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How do I upgrade to Windows 10?

Upgrading to Windows 10 is free on many Windows 7 and 8 devices. All you have to do is reserve your update, wait for it to download and install it.

Microsoft allows users with qualifying Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 installations upgrade to Windows 10 for free, and the upgrade process is fairly simple.

If you currently use Windows 7 or Windows 8, then you must make sure your device is running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 Update. You must also enable Windows Update (if it is not already enabled), make sure your current Windows deployment is activated and ensure that Update recognizes your version of Windows as genuine. Once you have done that, the next step is to run the update process until your machine has every available update.

Assuming your edition of Windows qualifies for the free upgrade, Windows Update will then install a component known as the Get Windows 10 app. The Get Windows 10 app appears on the taskbar in the notification area. The icon looks like the Windows logo.

Click on the icon and the Get Windows 10 app will open. The app provides a set of upgrade instructions, but all you really have to do is to click on the Reserve Your Free Upgrade button. Upon doing so, you will see a message indicating that your upgrade has been reserved, which puts your machine in the queue for download. You will get a notification once Windows 10 is ready to install. You can install it right away, or you can pick a time that is good for you.

The download file is about 3 GB, so you must make sure that your device has enough free space to accommodate the download and complete the installation process.

Next Steps

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Is the free upgrade to Windows 10 enticing, or will you pass on the OS for now?
Since I only heard good things regarding Windows 10, and with the free upgrade, I immediately decided to for it on my home laptop. As of today, it's working great. 
Suggestion for users, my laptop wasn't supported by h/w vendor for win10 so I tested win10 by using dual boot hence preserving your current windows installation. Very neat.

1. Check your machine vendor website for patches and bios updates - FOR YOUR EXACT MODEL AND O/S. The bios updates should install painlessly these days especially if you've got them from the vendor's site.
Then in the uefi/bios change the boot order to use the dvd drive and usb ports before the HDD to boot.

2. Cleanup / backup existing install and defrag. Put docs onto google drive and photos onto google photos / dvds. Or use blank DVDs to make backups of these files. Cheap and easy.
Also use Macrium reflect to create a disk image onto an external drive or another machine's disk. It won't create on the same disk.
Also use a usb or dvd to create a recovery drive from control panel -> recovery.
Belt and braces.

3. Don't do the following without doing the above. It's just not worth the hassle if it goes wrong.
Now in Windows disk management, right click your main C: partition and shrink that main C: partition by 20Gb (or 40Gb if you have a few application upgrades to test on win10). Give it any random drive letter but keep it as simple and unformatted.
This assumes you don't have that space elsewhere on the drive of course.

Download win10 from microsoft and write it to a DVD or USB. Either will do. You can let MS write it or download the iso and use a dvd writer program to create the win10 bootable media.

4. Boot from the win10 media you just created and follow the prompts, installing it to the new small partition you created. It's easy and painless and the dual boot will show up in your boot manager / UEFI screen when you start up.
Microsoft have done the job writing their own win10 drivers for most devices or getting the main vendor drivers eg Intel ones and your touchpad vendor drivers etc etc.
My HD audio driver (Realtek including Dolby) wasn't available for win10 for my model as my laptop isn't supported for win10 but I went to the laptop vendor's website and chose a very similar model that WAS supported for win10 (one digit difference in the model number) and it had a win10 Realtek driver including the Dolby Home Theatre s/ware. Installed it, worked perfectly so I still have Realtek/Dolby HD audio on win10. You may have to perform similar scavenging for your machine but the basic function works with MS drivers from the win10 installation.

5. Now you can go ahead and test your applications. Win10 works fine and is stable. But you need to understand where you stand with your applications.

6. To activate the free win10 o/s, you will still have to upgrade your existing installation before next August 2016. Once you've done that you can wipe/do fresh installs of win10 and activation will be automatic. But you have to do that upgrade first.

7. One option is to stay dual boot, either:
a) remove this test win10 install when you're happy with it, and in its place install your existing win version and applications on this reduced small partition to preserve it (using a recovery disk/usb). Then upgrade the original windows 7/8 to win10.

b) Keep this test win10 install; shrink your existing win installation partition as much as you can and upgrade it so you have 2 win10 installs. This will activate your upgrade entitlement.
Then use the built in rollback functionality to roll it back to your original windows installation.
Your test win10 install will then activate automatically and you have preserved your original windows installation. Finally extend your test win10 install partition to make it as big as you can/like.

This way you can keep existing applications running on win7/8 without having to purchase upgrades for win10.
@JonnySF -- thanks for passing this along! have you run into any issues with installing Win10 this way? Is it MS-supported since your hardware vendor doesn't support Win10 for your laptop?
Hi Margaret.
This fresh win10 o/s install will not be "activated" until you upgrade your win7/8 installation - yes it still works but I'm not sure what happens after a certain time period of being "not activated" (search for answers). It says "not activated" on the desktop though it still updates.

So it's not officially "supported" until you do that upgrade after which you can wipe/fresh-install as much as you like and the win10 o/s will be "activated" automatically.
Microsoft doesn't really care if the h/w vendor supports the upgrade but I guess they also don't care if it doesn't work for you!
There are methods to do the o/s activation if you search around on the web that allows you the extra time to test out this install thoroughly. Careful about downloads as always though.

You want to test [resource consumption and stability] with different browsers, streaming video, sd cards, dvd read/write, photo/video editing, your own and borrowed connected usb devices and of course your own applications and you should do this over a number of months as various updates are released for your browser/app/win10.

Hope that helps.
I've found the Edge browser is a major resource hog and won't use it for now; firefox was unstable but has now received some updates that has cured it for example.

I shall remain with this dualboot config for a few months.
Then I will upgrade the win8.1 install to get the auto-win10-activation, but roll it back to 8.1. Then I think I'll shrink that partition down and give the space to the new win10 install that is currently only 40Gb. I'll consider where the partitions are on the disk before I make my final decision on that.
One piece of advice: uefi - in your bios,

1) set the supervisor password (I use six zeros for the password) and 2) disable secure boot.

This is so you don't get locked out of it unknowingly rather than for any security concerns - it's your machine right?

Somehow my bios password got set that I wasn't aware of and secure boot was enabled (perhaps enforced by win10 install or by the 2 bios patches applied, not sure). This meant I couldn't get into the bios eg to check the boot device order, and I couldn't boot from the dvd player or a usb stick. Not good incase of trouble.

So by setting the "supervisor" password to something unforgettable - you have to do this to allow disabling of secure boot - and disabling secure boot you can still get into the bios incase of problems and having to use rescue disks/usb etc.

Locked out of the bios by the unknown password, I eventually had to power down totally and short a cmos jumper/solder points beneath the RAM to unlock the bios as I couldn't get into it.
This was "detailed" in the acer manual as the work around but the bios / uefi has changed a lot over the years and isn't the same for all models/ages.

It's worth noting your bios write too though you can get that using cpu-Z software.