This is a Legacy Version of Windows 10. For the latest build see Windows 10 FAQs and Downloads.
Downloading a Windows 10 .iso and Preparing a Bootable USB
This guide assumes that you have already made Windows 10 TH1 Installation Media. If you haven't already done so see the complementary guide Downloading a Windows 10 TH1 OEM or Retail .iso.
Checking the Old Edition of Windows 10 TH1 and Activation Status
If you came to this guide to take the 1 year free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and haven't initially performed this upgrade on your device before then note that you must perform a Initial Upgrade and not directly Clean Install via .iso. Doing so will give you Microsoft Product Activation issues with Windows 10 TH1. See Initially Upgrading to Windows 10 using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool. If you don't wish to Upgrade and then Clean Reinstall wait for Windows 10 TH2 which will allow for direct Clean Reinstallation and fixes most of the issues highlighted in this set of installation guides.
Personally I don't like Upgrade Installs but Microsoft made it a necessary evil to get the free Upgrade to Windows 10 TH1. If you have already performed the initial upgrade and want your system to function properly you can carry out a Clean Reinstall. Before Reinstalling from a Windows 10 TH1 .iso it is important that you know what Edition your previously Activated Windows 10 install was.
Unfortunately most the Edition issues encountered from Windows 8 and 8.1 have simply carried over to Windows 10 although Microsoft have fixed a few of these issues – No more with Bing Editions and labelling is less confusing as Home is explicitly implied in the Home Editions.
In short if you select the wrong Edition e.g. Windows 10 Instead of Windows 10 Single Language you will encounter Microsoft Product Activation Issues.
Right click the Start button and select system:
Check your Windows Edition at the top and ensure that Windows is activated to the bottom.
Ensure that the Edition of your Windows 10 Installation matches your activated version otherwise you will have Microsoft Product Activation issues.
Booting from Windows 10 Installation Media and Performing A Clean Reinstall
Power down your computer. Disconnect any external hard drive(s) and any USB peripherals such as printers/scanners.
It is recommended to install Windows 10 in a UEFI BIOS with SecureBoot enabled.
These settings should automatically be applied to any system shipped with Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.
If your system <2010 and had Windows 7 previously installed ignore mention of UEFI as your system doesn't have a UEFI BIOS.
If your system had Windows 7 previously installed and is a 2011 model:
- Enable UEFI (your system may have a UEFI BIOS without SecureBoot)
If your system had Windows 7 previously installed and is >2012 model:
Ensure the mouse and keyboard are connected. Insert the Windows 10 Bootable USB that you made via the Windows 10 .iso (If installing in UEFI make sure the Bootable USB is setup for UEFI).
Hold F12 while powering up your computer (at the Dell BIOS screen).
Follow the instructions below to Boot either via UEFI or Legacy respectively.
Variant A: UEFI Boot
If your system is newer than 2011 its recommended to use a UEFI Boot and a GPT partition scheme; this is faster and more reliable. The boot manager should mention a UEFI Boot similar to below.
Press the ↓ arrow and select your Windows 10 Recovery USB Flash Drive and press [Enter]
Variant B: Legacy Boot
For systems older than 2011 you will have to just use the legacy boot with the MBR partition scheme which will be listed by default. There will be no mention of Legacy or UEFI Boot but the boot option will be legacy.
If you wish to install Windows 10 32 Bit (unrecommended) on a 2012 or later system you will need to disable SecureBoot and enable legacy boot options.
Press the ↓ arrow and select your Windows 10 Recovery USB Flash Drive and press [Enter]
Select boot from from USB respectively.
Press any key when prompted such as “h” when it says Press any Key to boot from CD/DVD.
You will be presented with a black screen.
Select, Language, Time and Currency Format and Keyboard or Input Method. In this example I select proper English…
When you have made your selection select next:
Select Install Now:
The setup will start:
Now you will be asked for a product key… Whoops!!! This is the screen which upsets most of Microsoft's customers….
Windows 10 TH1 does not accept:
- Windows 8/8.1 UEFI BIOS SLP keys – In my opinion this is a big mistake by Microsoft as it would save many product activation issues and these have a really nice product activation mechanism (TH2 will accept these).
- Windows 8/8.1 Retail keys – Again a mistake as Windows 10 is essentially a free upgrade to all Windows 8/8.1 Retail users. I don't see the reason separating out these keys (TH2 will accept these).
Windows 10 TH1 also does not accept:
- Windows 7 Generic OEM SLP keys – This was never expected to be the case due to ease of piracy of this old activation mechanism.
- Windows 7 Unique Windows 7 OEM keys from COAs – This was never expected to be the case due to ease of piracy and additional difficulty from fading OEM COAs that had poor print quality (TH2 will accept these).
- Windows 7 Retail keys – Again a mistake as Windows 10 is essentially a free upgrade to all Windows 7 Retail users. I don't see the reason separating out these keys (TH2 will accept these).
Feedback for Microsoft. Windows 10 Installation Media should detect and accept all Windows 8/8.1/10 UEFI BIOS SLP keys regardless of Edition… If the UEFI BIOS SLP key was of the wrong Edition it should leave a warning of the type:
"Windows 10 Home Single Language UEFI BIOS SLP key detected. Installation Media is Windows 10 Home, please enter a product key or restart the Installation from Windows 10 Home Single Language Installation Media."
This would save a great deal of hassles end users are experiencing with Windows 10 Reinstallation.
If you have upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1 i.e. installed Windows 10 on your device before note that you do not have a Windows 10 Product Key. The product activation mechanism is device based and keyless. Keyfinders such as Berlarc Advisor will find a generic key and this should not be used.
In short your only option is to select skip unless your intent is to buy Windows again.
Update 16/10/2015 It appears Microsoft has been reading installation feedback from these guides. The good news is that this will be amended in Windows 10 TH2 (coming soon). Windows 10 TH2 will accept Windows 7 OEM keys printed on an affixed Code of Authenticity and it will also automatically input a Windows 8.x UEFI BIOS Embedded System Locked Preinstallation Key. It will also accept Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Retail product keys. More details are available here Microsoft fixes Windows 10's Digital Deployment with 10565 TH2 (Beta). With Windows 10 TH2 Windows will finally be digitally deployed correctly.
Read the license agreement, check "I accept these terms" and then select next:
On the next screen you will be given the option to "Upgrade" or "Clean Reinstall".
I don't know why anyone would ever select Upgrade especially since booting from Installation Media doesn't carry over the product activation from the old version of Windows 7/8.1. Again if you skimmed over my earlier warning and are attempting to Clean Install Windows 10 as a Free Upgrade to Windows 7/8.1 see Performing the Initial Upgrade using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool.
To Clean Reinstall select Custom. The following steps will result in loss of data so cancel the installation and backup your data to an external hard drive or cloud storage if you haven't already done so.
In the next screen you should be shown your hard drive(s)/Solid state drive(s). If you don't and have a blank screen as shown you will need to Load Driver… For more details see Preparing and Loading Preinstallation SATA Drivers.
Note: In most cases Windows 10 Installation Media should have the SATA Storage Controller inbuilt and hence there is no reason for you to load the preinstallation SATA driver. As a general rule of thumb if Windows Installation Media is significantly newer than your System the Storage Controller is inbuilt. Microsoft promise to keep Windows Installation Media relatively up to date so the need to load Storage Controller drivers should become relatively rare.
If on the other hand you get the error message "A Required CD/DVD Device Driver is Missing" then your Installation Media is corrupt and you should make new Windows 10 Installation Media.
In the majority of cases the HDD/SSD will already be listed… The partitions listed will differ from system to system aswell as the number of drive(s). In this step you want to delete all the partitions on the SSD/HDD (SSD recommended) that you want to Install Windows on so all the storage on the drive is unallocated space.
Note if you have previously used DiskPart or Cleaned up the SSD/HDD the drive will already show as unallocated space. Cleaning up a HDD/SSD should be done in advance of Windows Installation and is particular important if you are Clean Reinstalling to get rid of a virus/malware infection or plan to sell or hand down your Windows 10 device.
If you have any other HDDs/SSDs that have an Operating System its recommended to delete all the partitions on these in a similar manner in order to prevent an unwanted dualboot.
Note external hard drives and USB flash drives may also be listed here which is why it was recommended to remove any unnecessary USB peripheral devices to save confusion. Data drives should be left alone aswell as the Windows 10 Bootable USB.
Dual Boot Note – Advanced Configurations only!!!
For a system with multiple SSD/HDDs multiple Drive numbers will show. You can only delete the partitions on the SSD/HDD (SSD recommended) that you intend to install Windows on.
If you have Windows/Linux installed on another drive this will make a Dual Boot. Alternatively you can delete all the partitions on other drive(s) in order to prevent an unwanted Dual Boot. I do not recommend Dual Booting and even less on the same Drive. In general I prefer virtualisation.
I will demonstrate a UEFI install on a 120 GB SSD in a Latitude E5510. This lists the single internal SSD as Drive 0. The drive had a Windows 7 Professional factory settings previously upgraded to Windows 10 Pro and was reverted back to Windows 7 Professional. It has two small partitions (UEFI) and the main OS partition aswell as the recovery partition.
Select each partition on the Drive you want to install Windows on, in this case Drive 0, then select Delete systematically. I will start on the Recovery Partition. Note theres no point in keeping the Recovery Partition (this will vary in size from system to system) while carrying out a Clean Reinstall as it'll no longer function. Moreover even if it did work it'll recover to an obsolete version of Windows.
Select ok. Then delete all the other partitions on the drive in a similar manner….
Your entire drive should now be unallocated space, select the unallocated space and then select new:
Windows will setup additional partitions and warn you that these are being created, select next:
If you have a newer system (>2012) and are using a UEFI BIOS with the GPT partition scheme, the partitions will look like the following. The top three partitions should be the same size as shown below and the presence of these multiple partitions make the GPT partition scheme more robust. The last largest partition will vary in size taking up the remainder SSD/HDD. Select this largest partition and select Next:
If you have a older system (<2012) or a newer system with UEFI settings disabled e.g. for a 32 Bit Windows 10 Installation you will hence have to use Legacy BIOS settings and the MBR partition scheme. The partitions will look slightly different on a MBR install see below. There will be a single 500 MB system reserved partition opposed to 3 smaller partitions in a GPT install. The last largest partition will vary in size taking up the remainder SSD/HDD. Select this largest partition and select Next:
Windows will begin to install and depending on your hardware may take some time to go through all the steps:
When its finished you will be warned about a restart. Select restart now or wait 10 seconds:
Your computer will restart and Windows will take some time to get your devices ready.
The setup will restart:
You will once again be prompted to enter your product key. Whoops!!! This is the second screen which causes even more panic for Microsoft's customers…. Don't worry…
Select Do this Later.
Note if you are going to sell or hand down your Windows 10 Device, you can force shut it down here and remove the Windows 10 Installation USB…. The new owner can continue with the setup.
If you are connected to an ethernet or offline the next few screens won’t show. Select your wireless network:
Input your wireless password and select next:
Select customise settings and press “next” once you’ve made your desired selection on each page or use the express settings:
Next select “I own it” for a home PC or “My organisation” for a work PC:
For “I Own It” sign in with a Microsoft Account (recommended by Microsoft so you can use all of Microsoft’s services in particular OneDrive).
Alternatively skip this step and sign in with a local account (recommended if you want to make a pseudo-Factory image with Dell Backup and Recovery without your Microsoft Account login details). A Local Account can later be converted to a Microsoft Account:
The PC will configure the last stages and install Apps (which now work as Windows):
You should now be in the Windows 10 Desktop:
Checking the New Edition of Windows 10 and Activation Status
Right click the Start button and select system:
Check your Windows Edition at the top and ensure that Windows is activated to the bottom. Note the Product ID may change slightly from the original install but Windows should be activated…
A test of switching architecture:
If your system is not activated, leave it online for an hour or so, then restart and recheck.