For the first time in Windows’ history, Microsoft’s operating system is available exclusively via online download, which means there’s no CD or floppy disk. While this may seem somewhat daunting, Microsoft has in fact made it easier to install Windows 10. However, choosing the best installation method for your needs is sometimes not so obvious – and there are traps for the unwary, as well shortcuts for those in the know.
Here we’ll explain the best ways to install Windows 10 to allow you to preserve all the computers’ files and settings for an easier transition, or perform a clean install to maximise your system’s performance.
We’ll also show you how to do a clean install the easy way (if you already have Windows 10 installed) and, if you don’t like the new OS, uninstall Windows 10.
But no matter why or how you’re installing Windows 10, make sure you put aside plenty of time and remember to back up your important files, using Windows’ backup, any other backup tool, an online syncing service such as Dropbox, or other methods that we’ve explained previously . Don’t forget to backup Outlook and other files that might not be in the Documents (or My Documents) or other obvious folders.
In addition, it could be worth using a third-party tool such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free to make an image of your computer. Although Microsoft provides a way to revert to the previous version of Windows in the first 10 days after installing the new OS, a backup image is additional protection, allowing you to roll back your PC to exactly the way it was (including all your files) before you installed Windows 10.
Installing a new operating system is a big change, with potential for things to go badly wrong, so don’t be tempted to skip the backup step.
Upgrading from a previous version
If you haven't yet updated your PC to Windows 10, you've sadly missed your chance to take advantage of the free upgrade. You'll have to stump up $179 for a Windows 10 Home licence or $299 for Windows 10 Pro the Microsoft Store.
You can choose to either download the update directly, or Microsoft can send you a Windows 10 USB which you can use to install it, although at the time of writing the latter option was “out of stock”. However, that’s not a huge problem, because you can easily create your own Windows 10 installation USB key as we’ll see later.
Remember, if you have a retail copy of Windows 7 or 8/8.1, you can transfer your licence to a new computer by first installing Windows 7/8.1 on a computer and then upgrade to Windows 10.
Next: how to install Windows 10