Upgrading to a Solid State Drive (SSD)
If you have an older Mechanical Hard Drive (HDD) in your PC you may get a substantially low performance when running Windows 10 due to the slow speed of the HDD (100 % Disc Usage). It is recommended to replace the HDD with a Solid State Drive (SSD) and 250 GB Models are now affordable. For SSD and Memory Upgrades the best Vendor is Crucial, I have been recommending them for years and just recently joined their affiliate program. If purchasing an upgrade please click the link below as affiliate purchases will help cover my website costs.
Windows 7 OEM Product Keys, Windows 8.x OEM Product Keys and Windows 10 OEM Product Keys are all accepted by Windows 10 Version 1809 Installation Media.
Multi-Edition Windows 10 Version 1809 Installation Media can be downloaded from Microsoft Using the Media Creation Tool or Direct Download Links see Windows 10 OEM Downloads and FAQs for more details.
Data Loss Warning
During the Windows Installation all Partitions will be Deleted and a Low Level Format Performed.
Back up any data from your old Windows Installation before proceeding i.e. copy all the files in the Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures and Videos folders to an external hard drive. If you cannot back up data because your old Windows Installation Cannot Boot then follow my guide Data Recovery Using Fedora. If you have large game installation files such as Steam or EA Origin see my guide Backing up and Restoring Steam Game Installation Files and Backing up and Restoring EA Game Installation Files.
Alternatively if you want to perform a proper Wipe so data is irrecoverable perform the Dell Data Wipe (UEFI BIOS) before proceeding. This is recommended if your old Windows Installation has been compromised by Malware or if you intend to sell your computer and want to keep any personal information from prying eyes.
Booting from the Bootable USB in UEFI
Power down your Dell and as you power it up press [F12].
For hardware manufactured by other OEMs you may have to press a different key. For example:
- For a Lenovo laptop you should also use [F12].
- For a HP laptop you should use [F9].
- For a Toshiba laptop you should use [F10]. Note you may need to Disable Fast Boot for the Bootable USB to display.
The first thing you want to check is that the Boot Mode is set to UEFI and Secure Boot is On. If they are press the [↓] key until you get your Bootable USB and press [Enter]. For the new Touchscreen friendly UEFI BIOS you can use the Touchscreen or mouse to highlight the Bootable USB under UEFI Boot Devices:
If the Boot Mode is Legacy or Secure Boot is Off you should amend your UEFI BIOS settings to Enable a UEFI Boot with Secure Boot. See my UEFI guide.
If there is no mention of Secure Boot but you have the mention of a UEFI Boot you have an early UEFI computer press the [↓] key until you get your Bootable USB and press [Enter].
If there is no mention of UEFI or Legacy you likely have an older system with a Legacy BIOS only. Press the [↓] arrow until you get to the USB Storage Device and press [Enter].
The Windows Setup: Part 1
The Windows setup will begin to load, you should see your OEMs Logo here:
Ensure you have selected your preferred Language, Time and Currency Format and Keyboard or Input method. Then select next:
The next screen will give you the options to Install Windows or Repair your Computer (which you can use to launch Diskpart for example). In most cases select Install:
The Windows Setup: Part 2 The Product Key
Windows 8.x OEM and Windows 10 OEM Keys
Windows 10 OEM or Windows 8.x OEM Product Keys are embedded in the systems UEFI BIOS and will be automatically input by the Multi-Edition Windows 10 Version 1809 Installation which will chose the correct Edition of Windows 10 to Install. The following stickers indicate a Windows 8.x OEM or Windows 10 OEM License:
You will be taken straight to the license agreement screen if your key is automatically input:
Windows 7 OEM Keys and Windows 7 Retail, Windows 8.x Retail and Windows 10 Retail Keys
Older hardware shipped with Windows 7 OEM have a Code of Authenticity CoA often found under the battery in laptops. The CoA contains the Edition of Windows 7 and it's associated unique 25 Digit Product Key. Retail Licenses will also include a 25 Digit Product Key.
As the Product Key is Physically Printed on a Label and not embedded in the UEFI BIOS, Windows 10 Installation Media will not be able to automatically input it and instead ask you to manually input it:
You only need to input the Product Key during the first time you are installing Windows 10. If Windows 10 (of any Version) has been installed and activated on your system before, your systems motherboard details are stored and registered with a Microsoft Product Activation Server. This means you can reinstall Windows 10 (of the same Edition) without a Product Key and it will automatically reactivate when online. (Essentially your computer will resubmit the motherboard details to the Microsoft Product Activation Server which will find a match for your system and reactivate your system.)
You need to make sure you select the correct Edition of Windows 10 however.
|Edition of Windows 7||Edition of Windows 10 to Install|
Windows Vista OEM and Windows XP OEM Licenses
The Product Keys for these older Versions of Windows are not compatible with Windows 10 as an encouragement for users to migrate to newer hardware to get the best Windows 10 experience. For these systems you can select skip a Product Key and install Windows 10 Home. This will run an unlicensed version of Windows 10 which has a few minor limitations but even with these limitations is still more functional and far more secure than Windows Vista or Windows XP as it isn't 2 years and 5 years out of date respectively. Unlike older Versions of Windows, Windows 10 will not forcefully make unlicensed users log out.
On your Windows XP or Windows Vista install press [Windows] and [ r ] and type in
and press [Enter]:
Here you will see your SMBIOS version.
- SMBIOS2.6 – Should be Windows 10 64 Bit Compatible. These systems were sold 6 months before the release of Windows 7 and their BIOS has been upgraded to allow for a Clean Install of Windows 7. One can activate Windows 10 from this Windows 7 License by carrying out this Upgrade Path.
- SMBIOS2.5 – Should be Windows 10 64 Bit Compatible. A handful of these systems were sold 6 months before the release of Windows 7 and their BIOS has been upgraded to allow for a Clean Install of Windows 7. One can activate Windows 10 from this Windows 7 License by carrying out this Upgrade Path.
- SMBIOS2.4 – Should be Windows 10 32 Bit but not 64 Bit Compatible. Even if the processors are marked as having a 64 Bit Architecture, the Processor Minimum System Requirements have been elevated since Windows 7 64 Bit and these systems are unlikely to pass the newer requirements for Windows 10 64 Bit.
An unlicensed Windows 10 has a few limitations such as a watermarked Desktop and you are stuck with some of Windows 10 Default Settings that are grayed out. Unlike previous builds of Windows you will not be forcefully logged out. Still it gives at least equivalent functionality to Windows Vista and will be up to date opposed to being 2 years out of date and a large security risk. It is not worth purchasing a Full Retail OS License for these models as it normally exceeds the cost of second hand newer hardware which has a Windows 7 OEM, Windows 8.x OEM or Windows 10 OEM License. Moreover there will be no guarantee that Microsoft won't elevate system requirements at a later date for newer builds of Windows 10, locking out your model from receiving Updates. Notes about older Dell Models running Windows 10 and System Drivers are available here:
- Dimension Desktops
- Inspiron Desktops
- Inspiron Laptops
- Latitude D Laptops
- OptiPlex Desktops
- Studio Laptops
- Vostro Desktops
- Vostro Laptops
- XPS Desktops
- XPS Laptops
The Windows 10 Version 1809 Installation Media Created from the Media Creation Tool have the following Editions of Windows covering all OEM Licenses:
The Windows 10 Version 1809 Installation Media Created from Direct Download Links have the following Editions of Windows covering all OEM Licenses and some Additional Editions mainly targeted towards large corporations/academic research institutions:
Select your Edition of Windows 10 and select next.
Accept the license agreement and select next:
The Windows Setup: Part 3 Drive Options
Warning: This step will result in data loss of internal drives.
If you are clean installing Windows due to a Boot Problem and cannot backup your data as Windows cannot boot the follow my guide Data Recovery using Fedora which uses a Bootable Fedora Live Linux USB which can access the HDD/SSD in many cases when Windows cannot.
Select custom install:
If you have Securely Wiped your Internal Drives using Dell Data Wipe or your Drive Manufacturers Utilities your Drives screen should look as follows:
If instead you have a previous version of Windows on your drives screen may instead look like this.
Warning 2: This step will result in data loss of internal drives.
You can perform a Low Level Format using the Windows Installation Media by Deleting all the partitions on the drive. You should do this if:
- You are clean installing the latest version of Windows 10 on your PC.
- You are sure your old version of Windows wasn't infected with malicious software.
- You are keeping your computer…
You should instead quit Windows Installation and perform a Secure Wipe using Dell Data Wipe or Parted Magic if:
- You are clean installing the latest version of Windows 10 due to a malicious software.
- You have bought your computer second hand (and are not sure what the last user has had on the PC).
- You are planning selling your computer on (and don't want personal data passed on).
To perform the Low Level Format using the Windows Installation Media select every partition on Drive 0 (or the desired Drive you wish to install Windows if you have a system with a multiple drive configuration) and systematically delete any partition.
Delete all Partitions including Recovery Partitions, these are for old obsolete versions of Windows and no longer required.
Once all partitions are deleted, select Drive 0 Unallocated space and select next:
The following steps are automated. Windows will tell you its going to restart and give you a count down of 10 seconds. In these 10 seconds it is recommended to remove the Bootable USB. In some cases the Bootable USB gets put to the top of the Boot Menu and users end up in a loop restarting the clean install from scratch. After the restart Windows will spend some time getting ready:
The Windows Setup: Part 4 Region, Keyboard and Network
You will be asked to select your region, select it and select yes:
Next you'll be asked to select your keyboard layout, select it and select yes:
You'll then be asked if you wish to select another keyboard layout. Assuming you don't want another keyboard layout select skip:
Windows 10 has the drivers inbuilt for most Wireless Cards especially those manufactured by Intel/Broadcom/Atheros/Realtek which are commonly used in Dell/Lenovo and HP systems. You will taken to the following screen where you have to choose a wireless network to connect to.
You will not be shown this screen if Windows 10 doesn't have your wireless card driver inbuilt or you are already connected via ethernet:
Input your password and select next:
If you are already connected to a network via ethernet the Windows 10 setup will automatically search for some updates and then take you to the user accounts setup screen:
The Windows Setup: Part 5 User Accounts
The following screens are setup in a way that you must select an option before the next button shows i.e. so you have to think and select the account and privacy settings that best apply to you opposed to blindly clicking next:
In the first screen you will be asked to setup your account. Select setup for personal use then select next:
Microsoft recommend signing in with a Microsoft Account which makes it easier if you use many of their inbuilt Apps and Services in particular OneDrive and Mail or wish to purchase Apps from the Microsoft Store. However you can also sign in with an Offline Account (Previously known as Local Account).
To sign in with an Offline Account, select Offline Account:
Microsoft will instead recommend you to sign in with a Microsoft Account instead. Select No:
Input your username and press Next. You will then be given screens to set a password and mandatory security questions in case you forget the password.
If you use an Offline Account, you can always convert it to a Microsoft Account afterwards.
Input your email and select Next:
Input your password and select Next:
You will then be given the option to make a pin. Select Create Pin:
Create your Pin and then press OK:
The Windows Setup: Part 6 Services and Privacy Settings
You'll now be taken to the Services and Privacy Options of the Setup. What you select here is entirely your own decision…
Again the following screens are setup in a way that you must select an option before the next button shows i.e. so you have to think and select the account and privacy settings that best apply to you opposed to blindly clicking next.
If you have signed in with a Microsoft Account you can optionally use the Windows 10 Phone App to link your phone to your PC. Input your phone number and Microsoft will text you further instructions:
If you have signed in with a Microsoft Account it will ask if you want to use OneDrive, their cloud service. In essence it allows you to save all your files to Microsoft storage servers. The advantage of doing this is:
- You will be able to access your files using multiple computers provided that you are using the same Microsoft Account on all the computers.
- You will be able to share certain files with others e.g. if you are collaborating on a document.
- If your computer fails all your files will be backed up.
OneDrive is particularly useful if you have an Office 365 subscription which comes with 1 TB OneDrive storage space. If you don't have an Office 365 subscription already you will only get 5 GB of Free Space. There are storage plans where you can pay a £2/month fee to get 50 GB OneDrive storage but you are far better to get the Office 365 subscription where you get Office as well as the 1 TB OneDrive Storage. For more details see OneDrive Plans (Edit notes join Microsoft Affiliate Program and Insert Office 365 Affiliate Links). Alternatively if you are not happy with having your files saved to cloud, you can select "Only Save Files to this PC".
Next you can Accept or Decline Cortana. Cortana is essentially an updated version of Windows Search incorporated into a speech assistant. If you Accept, Cortana will work across your Microsoft Account, searching your Local Computer, OneDrive, Browsing History, Emails, Text Messages and essentially anything you link to your Microsoft Account to. It will also use Bing for an additional search online. If you Decline Cortana will just work as a Local Windows Search (with some Bing suggestions).
In order to use Cortana you will need to Accept or Decline here.
If you are signed in with a Microsoft Account you can opt to share your device history across all the devices you are signed into. See below where I explain Device History in a bit more detail:
On the Windows 10 Desktop if you press the following key combination [Windows] and [Tab]:
It will bring up Device History. To the top right of Device History you can switch Virtual Desktops. This (on a single computer) essentially lets you have independent Desktop spaces e.g. you can have Desktop 1 for morning work and Desktop 2 for afternoon work and Desktop 3 for leisure… This means you can have what you need open but not have the contents of the morning project distract you when you move onto the afternoon project for example. Of course having so many things open requires a sufficiently powerful computer but for most users, most computers made in the last 5 years should handle this without issue.
Scrolling down on a Local Computer I can see everything I had open the last week.
At the bottom of the week it tells you, you can have up to a month long timeline if you are signed in with a Microsoft Account.
The next setting is related to Cortana and Speech Recognition. If you want to interact with her using speech recognition, you'll need to Enable Use Online Speech Recognition. At present most people I know, including myself don't use any of these technologies. That said, speech recognition software, dictation and narration are still in the very early days and we'll likely see huge future innovations in this area in the future. Although here in Scotland we will see the innovations maybe about 20 years after that… as people and computers usually struggle a wee bit more with our accents. There is a great public paranoia that this setting gives Microsoft the ability to everything they are saying so you can disable this option, particularly if you aren't going to interact with your computer using speech recognition.
For this option, once again you cannot click Accept until you have specified your setting:
The next setting is "Location". This is another setting that people have traditionally been extremely paranoid about in the past, "Microsoft will know everywhere I've been". However the usefulness of this setting has outgrown the paranoia, my generation would be forever lost without constantly using maps to find our way about. For most of us as long, as we find our way, we don't care if Microsoft knows where we are. Location is important especially for Maps but also for Weather.
Find my device, this is another setting that uses "Location". It requires a Microsoft Account and may help you find your device if you leave it somewhere or if it gets stolen by a "Device Thief"…
At present it requires the Operating System and for the Device to be on and connected to the Internet… so technically "Device Thieves" could follow this Installation Guide and wipe and reinstall the OS… If one has Windows 10 Pro installed and has this setting enabled alongside Bitlocker it makes it slightly more difficult for the "Device Thief" to reinstall the OS – Windows 10 will detect the encryption on your drive and connect to the internet and ask for a password given when one signs in with a Microsoft Account. Of course a more through method is done via the UEFI BIOS using the likes of Computrace and also setting a UEFI BIOS password. Probably in the future when high speed mobile internet becomes a permanent feature inbuilt into all devices this will be even more useful.
The next option is the sending of diagnostic data to Microsoft. You can send them basic data or full data. Full data may help them resolve more complicated issues.
The next option is for sending inking and typing. This is to improve language recognition and optical character recognition for each language… There once again is the paranoia that Microsoft are keylogging everything being typed, so this option can also be turned off if desired:
The next option is tailored experiences with diagnostic data. With this option enabled Microsoft should offer you tips in the notification tray that may be more related to the diagnostics of your device e.g. perhaps there is an issue with a specific SSD that is resolved by updating it's firmware, if you have that SSD you may be redirected to the OEMs page to update the firmware. Again you can select Yes or No here as desired:
The last setting is for Advertising… so far the only places there are advertising are suggestions for Apps on the Start Screen (this can be disabled post installation), advertising in Skype, advertising in the browser Microsoft Edge and advertising within free games bought from the store. You can enable your advertising ID if you want the ads to be more relevant. In general most people that do not game or use another browser such as Google Chrome (most Windows users) will be unaffected by this setting except perhaps when they use Skype. Microsoft have in the past tried to mimic the success of other software companies like Google and made several mistakes in doing so – Windows Phone (discontinued), Windows 8 (Poorly Received), Windows 10 S (discontinued), Bing Search Engine (poor and hence of extremely low market share). Select your option and then select Accept.
The Windows Setup: Part 7 End of Install
Now it is just a case of waiting for the Windows setup to complete. If your system is already a Windows 10 Edition Device and you have installed the matching Edition of Windows 10 at this stage the system should contact the Microsoft Product Activation server and reactivate in the background:
For computers that are over a few years year old, Microsoft likely has all the drivers inbuilt to Windows 10 or will obtain them via Windows Update. It is a good idea to leave your computer idle for 0-15 minutes immediately after installation to give Windows time to download the required drivers from Windows Update. This will be discussed in more detail below.
It is worth leaving your system idle for 10-15 minutes to let Windows Update, there is usually a relatively large cumulative update to install. You can also right click the start button and select Settings:
Then go to Update & Security:
Select Check for Updates:
Updates show display and begin to install:
If you get this error message restart your PC:
Right click your start button and select Shut Down or Sign Out then restart:
You can check for updates again:
Continue this until Windows is Up to Date:
Windows 10 will have basic functionality without any installation of additional drivers giving it basic internet connectivity. Moreover it automatically obtains a multitude of drivers from Windows Update.
OEM Driver Update Utility
The major OEMs such as Dell, HP and Lenovo have created driver update utilities which will scan the system and compare the driver version Windows 10 has inbuilt or installed from Windows Update to the latest version the OEM has on their servers. These tools should be installed and ran. More details here:
- Using Dell Update to Check for and Update Windows 10 System Drivers
- Using Lenovo System Update to Check for and Update Windows 10 System Drivers
- HP Support Assistant
It is also recommended to launch the Intel Driver & Support Assistant as most Dell, Lenovo and HP systems prebundled Intel hardware and prebundled Intel Drivers. As a result Intel may have a driver released to address an issue before your OEM does.
For older systems, Windows 10 will have most system drivers inbuilt or obtain them from Windows Update automatically, you can launch the OEM driver update utility but it may not find anything if Windows 10 has already obtained drivers for your hardware.
When Windows 10 is installed on older Dell/HP/Lenovo systems that were designed for Windows 7, a generic Touchpad Driver is installed. In many cases, this driver is severely lacking and the driver released by the Touchpad vendor was for an older version of Windows such as Windows 7. Many of these Touchpad drivers don't install correctly on Windows 10. As Touchpads haven't changed that much over time, the solution is often to install a Touchpad driver available for a newer model of Touchpad. As this Touchpad driver isn't designed for your hardware, it needs to be force installed via the Device Manager. See my popular guide Dell Touchpad Drivers for more details.
With newer (>2016 Hardware) there is a future push for Microsoft to natively support new Touchpads, so called “Precision Touchpads” which should alleviate any OEM driver issues.
If you have a Device where Windows couldn't find a driver automatically you can examine it in more detail via the Device Manager for more details see my guide Checking Hardware IDs using the Device Manager.
See my guide Installing Office 365 (2019)
Windows 10 by default has Windows Defender giving base system security. If you want to install another security product then I recommend Malwarebytes' AntiMalware. There is a free version which only does an on demand scan or a paid version which does Realtime Protection. Below is an affiliate link:
Settings to Enable in Windows 10
Microsoft have created a Windows 10 Clipboard which allows you to Copy and Paste multiple items.
Press [Windows] and [ v ] to open the Windows Clipboard. This will allow you to paste not only the last text you have copied but all text before hand. The first time you will launch this, you will need to turn it on.
Microsoft also have an emoji panel.
Press [Windows] and [ . ]
Checking Product Activation
Windows 10 Activation usually works pretty well and in the vast majority of cases you'll already be activated. You'll need to be online to check if your Product is Activated. To check go to Start and select Settings:
If the bottom of Settings isn't watermarked it is activated. If it is watermarked, the watermark will be a link to Activate Windows 10:
On a custom built PC with no Product Key input during installation and no previous activations of Windows 10 Pro. I get the watermark when the PC is online:
I will see in the next screen that Windows 10 is not activated. The Product Key Microsoft show here is a generic Product Key:
You can then Change Product Key or Buy a New one from the Microsoft Store. Note it is normally quite pricey to buy the Key Directly from the Microsoft Store… In the UK it was much cheaper to buy the key online from PC World and likely in the USA a similar store such as Best Buy. I would avoid Amazon or eBay for Windows Keys as they are usually non-genuine. I'm going to input the key and select Next:
As you see Windows 10 is now Activated:
Customising the Taskbar and Start Menu
Even on a "Windows 10 Pro" Install, a default Windows 10 looks like an advertisement centre and has often unwanted Apps such as Bubble With 3 Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga,Disney Magic Kingdom, March of Empires: War of Lords, Microsoft Solitaire (which can all safely be uninstalled). Cortana occupies ~1/3 of the Taskbar and Apps such as the Store and Mail are pinned to the Taskbar. You should customise it so it is to your own liking:
For more details see Customising Windows 10.
Power Options and Windows Update
If you want your computer to run uninterrupted you'll need to change both the Power Settings and Windows Update. To get to Power Options, right click the start button and select Power Options:
Change the Screen and Sleep settings:
For a Desktop computer, that I use all the time I normally have both these set to Never:
Now go to Home:
Then select Update & Security:
Here you will have the option to Change Active Hours, Windows will not interrupt you or automatically restart your computer within these active hours. Unfortunately Microsoft made these settings only applicable for a maximum time of 18 hours:
Set your upper and lower time:
Select Advanced Options:
Some of these settings will not be available in the Home Single Language and Home Editions of Windows 10. Enable Give me Updated for Other Microsoft Products when I Update Windows and Enable Additional Reminders about Restarting:
If you really don't want your computer to restart, select the option to Pause the Updates (for approximately a month):
You can later disable this setting and search for Updates at a time of your convenience:
Microsoft .Net Framework (Optional)
Most people won't need to do this.
Some older programs require the Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5 (includes 2.0 and 3.0) to be Enabled (unfortunately it is not Enabled by default).
The easiest way is to Enable this using Windows Powershell. Select Windows Explorer:
Check the drive letter of your Bootable USB, in my case it is Drive D:
Open up Notepad and copy the following:
If your Bootable USB is not D: then change D: to the drive letter of your Bootable USB.
Copy the line from notepad:
Right click the Start Button and select Windows Powershell (Admin):
Accept the User Account Control:
Windows Powershell (Admin) will now open:
Right click and the line you copied will be pasted. Press [Enter]
Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5 (includes .Net 2.0 and 3.0) will be enabled:
Once done type exit and press [Enter]. This will close Windows Powershell (admin):