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Win10 Upgrade to Dell XPS27 Easy-Peasy

In complete and stark contrast to my experience with the Surface Pro 3, the upgrade from Windows 8.1 to 10 on my son’s Dell XPS27 went without a single hitch or hiccup. I turned the upgrade via Windows Update loose on that machine when we left to go out to eat last night, and when I got home from dinner, provided account and password to login to Windows 10. It was just that easy, and worked like a charm.

The Win10 Download Utility allows the impatient to upgrade sooner than MS may be willing to grant access via Windows Update.

Here’s what else I had to do to get the system completely up to snuff following that upgrade install:

1. Uninstall Start8 and install Start10: Start8 sorta kinda worked in Windows 10, but didn’t permit elements to be pinned to the Taskbar, or provide all of its other usual features and functions. Start10 works like a charm with Windows 10 (I still like it better than the built-in Start menu that comes with the base OS; at $5 a copy, it remains part of my standard Win10 set-up collection).
2. Install IntelRST.exe to get Rapid Storage Technology working: this software doesn’t transition when upgrading from one version of Windows to another, so must be re-installed after an upgrade like this one.
3. Before I installed IntelRST, I compared the driver count in DriverStore Explorer from Win 8.1 before the upgrade install to the driver count in the same program after Win10 was up and running. The base-level install increased the driver count from 45 to 47, both of which were older versions of Nvidia audio drivers. A simple delete of the drivers with lower version numbers, and the count was back to 45. And indeed the Intel driver count skyrocketed after installing IntelRST on that machine (but again, was easy to clean up).
4. As always, I had to clean up the leftovers from the upgrade (Windows.old; 20.7 GB), which worked like a charm using CCleaner.

I must say, after my experiences with the Surface Pro 3 earlier this week, I’m glad to see an upgrade go this smoothly. Along the way to targeting this machine for my second and successful Windows 10 upgrade install, I also learned (or revisited) a few other interesting things:

1. My “pre-upgrade/clean install” ritual for new Windows versions always includes the following elements: (a) apply all pending upgrades from Windows Update; (b) update drivers with DriverAgent, and clean up drivers with DriverStore Explorer (aka rapr.exe); (c) update applications based on a scan from Secunia PSI; (d) make a complete image backup, using either the image backup from File History or Acronis True Image; (e) create a fresh bootable recovery UFD from which to boot and install said backup, should that prove necessary. I’ve already had multiple occasions to take advantage of (d) and (e) when, as sometimes happens, an installation goes wonky.
2. If you build a UFD using the Windows 10 download tool from Microsoft, you can run Setup.exe from inside Windows 8.1 to start the install process, but the info on the installer screens is kinda sketchy. For example, immediately after showing a “Decide what to keep” screen on my Lenovo X220 Tablet, the installer jumps into grabbing updates and checking install-worthiness. Only then does it report that it will “Keep personal files and apps” a phrase that’s open to interpretation because apps can mean Modern UI apps only, or all applications already installed on the PC (an upgrade install, in other words). After reading and re-reading the language on the afore-linked download too page, I decided to go ahead and try (the page says “the media creation tool won’t work for an upgrade” with Enterprise editions of Windows, but that implies that it should work with Home and Pro editions). Although the words “Upgrade install” never appear in any of the installer panes that you can peruse and parse on-screen while that program is running, when you finally get far enough along — past the first reboot, that is — a screen labeled “Upgrading Windows” finally appears. So yes, Virginia, you can use the download tool to perform an upgrade install, if you like.
3. If you start a Windows 10 upgrade but can’t bring the step following the first reboot to completion, you will find a folder named $Windows.~BT on your boot/system drive. The leading dollar sign means it’s a hidden file, and won’t show up in Explorer, unless you’ve instructed it to “Show hidden files.” CCleaner does not recognize and clean up this directory, but the “Clean up system files” option in Explorer will get rid of it for you. Otherwise, you can manually reset file attributes to turn off  “Read-only” status, and delete it directly yourself (it took me two tries to get the attribute reset to take, and for manual deletion to work). This latter approach goes faster than working within the Disk Cleanup utility, so it’s the one I usually take.
4. Having signed up all of my various Windows 8.1 PCs for Windows 10 upgrades, I find myself wondering how MS decides when to grant access to the software through Windows Update. I signed up 6 machines at around the same time but so far, only 2 of them have been granted permission to install the upgrade through that vehicle. What’s up with that? At this point, I’m almost ready to conclude that manual control over the upgrade process via the download tool is preferable.

I’m only about 1/3 of the way done with my various machines, so there will be plenty more to learn, and to write about here, as I chew my way through these various challenges. Stay tuned for more news from the trenches, please!