This guide was for Windows 10 Version 1507 (the initial Release) which reached End of Support in May 2017 and is superseded by newer versions. For more details on the latest version see Windows OEM FAQs and Downloads.
- Notes on the Free Upgrade from Windows 7/8.1/10130 to Windows 10
- Determine your Windows 10 Edition when your Windows 7/8.1/10130/10 can Boot
- Downloading the Windows 10 .iso
- English File Sizes
- Create a Bootable USB Flash Drive
- The Initial Upgrade
- Microsoft Product Activation Check
- Windows 10 Clean Reinstallation
- Determine your Windows 10 Edition when your Windows 10 cannot Boot
Notes on the Free Upgrade from Windows 7/8.1 to Windows 10
There are some subtleties regarding Windows 10 especially with product activation. Failure to address these subtleties can result in an unactivated Windows 10 installation and a lost Windows base OS. I will warn about these in the guide but I clarify some definitions first.
Windows Version and Edition
To reduce some of the licensing confusion end users are experiencing. I have made this Windows Uservoice idea please click and add (3) votes to it:
If end users can quickly identify how a system with a new HDD/SSD is licensed it will prevent a lot of installation hassles.
Windows Versions are Windows Product Families. e.g. Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. The Windows 10 Product Family for example is the latest Version of Windows that has 5 main Editions; Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Home N, Windows 10 Home Single Language, Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Pro N. Microsoft previously created great confusion in this nomenclature – Windows 8.1 was a Version of Windows and also an Edition of the Windows 8.1 Product Family. It should have been called Windows 8.1 Home for this reason I will use brackets and call it Windows 8.1 (Home).
Windows 10 Installs and Upgrades are Edition specific and the use of the incorrect Edition will result in difficulties with Microsoft Product Activation.
The Free Upgrade offer means the countdown initial promotional period where you can take the Free Upgrade to Windows 10, it is not a Windows 10 trial expiration date. Once you have made your system a Windows 10 Device you will have mainstream support until October the 13th 2020 and Extended Support until October the 14th 2025.
If you are confused about Windows 10 Editions and Versions and are looking to get the free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 you may wish to follow this guide instead:
Your Desktop, Tablet, Laptop or hybrid PC is a device. The device incorporates a motherboard and additional components such as CPU, RAM, Graphics Card and Hard Drive. Although all these additional components and others (e.g. wireless card) can be changed it is still regarded as the same device. The change of a motherboard turns your PC into a new Device. Windows 10 product Activation is Device Based.
Windows 10 Device – A Device that has Windows 10 previously installed and activated. Any Device Upgraded from a Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10130 Version to Windows 10 Version with the correct corresponding edition will automatically activate online and its hardware profile will be submitted and registered with a Microsoft Product Activation server. The Device will now forever be classified as a Windows 10 Device. There are thus 5 different types of Windows 10 Devices corresponding to the Edition.
- Windows 10 Home Device – A Device which had Windows 10 Home previously installed and activated.
- Windows 10 Home N Device – A Device which had Windows 10 Home N previously installed and activated.
- Windows 10 Home Single Language Device – A Device which had Windows 10 Home Single Language previously installed and activated.
- Windows 10 Pro Device – A Device which had Windows 10 Pro previously installed and activated.
- Windows 10 Pro N Device – A Device which had Windows 10 Pro N previously installed and activated.
Technically you can buy multiple Windows licenses for the same Device. One Device for example may be classified as both a Windows 10 Home Device and a Windows 10 Pro Device.
The Initial Clean Installation of Windows 10 on a new device (with without a new hard drive/Solid state drive) which hasn’t previously had Windows 10 installed and fully activated. This install is initiated via the BIOS/UEFI BIOS and not the Windows Desktop.
An initial direct Clean Install on a system which has Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 installed will remove the old Windows version and will prompt for a product key which you will need to purchase from Microsoft. If you skip the input of the product key you will lose both your original base Windows OS installation and have an unactivated Windows 10. This is the main flaw of Windows 10.
To get a Free Upgrade from Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10130 you have to initially perform an Upgrade Install. To get a Clean system you have to perform the Upgrade Install and then the Clean Reinstall.
The Upgrade from one Windows Version to Windows 10 via the Windows Desktop and not via BIOS/UEFI BIOS. Eligible Windows Versions for the Free Upgrade are Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and the Windows Insider (10130) and are Edition specific see above.The correct Edition of Windows 10 has to be used otherwise the Windows 10 Installation will not Activate.
Upgrade Installs reserve files and programs that were installed on the old Windows version but generally always have severely reduced system performance.
The Clean Reinstallation of Windows 10 on a Windows 10 Device. This install is initiated via the BIOS/UEFI BIOS and not the Windows Desktop. As mentioned before Windows 10 activation is Device based (and you may upgrade components of the device). Unfortunately you will be prompted for the product key twice. Skip it twice and Windows 10 will automatically reactivate providing the correct Edition of Windows 10 was selected. In the background it essentially resubmits your hardware profile to the Microsoft Product Activation server and if the Microsoft Product Activation Server finds a matching hardware profile it will automatically reactivate your device.
The Clean Reinstall will give you Windows 10 only and you may need to download and install system drivers. If done correctly this will give you optimal system performance.
Don’t Have Windows 7/Windows 8.1 – Buy Windows 10
If your hardware is Windows 10 capable you can buy Windows 10. One of the cheapest places to buy a Full license is Amazon available as a Bootable USB:
- Windows 10 Full Amazon UK (~£85 Home/£150 Pro)
- Windows 10 Full Amazon US (~$120 Home/$200 Pro)
At this point you should access the relative worth of your systems hardware particular if your hard drive has failed. You might be able to buy a second hand system with a Windows 7 OEM license for a similar price and have better hardware to take the “Free” Upgrade to Windows 10. You may also try the Unofficial Upgrade path via the Expired 10130 Insider Preview with a few additional workarounds.
Determining your Edition from System when Windows 7/8.1/10 Can Boot
Before opting to Download a Windows 10 .iso and make Windows 10 Installation Media you will need to determine your Windows Edition.
Right click the start button and select system (in Windows 7, left click start and then right click computer and select properties):
Check your Windows 10 Edition, Architecture and Ensure your Windows 7/8.1/10130 is Activated.
See the table in Notes on the Free Upgrade from Windows 7/8.1/10130 to Windows 10 and note the Edition of Windows 10 you need to Download.
In Windows 8.1 the Single Language Edition was paradoxically not tied to a Single Language and you could install Windows 8.1 using the “Single Language” .iso of your choice. You just couldn’t use Language packs after installation. Windows 10 should be the same but I don’t have a Single Language license to test with, if you have tested this leave a comment.
Some people have been asking about Language, in particular how to distinguish Windows 7/8.1/10 English UK Single Language from Windows 7/8.1/10 English US Single Language. The easiest way to distinguish if you are using proper English is to right click a blank area on the Desktop. If the context menu has personalise spelt correctly with a “s” you are fortunate enough to have English UK installed. On the other hand if it says personalize and is spelt incorrectly with a “z” you have the misfortune of having English US installed.
Downloading Windows 10 .iso
The Windows 10 Media Creation Tool is Available here:
This tool is now updated to give the TH2 Media Creation Tool. The old direct links fot the TH1 Media Creation Tool are here should someone what it. I can't think of any reason why anyone would want to install TH1 now though.
64 Bit TH1 Media Creation Tool Direct Link:
32 Bit TH1 Media Creation Tool Direct Link:
Select the Tool which matches the architecture of your installed Windows Edition. Save the Tool and Launch it from Downloads:
Launch the tool and accept the user account control.
Select Create Installation Media for Another PC:
You will now be presented with the options to select your Language, Edition and Architecture. Choose these in accordance to your Edition in System:
When ready select Next.
Although the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool can create a FAT32 Bootable USB Flash Drive directly I prefer to download the .iso file and save it to an external hard drive. This way it is easy to remake a bootable USB should something go wrong when attempting to create the first one for instance files not copying across completely:
Select your location for the download e.g. Downloads. Name your .iso accordingly and select Save:
It will take a while to download:
When done select Finish:
English File Sizes
The English 64 Bit UK .isos I downloaded were the following size:
- Windows 10 Home x64 3,269,248 KB
- Windows 10 Home Single Language x64 3.266,624 KB
- Windows 10 Home N x64 3,118,016 KB
- Windows 10 Pro x64 3,274,752 KB
- Windows 10 Pro N x64 3,274,752 KB
The English 32 Bit UK .isos I downloaded were the following size:
- Windows 10 Home x86 2,562,816 KB
- Windows 10 Home Single Language x86 2,560,192 KB
- Windows 10 Home N x86 2,424,960 KB
- Windows 10 Pro x86 2,566,208 KB
- Windows 10 Pro N x86 2,427,392 KB
The English 64 Bit US .isos I downloaded were the following size:
- Windows 10 Home x64 3,269,120 KB
- Windows 10 Home Single Language x64 3,270,400 KB
- Windows 10 Home N x64 3,103,616 KB
- Windows 10 Pro x64 3,274,752 KB
- Windows 10 Pro N x64 3,274,752 KB
The English 32 Bit US .isos I downloaded were the following size:
- Windows 10 Home x86 2,612,992 KB
- Windows 10 Home Single Language x86 2,611,840 KB
- Windows 10 Home N x86 2,480,192 KB
- Windows 10 Pro x86 2,611,008 KB
- Windows 10 Pro N x86 2,275,520 KB
As you can see the size appears to be different for Languages and Editions.
Creating a Bootable USB Flash Drive:
You may use Rufus to create a bootable USB:
Rufus does not need to be installed and can be run directly by double clicking on the application.
Select your 8 GB or superior USB flash drive:
Select the .iso:
There are two types of bootable USB you can make with Rufus The “GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer” or the “MBR Partition Scheme for BIOS or UEFI Computers”. If you are unsure what one to select see the information in Updating your BIOS and Determining if you have UEFI and SecureBoot. Its recommended to have the latest BIOS update before Windows 10 installation anyway.
Globally Unique Identifier Partition Table (GPT) Partition Scheme for UEFI Computer
Use with Dell hardware and Windows 10 64 Bit with a UEFI BIOS later than 2012. Enable UEFI and SecureBoot.
Requires systems that have a Unified Extensive Firmware Interface (UEFI) Basic Input Output (BIOS) and also 64 Bit Windows. These requirements are in general standard across hardware post 2012 i.e. hardware Dell shipped with Windows 8 or later.
This is a new partition scheme which is more reliable than the MBR partition scheme. In GPT multiple copies of partitioning and boot data are stored on the hard drive and checks they are consistent.
This partition scheme has the advantage in the fact that it can support >2 TB drives and can create up to 128 Partitions.
This will support newer security technologies such in the UEFI BIOS such as SecureBoot and these should be enabled.
2010-2011 hardware may or may not have a UEFI BIOS and you will need to check and enable the settings in the UEFI BIOS setup if applicable. These settings will also need to applied correctly for systems that have previously been running Windows 7 (e.g. downgrade rights).
Master Boot Record Partition Scheme for BIOS or UEFI Computer
Use with Dell hardware and Windows 8.1 with a Legacy BIOS earlier than 2010.
This can be used for an older system pre-2012 with a legacy Basic Input Output System (BIOS) so is required for pre-2012 hardware and for Windows 8.1 32 Bit.
Limited to 2 TB of space and to 4 partitions.
This partition scheme is less reliable as the partitioning and boot data is stored in one location meaning if its corrupt then the data is lost.
If you do not select the USB Device, then load the .iso and then select the Partition Scheme and File System in order, Rufus may revert some of the settings to defaults which may be incorrect.
Select the “GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer” or the “MBR Partition Scheme for BIOS or UEFI Computers” respectively depending if your hardware is post 2012 or pre 2012.
Select the FAT32 file system. SecureBoot requires the bootable USB to be formatted as FAT32 otherwise it won’t boot.
Select OK to format the USB flash drive:
Rufus will now create the Bootable USB:
When its ready it’ll say “Done” to the bottom left. You may now close Rufus and have a bootable USB for installation.
You can use this Bootable USB now to either perform the Initial upgrade Install or to perform the Clean Reinstallation:
The Initial Upgrade
If you want to perform the initial upgrade from your Windows 10 Bootable USB
- Windows 10130, Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 is activated
- The Initial Upgrade is initiated via the Windows Desktop and not a Clean Install via BIOS
Insert the Bootable USB and tap to choose what happens with it:
Select run setup.exe (you can also launch setup.exe from Windows explorer from the USB flash drive):
Select the user account control:
The Windows setup will load and prepare:
You will then be given the option to get important updates, select next:
For best results at this stage select next, do not opt to change what to keep otherwise the Microsoft Product Activation may not work:
Windows 10240 will then restart and begin the upgrade during which it will restart another three times:
You will be prompted to login:
Check your Product Activation
Right click the start button and select System:
Windows should be activated.
For this new activation your hardware profile was submitted to a Microsoft Product Activation server and because the base windows 10130 was genuine the activation server assigns a Windows 10 license to your hardware.
The activation server forever remembers your hardware and will automatically reapply product activation during Clean Reinstallation:
If performing a Clean Reinstalling from the .iso on a Device that has already been designated as a Windows 10 Device simply skip the entry of the product key in both instances and your Devices hardware profile will be resubmitted to the Microsoft Product Activation Server which find a match and automatically reactivate your Windows 10 Device…
For Full Instructions see Windows 10 Clean Reinstallation from Windows 10 Installation Media.
Determining your Windows 10 Edition when your System Can’t Boot (Incomplete)
This is section gets a bit complex. I will mention only the OEM licenses as the retail ones are easier to identify.
Windows 10 OEM License
Windows 10 systems don’t appear to have any stickers or markers to identify whether they are Windows 10 Devices or not.
Windows 8.1 OEM License
If your system came with Windows 8.1 see here. This guide gives you some pointers on how to determine your Windows 8.1 Edition and hence the correct Windows 10 Edition to use if your device has previously became a Windows 10 Device. Alternatively it will instruct on Downloading a Windows 8.1 .iso that you can Clean Reinstall with and then subsequently use for the Initial Upgrade to Windows 10 if your Device has not already became a Windows 10 Device.
For a lost Windows 8.1 with Bing or Windows 8.1 with Bing Single Language Edition that hasn’t initially became a Windows 10 device you need to contact your OEM for Recovery Media or use theWindows 10130 .iso to get the free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
Windows 7 OEM License
If your system came with Windows 7 see here. This guide gives you some pointers on how to determine your Windows 7 Edition and hence the correct Windows 10 Edition to use if your device has previously became a Windows 10 Device.
For a lost Windows 7 OEM license that hasn’t initially became a Windows 10 device you need to contact your OEM for Recovery Media which may be difficult if the system is out of warranty (like most will be) or use the Windows 10130 .iso to get the free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.