How to Get Windows 10
If you really can’t wait, are a system builder, a Mac user wanting to install Windows using Boot Camp, or you don’t have a legal copy of Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, you can purchase a Windows 10 USB installer via the online Microsoft Store for $119.99 for the Home Edition and $199.99 for Pro (which will be of interest mostly to corporate users).
Reserve Your Copy
If you’re eligible to receive the upgrade, you’ll see a small new-style Windows logo in the notification area (formerly known as the System Tray) on the right side of your taskbar. To get started, simply click on this.
After you do that, you’ll see a dialog promoting all the glories of Windows 10, with info about the upgrade process.
You can use this dialog to check whether your PC is capable of running Windows 10, but it’s unlikely that you’d get the update icon if your PC couldn’t handle it, and the system requirements for Windows 10 are not seriously demanding.
As you might expect, at this point, you tap the “Reserve your free upgrade” link. After this, the window will say “Great, your update is reserved!”
As you can see, you can elect to have a confirmation email sent to you, but you’ll still get the update if you don’t. There’s one slightly misleading item on this screen, though: It says that the new OS code will be downloaded to your machine on July 29, but Microsoft has stated that it could take several weeks before the upgrader reaches everyone who’s reserved a copy. On the other hand, some Windows Insider testers reported seeing the update code on their systems before today. When your copy is ready to install, you’ll see a system notification (you can also right-click on the Windows icon in the taskbar to check on its status).
Install the Operating System
When Windows 10 is ready for your PC, you’ll see this window:
But before you click on “OK, let’s continue,” what do you do whenever you update an operating system? That’s right, you back up your files. Remember, a new operating system is a non-trivial upgrade, and even though Windows 10 has been tested on millions of PCs already, there’s a chance that your particular combination of hardware, drivers, and software could trip up the new OS.
With that done, simply run the setup. You’ll see this message box telling you that the setup is preparing itself:
The setup program downloads updates and restarts itself. Next you OK the license terms, and finally it’s ready to start the actual upgrade:
In a very welcome change from Windows 8.x, the Windows 10 upgrader keeps your installed software in place, and unless it’s very old, for example it uses 16-bit code, the software should run. If you have problems, you can right-click on the program file and choose “Troubleshoot compatibility.” If you want a fresh start and don’t want to keep programs or data files, you can make that choice in this screen during the setup process:
Here’s what you’ll see during the first part of the installation:
I say the first part, because once that part’s done (it took about 12 minutes on my desktop PC with a 120GB Intel SSD), there’s a second set-up phase during which you’ll see a circular percent countdown.
The Other Way
If you have an upgradeable copy of Windows along with the product serial key, you can bypass the standard process. This method also works for people who want to create fresh installations rather than upgrading their existing Windows PC, and it offers the option of creating bootable USB stick or DVD. Here’s what you do: Head to Microsoft’s Windows Download page, and select the 32-bit or 64-bit download tool, depending on your system needs. This is the way to switch from 32-bit to 64-bit, if that’s your wish.
Whichever process you use, you’ll be ready to take advantage of the Cortana voice-activated assistant, faster startup, Action Center, the Start menu with live tiles, the new Edge Web browser, modern apps, and much more. The entire process took about 40 minutes on my software-stocked PC, but yours may take as little as 20 minutes or as much as an hour, depending on your configuration.
What if you make the upgrade and you don’t like what you see? Microsoft has another surprise that breaks remarkably from the past: You have a month to go back to your previous operating system version.
But we really doubt you’ll want to make that choice. For the full rundown of what’s new in Microsoft’s latest desktop operating system, read PCMag’s in-depth review of Windows 10.