How to Upgrade to Windows 10

Download and Install Windows 10 for Free

Windows 10
Melanie Pinola

Microsoft has made Windows 10 free for users of previous Windows versions (including Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista). The new operating system brings back the beloved Start menu and introduces new features like virtual desktops. Here's how to get Windows 10 running on your current computer today. ~ July 31, 2015

Find Out If Your Computer Can Run Windows 10

The first step is to find out if Windows 10 will run on your computer without problems.

One easy way to check your system is to click on the Get Windows 10 icon in your taskbar. In the resulting window, click on the menu in the top left (three lines or aka the hamburger icon), then "Check your PC." The results will tell you if your computer is compatible with Windows 10

In general, though, your computer will need to meet these five minimum hardware requirements:

  • 1GHz processor
  • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit OS or 2GB for 64-bit OS
  • 16GB free hard disk space for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit
  • DirectX 9 graphics card or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • 800-by-600 resolution

Again, these are the minimum requirements.

See Microsoft's Windows 10 specifications page for more detailed requirements.

Back Up Your Computer

Before any upgrade, it's a good idea to back up your entire system (perhaps to more than one drive). You can create a system image backup using Windows 7's or Windows 8's built-in tools.

Do an Upgrade in Place

With an upgrade in place, you move from your current version of Windows to Windows 10 without having to reinstall your programs or losing your data.

The benefit of this is you keep all your settings and data without having to start all over again, but it's usually "cleaner" to do a fresh install (in which you should see the next section on doing a clean install). Still, for the quickest, least complicated way to install Windows 10, do the upgrade right from your current Windows system--after you back up, of course.

If you reserved your copy of Windows 10, you should be able to right-click on the Get Windows 10 icon in the taskbar to check your upgrade status (Microsoft is rolling out the upgrade slowly). If the upgrade is available, you can follow the prompts to install Window 10, which could take anywhere between 20 minutes and a couple of hours, depending on your system.

If the Get Windows 10 page says you still have to wait for the upgrade and you just can't wait, you can get it right now by downloading Microsoft's Media Creation Tool and running the setup.exe file. (Save it to a USB flash drive for future use.)

Do a Clean Install of Windows 10

If you'd like to start afresh, with no lingering drivers or other files you don't need from the previous operating system or applications, a clean install is for you. This will erase all your files and install Windows from scratch, so you'll need to reinstall your programs and move your data over again.

After backing up your computer, follow the steps above to upgrade to Windows 10. Then boot your computer from the USB drive with Microsoft's Media Creation Tool (hit F12 or a similar key when your computer boots up) and choose the custom option to install Windows only.

Again, this will wipe your drive and install just Windows 10, so make sure your computer is backed up and have all files and the license keys you need for your programs.

Here's Microsoft's instructions for the Windows 10 upgrade process.