Microsoft Windows 10 free upgrade: the last roundup


Should I upgrade Windows 7?

Should I go for the Windows 10 upgrade or continue with Windows 7? My laptop is five years old and working very nicely after I installed an SSD (solid-state disc). It has a 2.2GHz Intel Core i5, 8GB of memory and a Blu-ray drive. I am worried about drivers. Ratish Gupta

The “Get Windows 10” (GWX) app – the white icon in the systray – will check your PC for compatibility, so see what it says. You can run it again later, because its verdict may change as more information becomes available, and suppliers update their drivers. However, there’s no need to rush: you have a whole year to accept the free upgrade.

In fact, Windows 10 will get a staged roll-out over a month or more: not everybody will be offered the upgrade on 29 July. You can wait to see if there are any major compatibility problems.

Also, Windows 10 is still missing a few features, such as extensions for the Edge browser, and a new OneDrive app. It’s a work in progress, and will be continuously updated.

Windows 10 is a better replacement for Windows 7 than Windows 8 ever was, but Windows 7 still works well, so you can keep using it. It will be supported until 2020.

Can I use a disc?

I have more than one computer. Do I have to download Windows 10 numerous times, on a slow connection, or just once, save it and use each computer’s licence key? John A

We’re all assuming that Microsoft will make installation media available in some way: probably an iso file that you can download and burn to DVD (as for the test version), and perhaps in a USB-friendly format. You can use this to update all your Windows 7 and Windows 8 PCs. It will check each PC to see if it qualifies for the free upgrade, and provide each one with its own Windows 10 product key.

Note that if you have used the GWX app to reserve a copy of Windows 10, then you have given Windows Update permission to download the Windows 10 code in the background. You must therefore go to the Windows 8.x network settings and set it as a metered connection. This will prevent the download. In Windows 7, run Windows Update, click “Change settings” and select “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them”. You will have to make sure you still download and install important security patches etc on the second Tuesday of each month.

Also note that you cannot do a “clean install” this way. You must upgrade your current version of Windows 10 first, make sure it is activated, create your own recovery media, and do a clean installation from that. However, you should probably use Windows 10’s built in “Reset this PC (Get Started)” option instead.

Can I go back?

If, for any reason I don’t like the upgrade to Windows 10, will I be able to restore my laptop back to the factory (Windows 8.1 operating system) condition? I have also backed the recovery partition up to a USB drive, so could I use that?Graham

I’m not sure exactly what’s going to happen: the Windows 10 “in place” update may not behave the same way as the test version, and it will vary according to the amount of disk space available. However, Windows 10 does not use a Partition recovery – it “rebuilds the operating system in place using runtime system files” – so it may leave it intact. Either way, if you have backed up the recovery partition, then recovering your PC from your USB thumb drive or recovery DVDs can recreate the recovery partition and take your laptop back to “factory condition”. Of course, this will also delete all your programs and data, but you can restore those from a standard backup.

The Windows 10 “in place” update will also roll up your old Windows installation and save it in a folder called Windows.old (assuming there is room). This will give you 30 days to revert from Windows 10, if you don’t like it. If you want to keep Windows.old longer, I assume you can back it up or copy it somewhere safe. But don’t leave it too long, because you will lose changes you’ve made after installing Windows 10.

Windows 10 is not free!

I have a Windows 8.1 laptop, and have reserved a copy of Windows 10, but I am soon going to build my own mATX PC. My question is whether I can get Windows 10 on my new PC for free given the fact that I own a copy of Windows 8.1. Josh

No. Microsoft is not giving away Windows 10, it is giving away upgrades to Windows 10 for devices running Windows 7 or Windows 8. Copies of Windows distributed with PCs are locked to the motherboard and their licenses are only valid on the first PC on which they are installed. (So you don’t actually own a copy of Windows 8.1, just a license to run it on a specific laptop.)

You can buy an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) copy of Windows for your mATX PC, in which case it will be locked to that machine when you install it. Alternatively, you can pay extra for a full retail copy of Windows. Retail copies include Microsoft support and the freedom to uninstall the operating system from one PC and install it on a different PC.

Updates for ever …

Does Microsoft keep the Windows 10 iso downloads updated? In other words, should I run updates immediately after they have been downloaded and installed? MPF

In the old days, the Windows operating system was fixed when a version shipped, at least until Microsoft rolled up the security patches into Service Pack 1, or whatever. So, after you installed the OS, you might have to install hundreds of updates to get to the current version.

That no longer applies. Windows 10 will be updated continuously, in the same way as Chromebooks, smartphone apps, and web-based systems such as Gmail and Facebook. While I don’t know Microsoft’s plans for iso downloads, I’d expect them to be kept reasonably up to date. There will be no more service packs, just regular snapshots.

In future, Windows Update will install both security patches and – in a break with tradition – extra features for as long as your device (display screen, desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, games console etc) keeps working. Under this system, most Windows 10 users will be running the same system, which is good news for software providers and bad news for malware writers.

The drawback, for some people, is that you must keep auto-updating Windows 10. (See Windows 10: updates will be mandatory for home users.) If you don’t, your PC will become unsupported.

Ask Jack has had more than 400 questions about Windows 10, which is too many to answer personally. If yours isn’t answered here, see Microsoft Windows 10 free upgrade: five questions answered, Microsoft Windows 10 free upgrade: 10 more of your questions answered, and Microsoft Windows 10 free upgrade: seven more questions answered.

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