 10 or you simply want to have the option, create a system image and store it somewhere safe. To the layman, a system image is essentially a clone of your hard drive/partition. It works in very much the same way as the ISO file of a CD.
The advantage of cloning a disk image is that you can restore your PC to the exact state it was at the time of the cloning. With minimal effort at that. All your programs, games, startup services, etc. will be exactly where you left them.
Some programs like Photoshop have to be reactivated once cloned. Most other programs should be fine though.
How do I upgrade to Windows 10?
This is the easy part. Just click on that nagging Windows 10 upgrade button in your taskbar and initiate the upgrade process. Yes, the one that incessantly reminds you to upgrade to Windows 10.
Alternatively, just head to the Windows 10 download page and initiate the upgrade process.
Once the process begins, you’ll have the option to directly upgrade or to create installation media. We’d recommend the latter option.
Upgrading directly will download the installation file to your PC and begin the upgrade process. If something goes wrong, you’ll most probably have to download the installation file all over again. Creating installation media means that you’ll have a bootable pen drive/DVD that you can use to install Windows 10 as many times as you like.
Whether you choose to directly upgrade or upgrade via a pen drive or DVD drive, the process shouldn’t take very long. The process is very straightforward and you effectively click ‘Yes’ to everything till your PC is fully booted and ready.
Your upgrade options
When upgrading two Windows 10, you have two options:
- Upgrade from your previous OS
- Clean install
Upgrading from a previous OS will keep all your personal data intact and most of the programs and drivers should be carried over without any hassles. In theory that is. Past experience has taught us that an upgrade from a previous OS almost always ends in disaster. Drivers don’t work, programs freeze, random issues pop up from time to time and more.
If by some miracle the update worked, good for you!
If you did go for a direct upgrade and your PC got ruined, there’s still hope, especially if you upgraded without creating a bootable pen drive or DVD. Here again, you have two options:
Try option 1 first, if that doesn’t work, try the other one. This is also where those previously downloaded drivers will come in handy.
Ideally, you should have gone for a clean install anyway.
Restoring Windows 7
If, for some reason, you’re not happy with Windows 10, you can revert to Windows 7 within 30 days of installing Windows 10.
If you upgraded to Windows 10 directly, you just need to head over to Settings>Update & Security>Recovery.
If you performed a clean install, you can either reinstall Windows 7 with your original license or restore the clone that you were smart enough to create in the first place.
Whether you restore or not, the free Windows 10 license is yours!
If you’re only upgrading for the license, I’d strongly recommend the clone>clean install>restore clone route.
I upgraded to Windows 10, but where’s my license key?
Unlike Windows 7 or Windows 8, Windows 10 will not give you a license key unless you purchased a retail copy of the program. What you get instead is a “digital entitlement.”
This “digital entitlement” ties the Windows 10 license to your PC’s hardware, which is why you need to install Windows 10 on your PC to activate the license. A change in the hardware will trigger a reactivation of Windows. Changing a graphics card or hard disk won’t trigger the reactivation, but change, say, your motherboard, and Windows will think you have a new PC and attempt to reactivate. Windows will do this automatically, but if it fails, contacting customer support to resolve the issue is relatively painless. Chat and phone activation options are available and the process shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Note that this entitlement is only valid for one PC and can be transferred to another PC in certain situations. If you have an OEM license however, as you’d get if you purchased a branded desktop or laptop, the license is tied to that device and will not be transferred to any other device.
Disclaimer: A step-by-step guide to upgrading to Windows 10 while accounting for myriad scenarios is beyond the scope of this story. For any queries related to Windows 10, the Microsoft Help Centre is your best bet.