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How to Upgrade to Windows 10 - PCMag

After Jan. 14, those on Windows 7 will no longer receive technical assistance or software updates from Windows Update. It's time to make the leap to Windows 10.

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Would you use a 10-year-old smartphone? Probably not. But surprisingly, a great many people have chosen to continue using one piece of technology that's been around for more than a decade: Windows 7.

If you're a Windows 7 diehard who was put off by Windows 8 and never upgraded to Windows 10, now is the time. After Jan. 14, "technical assistance and software updates from Windows Update that help protect your PC will no longer be available," according to Microsoft.

Translation: Microsoft will no longer be rolling out bug fixes to Windows 7 anymore, putting your PC at risk of being infected by a virus.

Every day I take advantage of new tools in Windows 10—my favorite of late is Clipboard History—and can't imagine going back; here are a few reasons why. Windows 7 users should realize that it's not a huge change in paradigm moving from the 10-year-old OS to Windows 10: You still have your Start button, File Explorer, and Task bar, just as in the past.

Windows 10 May 2019 Update

So how can you upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10? First of all, if your PC is as old as the earlier OS, you should strongly consider getting a new one. Today's PCs offer faster CPUs and more storage than anything available back then.

If your hardware is still relatively performant, upgrading is pretty straightforward, and you won't even have to lose any data or program files. Windows 10 includes a legacy mode for running older applications, so most of what you'd want to run will still run in the new OS. And once you upgrade to Windows 10, you'll get free OS updates and features for free from then on.

For a year after Windows 10 was initially launched, it was a free upgrade. For those who failed to take advantage of that offer, there are some cheats for getting Windows 10 free, if your conscience permits. One way is to simply try using the official Windows 10 upgrade tool on your existing PC and see if the license is accepted.

Can My PC Run Windows 10?

The first step is to determine whether your computer is capable of running the new OS. Most PCs able to run Windows 7 are also capable of running Windows 10, since the requirements are not very demanding. To be sure, you can run the compatibility tool, but here's a look at the minimun system requirements for Windows 10:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster compatible processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit
  • Hard drive size: 32GB or larger hard disk
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 800 by 600

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I'd recommend installing the 64-bit option if your hardware supports it, as more software runs on it and you'll be able to take advantage of more RAM. In addition to those hardware requirements, you'll also need an internet connection to get going. The installer gives you an opportunity to connect to Wi-Fi.

How to Get Windows 10

The official way to get Windows 10 is from Microsoft's online store. Before paying on that site, however, you could try going straight to the Windows 10 download site and try upgrading without buying a new license.

As is the case with any OS installation, it's a great idea to back up your data before taking the plunge. You can either choose one of our favorite third-party backup software options, an online backup solution, or Windows' built-in backup capabilities (Under the System and Security heading in Control Panel, click Back up your computer).

You have two options on the download page: Run the installer directly from the site or download a bootable ISO disk image and restart the patient computer with a USB key created with that plugged in. The upgrade process thankfully retains your programs and data files, but you can choose to only retain data or to keep nothing. I recommend upgrading using the USB method, which works in more cases.

If the installation process asks you to enter a license key that you don't have, you can head to the store site linked above and purchase a license. A Windows 10 Home license costs $139; Pro costs $199.99. You'll only need the latter if you need to run virtual machines, BitLocker encryption, and to connect to a corporate network domain. The Windows 10 Pro for Workstations option ($309) is only of interest to those running special corporate hardware and not typical consumer desktops or laptops.

Shopping around for lower-cost license keys may save you a little bit of money. I found Windows 10 license keys for $10 less at major online retailers. You'll also see OEM versions, but those don't include support from Microsoft (which, based on a recent experience, is very good).

Once you're up and running with a contemporary operating system, you can read up on how to use in on PCMag.com. A few of our help articles include How to Set Up a VPN in Windows 10, How to Sync Your Phone With Windows 10, and How to Take Screenshots in Windows.


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