How to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows XP/Vista

Microsoft doesn’t offer a direct upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 10 or from Windows Vista, but it’s possible to install the new operating system on an older machine, and in this guide we’ll go through all the steps.

Upgrading Windows XP or Vista to Windows 10

Windows 10 is now out in the wild and millions of people are already taking advantage of all the new features. Part of the success is because Microsoft is rolling out its next iteration of the operating system as a free upgrade for computers running a genuine copy of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 for the first year.

However, computers running Windows XP or Windows Vista don’t qualify for the free upgrade. Furthermore, the software maker isn’t even providing a direct upgrade path, meaning that the only way for Windows Vista users and for all those still in Windows XP, a clean installation is their only choice.

Upgrade without losing your apps and files

Alternatively, users wanting to migrate their files, apps, and settings, could purchase a copy of Windows 7, upgrade their current installation, and then upgrade to Windows 10, as the new iteration of the operating system is free for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs. However, a clean install of the operating system will not only save you time, but also will help users to start with a nice and fresh installation.

System requirements to upgrade to Windows 10

Before going through the upgrade process, you’ll need to make sure your system is compatible with Windows 10. Here’s the list with the minimum hardware requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Graphics Card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 1024×600

Buy a new Windows 10 license

If your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements, you’ll need to purchase a copy of the new operating system. Windows 10 Home costs $119.99 and if you need the additional features, such as the ability to join your computer to a corporate network, use remote desktop, or use Hyper-V, you’ll need to purchase a license of Windows 10 Pro for $199.99. You can purchase Windows 10 at the Microsoft Store, Amazon, and at other retailers.

There is not a direct upgrade path for Windows Vista or the much older Windows XP to Windows 10, as such you’ll be doing a clean install of the operating system, which will wipe your computer clean, deleting your files, apps, and settings – basically, you’ll be starting from scratch again.

Creating a full backup

Now, before moving forward with the upgrade, you want to make a backup of your files to an external drive and make sure you have the installation files for any software you need to reinstall after the upgrade. Also, make note of any licensing information for the software you have currently installed, username and password for any website or software.

You could also try to make a full backup of your system, but neither Windows XP or Windows Vista have a “reliable” backup tool. However, you could try a third-party software, such as Acronis. It cost a little bit of money, but if anything goes wrong, having a backup will ensure, you can go back.

How to upgrade Windows XP (or Vista) to Windows 10

Once everything is in place, you can proceed with the clean installation of Windows 10.

  1. Download the Media Creator Tool to create a Windows 10 installation media: 32-bit or 64-bit version.

  2. Launch the Media Create Tool, connect a USB drive with at least 6 GB of storage space or insert a blank DVD media.

  3. 3 You can’t upgrade, as such select Create installation media for another PC and click Next.

    Create an installation media for Windows 10

  4. Select the language, architecture, and edition of Windows 10, you have purchase, and click Next.

    Choosing language, architecture, and edition of Windows 10

  5. Pick to create a USB flash drive or ISO file that you can later burn into a DVD. If your computer supports boot from USB flash drive, select this option and complete the process. If your computer doesn’t support boot from USB, create an ISO file and then use a third-party software, such as ImgBurn to burn to make a Windows 10 DVD installation media.

    If you want to avoid downloading and creating your own installation media, remember that Microsoft is also selling its operating system on a USB flash drive: Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro.

    Before moving to the next step, reboot your computer access the system BIOS, and change the boot order to boot from USB or DVD, depending on the media you have created. There are various ways to access the system BIOS, as such make sure to check your manufacturers support website for more information on this topic.

  6. Next, connect the installation media to your computer and reboot.

  7. The Windows 10 Setup wizard will appear, click Next, then Install Now, accept the licensing agreement and click Next. (Enter the Windows 10 product key when prompted.)

  8. The upgrade option won’t be available for either Windows XP or Windows Vista. Pick Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

    Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)

  9. Delete any available partition, until you only see one drive will the total amount of unallocated space, select it and click Next to begin the installation process.

    Windows setup deleting partition

Sit and relax, the installation process could take anywhere from 15-40 minutes. After the installation is complete, you’ll be presented with the out-of-box experience to configure Windows 10 to your needs.

Once Windows 10 is completely installed, you’ll be presented with the new desktop and all the new features. At this time, it’s a good idea to go to Windows Update using the Settings app to check for new updates. Also go to Device Manager to check your computer hardware is working correctly and you don’t need to reinstall any driver.

Finally, install the applications you were using on your previous version of Windows.

Did you upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows XP or Vista? Did you run into any issues? Let us know your experience in the comments below.

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