How to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10

The Windows 10 release is fast approaching, and it's time to start thinking about the upgrade. Have a Windows 7 machine and thinking about upgrading to Windows 10? Even though this could be a relatively easy task for many users, it may not be as easy for everyone else. There are few things you want to keep in mind. As such today, we're going to go through the basics to try to minimize any friction that may appear upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7.

Now that Microsoft has ended the support for Windows XP, Windows 7 has jumped in the list as the most popular operating system in use today. However, the software maker hopes that Windows 10 will make a huge difference, not only because the next version packs a bunch of new features, such as a new Start menu, Cortana, universal apps, the new Microsoft Edge web browser, and much more, but because it'll be a free upgrade. The company is expecting a faster adoption of Windows 10.

So, yes, as you probably already know, Windows 10 will be free for the first year after it's released on July 29. It will be free for those users running a genuine copy of Windows 7 and Windows 8. However, before you jump into the upgrade, there are some things you need to know.

For example, you'll be getting the operating system free of charge, but only if you're running Windows 7 with Service Pack 1.

You can check if you have Service Pack 1 by opening the Run command with the Windows + R keyboard shortcut, typing winver, and below the operating system name, it should read "Version 6.1 (Build 7601: Service Pack 1)".

If you don't have it, you will have to install the update via Windows Update, or by visiting this Microsoft support page (opens in new tab). You can manually download the update. Make sure to download "windows6.1-KB976932-X64.exe" if you're running a 64-bit version or "windows6.1-KB976932-X86.exe" if you're running a 32-bit version of Windows 7.

Once you have the latest updates installed and made sure Windows Update is enabled, the "Get Windows 10" app should soon appear in the notification area with a Windows icon. At this point, if you don't see the app, your computer is probably not compatible with Windows 10. It's also possible that Windows Update isn't configured correctly.

In case you don't want to deal with Windows Update, you can download the update KB3035583 (opens in new tab), which will install the "Get Windows 10" app in your system. (You also want to make sure you have installed KB2952664 (opens in new tab))

After you install the app, click the Windows icon in the lower-right corner of the screen, and then click the Reserve your free upgrade button. Enter an email address to get a confirmation when the operating system is ready to install, click the Send confirmation, and you're good to go.

On July 29, Microsoft will begin rolling out its new operating system starting with machines that are part of the Windows Insider Program. The company will continue rolling out Windows 10 gradually to everyone else who reserved the copy using the "Get Windows 10" app and those who bought a new PC. Later on, everyone else will get the upgrade as well.

So, this means that as we have previously reported, Windows 10 won't be available for everyone at once on July 29. Making a reservation before it releases will ensure your PC will get the new operating system as soon as possible.

If you were able to make a reservation, it means that your computer or tablet is compatible with Windows 10, but it doesn't mean you won't encounter any issues at the time of the upgrade. You also have to make sure your apps, all your hardware, peripherals, and drivers are compatible as well.

Luckily, the Get Windows 10 app also includes a PC checkup tool that will list any problems with your computer, and various other information you need to know before the upgrade. To check your PC compatibility, open the Get Windows 10 app, click the hamburger button, and from the menu click Check your PC.

Once Windows 10 is available for your computer, you will get notified. Even though the installation should be straightforward, you should make a backup of all your personal files to an external storage and make a full backup of your system using the built-in System Image Backup tool. (You can use my previous guide to perform this task, but note that even though the guide was written for on Windows 10 and 8.1, the same instructions will work on Windows 7.)

Next, you want to disable or uninstall your antivirus and other security software, and you want to disconnect any peripherals other than your keyboard, mouse, and monitor. You may also want to uninstall any applications that you don't use or apps that have been listed by the "Get Windows 10" as problematic. Sometimes antivirus, peripherals, and certain software could be the cause of an unsuccessful installation.

You also want to make sure you have at least 10GB or more of free storage space available to perform the upgrade. Windows 10 requires at least 16GB of space to install the 32-bit or 20GB to install the 64-bit version.

Once Windows 10 is available to you (time that will vary from PC to PC), a notification on your desktop will appear. Just accept the Important Legal Stuff, and then the Windows setup wizard Your upgrade is ready to install will pop up. You can schedule a time to upgrade, or you can click Start the upgrade now to begin the process.

Now, sit, relax, and wait for the setup will take care of the rest. The upgrade process to go from Windows 7 to Windows 10 could take some time, so make sure to plan ahead and free up at least an hour of time for the upgrade process. (You may also want to do this on a weekend.)

After the installation process completes, you'll be presented with the out-of-the-box experience. Choose the settings you feel more comfortable using, and let the setup finish the process.

That's all! Now, you should be all upgraded to Windows 10. Enjoy!

Here are some additional information

  • Yes, your files and programs will be kept after the upgrade
  • You won't be prompted to enter a product key during the upgrade of Windows 7 or Windows 8 to Windows 10
  • Make sure to re-enable or re-install your antivirus software and other software you need
  • Make sure to go to the Settings app, Update & security, and check for new Windows and driver updates
  • Open the Windows Device Manager and make sure all the drivers are working correctly. If you don't see a yellow exclamation mark or anything on red, you should be fine.
  • If you're upgrading Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home, or Windows 7 Home Premium, you'll be upgraded to Windows 10 Home. If you're upgrading Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate, you'll be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 10 Home won't be able to opt out from automatic updates
  • Windows 10 Pro will be able to choose how to receive new Windows Updates
  • You'll need to switch to a Microsoft Account if you want to take advantage of installing Windows Store apps, Cortana, and various other features -- here is how

Wrapping things up

The upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 should be a very simple process. With the new operating system, Microsoft is working to deliver the upgrade with the best experience possible by rolling out the new bits in stages. It starts with savvy users and works its way down to make sure every upgrade is successful.

While this guide focuses on Windows 7 users, the upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10 is almost identical, with the difference that you'll need to be updated to Windows 8.1 Update first before upgrading.

Windows 10 will launch on July 29, but it will take some time to reach everyone.

Are you upgrading to Windows 10 on July 29 or will you be waiting for a later date? Tell us what you'll be doing in the comments below.

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

246 Comments
  • Can i get an iso file for free?
  • Yes, in a near future, Microsoft will make the ISO files available for download (that's what I hear), but in order to do a clean install, you'll need to upgrade through Windows Update first, then you can do whatever you want. Thanks,
  • What I wonder. If I do a factory reset after upgrading my Windows 8.1 pc to Windows 10, wil it terurn to 8.1? Or wil it just clean install Windows 10 back to the factory settings? I hope you could explain this to me?
  • WHy would you want to?
  • You installed to much junk and your PC became slow or if a system file got corrupted.
  • So, I don't completely understand. i have to reinstall 8.1, update to 10, then download iso, and wipe everything clean and re-install again? and what ties my new ISO install to my free upgrade? Separate key? Do I use my 8.1 key? If I have TP 10240 installed, can't I just somehow "legitimize" it using my 8.1 product key?
     
  • What I don't understand is why everyone keeps saying to wipe out everything, if MS is giving us the possibility to upgrade without losing our data?
  • Some of us need a clean computer, it's easier to manage
  • process as I understand it is the device gets registered as a w10 device with the upgrade so the info retained from the valid upgrade is the "key/license" for reinstalls if you need them. which is inline with the MS language of the license being good for the life of the device. Note: a change in hw will probably require a call to ms to clear the old device.    
  • Yep. Especially for those odd applications that just wont work after upgrade but wont uninstall properly either
  • Microsoft has offered the ability to 'upgrade' os's since way back in the 90s.  Until windows 10 this has been a joke, and the conventional wisdom is to NEVER do this.  Prior to 10 I would have agreed.  However, MS has made the ability to upgrade cleanly a cornerstone of it's current development model.  My PCs have all been upgraded, first from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, then to build after build in the Windows 10 insider program OVER 60 TIMES.  Only one build had significant problems. The conventional "do a clean install...always" is well meant advice that was true in the past...but not so much any more.  You can always do that if the upgrade goes badly...and in addition you can roll back the upgrade to your old version of windows also.
  • @tricotec yes, you can do whatever you want. but for now, we don't know the availbility of the ISO. so better wait if you are going to do a different upgrade/install process.   "Can I reinstall Windows 10 on my computer after upgrading? Yes. Once you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer, you will be able to reinstall, including a clean install, on the same device. You won’t need to purchase Windows 10 or go back to your prior version of Windows and upgrade again. You’ll also be able to create your own installation media like a USB drive or DVD, and use that to upgrade your device or reinstall after you’ve upgraded." http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-10-faq?ocid=win10_auxapp_...
  • My Windows 7 OS is not genuine. Will my PC get the Windows 10 Upgrade? 
  • My Windows 7 OS is not genuine. Will my PC get the Windows 10 Upgrade? 
    Yes, eventually it will be offered to you but obviously your copy of Win10 will not be genuine (i.e. activated) either. What this means and how an unactivated copy will behave or nag you is not clear however at this point.
  • in order to do a clean install, you'll need to upgrade through Windows Update first, then you can do whatever you want
    Can you provide some proof for this assertion? Although Microsoft hasn't clarified so far, there are indications that it will be possible to boot using the Win10 ISO and clean install (even on a blank HDD) and activate by using a qualifying Win7 or Win8 key.
  • Unless it has changed, the ISO  is offered if you are accessing the web page thru Linux.
  • You can get one now.  Just google "build 10240" and you will find them. Be careful that you download one from a reputable source.  As reported MS has and will not release these for a while, so you're stuck with leaked copies for the moment.
  • You can also create your own ISO from the build files using a built-in program from Microsoft. This has been available since Windows 8, but from my personal experience, I've NEVER had to completely reinstall from an ISO. (Only exception is a crashed hard disk.) I have it save my personal files, delete all programs, and reinstall Windows. It's just like a clean install, only better. No need to back up files (though you should anyway).
  • Will Microsoft start allowing the update files to download in the background prior to the release date?
  • No, they will inform you that you're upgrade is ready and you get to decide when it starts.
  • Will Microsoft start allowing the update files to download in the background prior to the release date?
    Yes, this is what will happen. Read the FAQ:
    What happens when I reserve? When you reserve, you can confirm your device is compatible with Windows 10. Between reservation and when your upgrade is ready, the files you need for the upgrade will be downloaded to your PC to make the final installation go more quickly. Then, when your upgrade is ready after July 29, 2015, you get a notification that lets you get started with your upgrade.
  • Yes, My computer already has them in a folder on the c drive. They won't allow you to install untill tomorrow.
  • What will happen after the first year? Do we pay again to continue using them?
  • The upgrade, for those who have not done so within a year, will cost money. Those who have already upgraded can continue using and are not required to spend any money. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • No. Everything goes back to Windows 8 economics. You pay if you want to update. "Free Update" means they are charging you $0 for the update for a limited time. Nothing else about the economics of Windows is changing.
  • Yes, you'll have to pay after one year. Otherwise, you can still use it, but you'll have banners/watermarks on the way and Microsoft will bug you into buying W10, forever.
  • Source?
  • I'm sure someone makes "Windows activator" for W10.
  • @area4689. Troll Alert.
  • That's not consistent with what I've read everywhere.  Once you upgrade, it is as if you had paid for it.  No banners, no watermarks, no nag screens.  You will continue to get patches for the life of that machine, just like someone who paid for Windows 10 or bought a computer with Windows 10 preinstalled. What changes after one year is that if you have a computer with Windows 7 or 8.x that has not yet been upgraded to Windows 10, you won't be able to upgrade that particular computer for free.
  • Only if you use a pirated copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8!!!
  • Even after all the times Microsoft has said that this is absolutely, completely not true, the FUD machine is still working over time to scare people away. The Mac users certianly are desperate to get a point or two more marketshare, and the Linux community is pushing really hard to get into the tens of users.
  • I thought people here is well inform for this kind of things..this is website about MS ecosystem afterall. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • For those that qualify for the free upgrade and take advantage of it within the first year, your license remains free like any other upgrade and MS will support it with updates for 10 years.
  • and you have this confirmed by whom and where ?
  • You can read Microsoft licensing agreement sent on mail to people who have reserved copy or goto MS windows 10 site and check. You can check the video of Gabe Ul from microsoft. Its free for life time till windowss 10 supports only if you upgrade within a year. No hidde agendas behind it. There are multiple article on WC too, just check it. Its confirmed and official.
  • Quit spreading false info VAVA is right upgrade in the first year it's free for ever
  • Its free forever after you upgrade. Dont worry about that. FUD is being spread about it but its free. Basically, you get a real upgrade key (even though its not a key) for free. They wouldnt make someone who bought the upgrade pay after a year so you wont have to either. Free, free, free.
  • It continues running after the first year. You only have to pay if you didn't upgrade direct from 7/8.x within that year.
  • This has been answered many times. No, you will not have to pay. It is a promotional offer. It's free the first year and then anyone who wants to upgrade after that will pay the normal price. After you update, they will continue providing updates for the supported life of the device.
  • You don't need to pay to continue using if you've install in the first year.
  • I am still stuck on a issue. I have a legitimate copy of Win7 (came preinstalled with the Dell Laptop I bought). I started using the Win10 TP in January 2015. Till date I have not been offered the option to reserve my copy. I am not sure if I will be offered the upgrade or not. And if not, why is that? I am sure I meet all the criteria.
  • Do you have update KB3035583 and KB2952664 installed?
  • Are you still using Win10 TP since january? otherwise you will be updated to build 10240.
  • If you are on 10240 you already have it. No need to reserve anything. You might want to turn off preview builds if you want to stay at RTM.
  • If you did a clean install and not an upgrade, you will need to run the factory restore discs then install SP1 or you will be stuck in Insider preview mode if/when they stop the preview. 
  • windows insiders don't have to reserve a copy as insiders will get it free on July 29
  • @Aashish: This article may be of interest to you: http://www.zdnet.com/article/with-a-nod-and-a-wink-microsoft-gives-away-... If Ed Bott is correct, Insiders will get genuine Win10 for free even if they do not own  a genuine copy of Win7 or Win8. Obviously this is not guaranteed though.
  • But with the caveat that you will remain on the insider programme indefinitely along with the deeep rooted analytics. When the insider programme ends (whenever that is) and the last build expires - you are no longer covered by the terms of the windows insider programme as that would have ended.
  • Does anyone know if Bluetooth is working properly....only reason I uninstalled win 10 preview was because Bluetooth speakers connection was hit and miss, it works flawlessly on 7
  • I have problems with Bluetooth on windows 8.1, it was ok with windows 7. Hope windows 10 sorts it out.
  • My Bluetooth on Win 8.1 works flawlessly aswell after trying several adapters figured out some chipsets work great and some are just a pain.
  • my laptop bluetooth drivers are really bad they barely work on win7 so im pretty sure its will suck at win10
  • I don't care this issue anymore. I forgot that I had BT since I was on Windows 8 (incompatibility of the drivers).
  • Works absolutely fine on my laptop.  I suppose it depends on your hardware.  If you upgrade again and have problems I'd install the Windows 8 driver for your gear before you give up.
  • No problems with Bluetooth here. :) check your manufacturer's site for 8.1 drivers. You'll need them for Windows 10
  • didn't you mean "downgrade"?
  • No, upgrade. There are little reasons not to upgrade (done people may have legitimate reasons) Windows 10 is a faster, more secure OS that also comes with some nice features.
  • *some people...
  • What do YOU mean by "some people"?
  • Your logic is flawed.
  • Windows 7 is truly archaic today. Especially given the immensity and popularity of cloud services and syncing. Windows 10 gives you amazing cloud syncing, but also, you don't have to! You can still have a local account, should you choose, and just get better service, faster performance speeds, and virtual desktops. Dude...Win10 is definitely worth it. ESPECIALLY if you prefer 7
  • If you upgrade using the free upgrade method then you will have Windows 10 supported on that device for it's lifetime. If you want to upgrade after July 29 2016 then it'll cost money.
  • great article man , i am bookmarking this link to share to many freinds who do not see the windows icon on the task bar
  • Day one. Lol. Bring it.
  • Great how to! Book marked, so I can just link this to the worry warts who keep pestering me lol. Explaining the same thing for the trillionth time... is just...
  • Still no mention of whether the OS is tied to the motherboard for "the lifetime of the device"? Am I correct to assume?
  • I Imagine it would function like a OEI (system builder) license.
  • Nope, it will function as a retail copy that can be transferred to new machines. Machines pre-loaded will have the OS tied to the motherboard.
  • No it is for the life of the machine.
  • Yes, you are correct.
  • Usually a quick call to MS will solve hardware upgrade licensing issues.
  • Lifetime of the device. A product key was not given for my upgrade as an Insider. But just a call to their activation line fixes it if being transferred from one machine to another.
  • Still no mention of whether the OS is tied to the motherboard for "the lifetime of the device"? Am I correct to assume?
    If you upgrade an OEM version of Win7 or Win8 then Win10 will be tied to that particular device. A retail or System Builder version that's upgraded can be transferred to another system just like before. Moreover sufficient changes to the hardware will cause the OS to treat it as a new device and require reactivation. Nothing has changed in this regard.   (Of course this is how it legally works as per the EULA. In practice you may be able to phone Microsoft and get your illegally transferred OEM version or even multiple copies using the same key activated, but that's a different issue altogether.)
  • OEM licenses are tied to the device. However, that has been true for all versions of windows.
  • I wonder if you can downgrade w10 to w7 if god forbid its awful?
  • This will be possible.
  • Yes, you can roll back the windows 10 install for a short time.  Once you update windows 10 to a newer build later that option will disappear.
  • It's great and you have 30 days to go back in time.
  • You can through Settings and "Restore your previous version of Windows". But trust me...I've been beta testing it for six months now. You'll want to upgrade. It runs smoother than 7 any day. The first few tries, have it do a clean install, then restart the computer a few times to allow the "SuperFetch" to learn how to boot quicker. My system is ready to go in no more than 20 seconds.
  • If you have been reading the reviews on tech sites, you would already know that it is not awful. I haven't seen a bad review yet. The only criticism is the automatica updates. Frankly, if you are running a home edition, there is very little reason why you wouldn't want to have automatic updates. If you are a more advanced user, you are likely running the pro edition and the updates can be delayed for a while.
  • So I remember an article that said even those with... Less than legitimate.... Copies of win7 will still get the upgrade for free. Is that still happening?
  • that's what I came here for. I have friends who have bootleg copies.
  • Yes, friends.... I have friends that do that too.... lmao
  • My friend had a dream and when he wake up he asked me what that dream is all about and he is worried because i am the computer expert guy (nerd), so He told me he was using a cracked version of windows 7 ultimate in the dream, aw how awful, and he wonder what would happen if he upgrade to windows 10, and what will happen after the upgrade, do he still need to activate it? Ps I use legit windows in both reality and dreams.
  • They will get the upgrade, but it still won't be legally activated Posted via my Blackberry Q10 or Lumia 820
  • No genuine Windows. But it will still work...ish.
  • Yes, you will get the update. No, you won't have a legitimate copy after the update. Since the activators probably won't work anymore on windows 10, you will probably get annoying messages about buying a license and you might have issues getting updates. I guess we'll find for sure tomorrow.
  • Generally, it surprises me how this confuses so many people. You have one year to acquire the software free of charge. Once you have the software it is yours to use. No one will bill you anything. If you don't get the software within the one year window, it will cost you same as any copy of windows 7 and 8 did. There is no subscription service here. I am not sure where that idea came from. What happens after the first year? If you have windows 10, nothing. If you don't, it's not free anymore. Source: Microsoft.
  • Because of the beauty of language ambiguity.
    Honestly both meaning can be put in the exact same sentence lol until they use the word "forever"
  • "So, yes, as you probably already know, Windows 10 will be free for the first year after it's released on July 29." Exactly,  something as simple as phrasing it: "So, yes, as you probably already know, Windows 10 will be free *to upgrade* for the first year after it is released on July 29." or more acurately: "So, yes, as you probably already know, Windows 10 will *cost $0 to upgrade* for the first year after it is released on July 29."
  • ^^^THIS 100X over
  • As for 32GB devices like the ASUS Transformer T100TAF: Best to use one USB drive for a recovery image first, then set up a 2nd USB drive using RUFUS and the ISO. With the W10USB inserted and leave it in until the end of this process. backup your bitlocker key, disable secureboot, reboot from USB if it detects it (if not, boot into windows normally) and then start the upgrade. Tell it not to keep anything. Once its done, reboot into bios, re-enable secureboot, then boot back into windows normally. Now you can remove the usb drive. Reinstall your apps, and its good to go. Just be aware that it does not switch automatically to/from tablet mode based on the keyboard dock being attached, and screen rotation is locked by default. Not ideal, but it works.
  • If i upgrade to Windows 10 can i still use and play windows 8.1 apps and games?
  • As far as I know everything that works on Windows 8.1, should work fine in Windows 10. Thanks,
  • Windows 8 apps work pretty well. They don't always (some do) force full screen anymore though. Love running Tweetium in a window!
  • Yes. Of course. It runs well.
  • That's good to know, It was the only thing that was going to stop me upgrading strait away. Thanks
  • how about some games and apps in windows 7, can i use/play in windows 10? before i use windows 8.1 but some games didn't work in windows 8.1 so switch back to windows 7.
  • Haven't found any compatibility issues with 8.1 apps so far on PC or WP.
  • Of course! ;) 10 is just 8.1 revamped and better! Uses pretty much the same options, just a better visual appeal and more features. 10 is worth the upgrade, people. :)
  • Just shared this to the FB page Highperformance Pc Of Cape Cod great info.
  • 1 Year is free because their Development is not FULLY Completed. lol.
    They have to most important thing to bring the actual market shares. Even same strategy on W10M.