Last Minute Tip: How to save your free Windows 10 upgrade

Microsoft ends the free Windows 10 upgrade offer after July 29, 2016. If you are still using a system with Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 and intend to stay at this platform for a while, what's about "saving your free Windows 10 upgrade copy"? Here's how to proceed.


Primarily, this blog post addresses users of Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1. But older Windows Vista systems (and even discarded Windows XP machines) can be upgraded to Windows 10 too. For systems with Windows XP or Windows Vista a cheap Windows 7 OEM license shall do the trick.

Mandatory is a Windows 10 capable hardware and a valid Windows license eligible for an upgrade. Keep in mind, that Windows 10 Anniversary update (shipped an August 2, 2016) has new hardware requirements (2 GB RAM, 32 GB disk space for 32 bit systems).

Perform initial preparations

To be optimally prepared for the upgrade to Windows 10, I recommend to check the following items.

  • Check, if the system is at current patch level using Windows update.
  • Delete unnecessary files (using Disk Cleanup).
  • Uninstall unused and superfloux programs via Control Panel.
  • Do a system check using the instructions given in the article linked below.

Check and repair Windows system files and component store

Create a system image backup

After the above preparations, backup the system on an external hard drive. You can use the native Windows 7 backup function in Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 (via Control Panel). Due to frequent problems with Windows Backup I recommend however to use a third-party program. My recommendation is to test the Restoring after the system image backup.


Also create a system repair disc (DVD) or a recovery drive (USB stick) as an emergency boot media and checks if the media is bootable and suitable for restoring the backup.

Important: Take care that the emergency media is compatible to the installed Windows version (32 or 64 bit, Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, with or without April 2014 update.

Download Windows 10 installation media

Avoid the time consuming and erroneous upgrade via Windows Update. Use either Windows Media Creation Tool to download a copy of Windows 10 installation media and burn the ISO to a DVD or store the install files on a bootable USB stick. Or download a copy of Windows 10 iso via Microsoft's Techbench program. Burn the ISO image to a DVD or use a tool like Rufus to create a bootable USB stick.

Pay attention to the correct language of your download. Also, you should know that Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro are shipped with the same installation media. The SKU will be selected during installation via product key.

Use a 32 bit Windows 10, if RAM is less than 4 GB and 64 bit, if RAM is above 2 GB. Make sure to downlod an install image of Windows 10 Version 1511.

Preparing the system before upgrading to Windows 10

If you want to upgrade Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, take care that you have a valid product key. Windows 7 systems are shipped with a label on the computer bearing the product key. Since Windows 8 OA 3.0 is used, so the key is stored in the BIOS SLIC table. Setup automatically reads this key.

Anyone who wants to upgrade a system running Windows Vista or Windows XP to Windows 10, needs a cheap Windows 7 license from a reputable source (for example Amazon) .

Then take care that the items listed below are checked:

  • Backup important user data (in case you haven't a system backup)
  • Double check that your hardware fits the Windows 10 requirements
  • Uninstall your third party anti virus software or Internet security suite
  • Uninstall system tools, disk mirroring programs and so on
  • Unencrypt your hard disk, if it has been encrypted
  • If user profiles has been moved, move it back to your Windows partition

If several hard disks are installed, remove all disks except the target disk for the installation. Remove also all not used hardware and peripherals. In addition, I would recommend to download all the device drivers for the hardware and create also an emergency boot media.

If you intend to upgrade – instead of a clean install, ensure that 16 to 20 GB of hard disk space are free. Otherwise, the upgrade may fail due to missing free disk space (although setup has an option to select another drive for temporary storage during upgrade).

Install Windows 10

Boot your machine with the install media (DVD or USB stick), wait till the setup wizard shows up and select the language and keyboard mappings. Then proceed the steps suggested by setup wizard to do a custom install.

If setup asks for a key, let the input box empty or try the Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 key. If setup asks during a upgrade installation, in most cases a wrong install image is the reason.

If Windows 10 upgrade stalls with errors, check with the Windows 10 Wiki, if the error has been handled. Microsoft also has published article KB3107983 covering several upgrade errors.

You can also let Windows Update do the upgrade installation to Windows 10. But I recommend a clean install, because it's more stressless.

After Windows 10 has been successfully installed, ensure that this copy has been activated. Use the Settings app (Upgrade and Security – Activation) for verification. You can enter the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 product key to activate Windows 10.

Once Windows 10 is installed and activated, you can optionally perform a system image backup. But this should be done with a third-party backup program or when using the Windows 7 backup as standard tools on a separate hard drive.

Afterward you can either try to force a rollback using the Settings app (Upgrade and Security – Restore) or restore the previous system from the system image backup created from the old Windows.

Similar articles:
Windows 10 Wiki
Check and repair Windows system files and component store

Windows 10: Upgrade error 80240020
Windows 10: Upgrade error 0x80200013
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