How to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7

If you're still on Windows 7, you can upgrade to Windows 10, and here are the instructions to complete the task, keeping your files and apps without issues.

Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade process
Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade process
  • To upgrade Windows 7 to 10, download the “Media Creation Tool” and launch the setup, choose “Upgrade this PC now” to upgrade to Windows 10, select the “Keep personal files and apps” option, and click “Install.”
  • You should also create a full backup before proceeding as part of the process.

UPDATED 6/6/2024: Using the in-place upgrade option, you can upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10 without losing your files and erasing everything on the hard drive. You can quickly perform this task with the Microsoft Media Creation Tool, available for Windows 7 and 8.1.

However, before proceeding with these instructions, you must confirm the hardware is compatible, purchase a Windows 10 license, and create a backup to roll back if something goes wrong. In addition, as a prerequisite, the “Windows 7 Service Pack 1” has to be already installed on the device.

Although it’s not a requirement, it’s a good idea to uninstall any security software (such as antivirus, security tools, and old third-party programs) that may conflict with the upgrade to Windows 10. Furthermore, it’s recommended to disconnect any hardware connected to the computer to avoid compatibility problems, including printers, phones, cameras, external hard drives, and other USB peripherals.

In this guide, I will teach you how to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7, ensuring you do not encounter issues during the installation. You can also upgrade using a clean installation of the operating system.

Upgrade requirements

If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7, the computer must meet the minimum system requirements:

  • Processor: 1GHz or faster CPU or System on a Chip (SoC).
  • RAM: 1GB requirement for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit.
  • Hard drive: 32GB clean install or new PC (16 GB for 32-bit or 20 GB for 64-bit existing installation).
  • Graphics: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver.
  • Display resolution: 800×600 minimum requirement.
  • Networking: Wi-Fi or Ethernet adapter.

You will also need to have the latest version of the operating system, in this case, “Windows 7 Service Pack 1.” If you do not have this update installed, download it here. Once you download the package, you only have to double-click the file to begin the installation.

You can confirm the version of Windows by opening the Run command using the “Windows key + R” keyboard shortcut, typing “winver,” and clicking the “OK” button.

Microsoft has closed the loophole to activate Windows 10 with a Windows 7 product key. As a result, you will have to provide a Windows 10 product key to activate the new installation. In addition, the company no longer provides licenses for Windows 10. If you need an activation key, you may be able to buy them from a third-party website like Amazon, or you could also try using a Windows 11 key.

Windows 7 support officially ended on January 14, 2020. The January 10, 2023 date marks the end of the Extended Security Updates (ESU) available through specific volume licensing programs for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Professional for Embedded Systems editions of this product. If you plan to upgrade to Windows 10, remember that this version will have support until October 14, 2025.

You should consider upgrading to Windows 11 if the hardware supports it. However, Microsoft has plans to offer a paid subscription to extend the security updates (only) for up to three years after the official support of Windows 10 ends. 

Create backup before upgrade

Although the upgrade process to Windows 10 is usually safe, there are always chances of problems, and to avoid any issues, you should make sure to have a full backup, which you can use to roll back if anything unexpected happens.

To create a full backup on Windows 7, connect an external hard drive and use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Click on System and Security.

  3. Click on Backup and Restore.

    Backup and Restore on Windows 7

  4. Click the “Create a system image” option from the left pane.

    Create system image option on Windows 7

  5. Select the “On a hard disk” option.

    Backup destination on Windows 7

  6. Click the Next button.

  7. Click the Start backup button.

    Start full backup of Windows 7

  8. Click the No button to confirm you do not want to create a system repair disc. (You can also use the Windows 10 or 7 bootable media.)

  9. Click the Close button.

Once you complete the steps, the backup files will be saved on the external storage, which you can use if something goes wrong during the upgrade.

In addition to the system backup, you also want to create a backup of your files and web browser settings (favorites, passwords, and personal settings) to OneDrive or another cloud service or external drive if you need to restore them manually if the unexpected happens. You can use my previous guide with the complete process to create a backup and restore Windows 7 and files.

Upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10

To upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Download Media Creation Tool.

    Quick tip: If you have an older version of Internet Explorer, you probably won’t be able to access the Microsoft download website. Use another web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox if this is your case.
  2. Click the Download now button and save the installer on the computer.

  3. Double-click the MediaCreationTooxxxx.exe file to launch the Windows 10 setup wizard.

  4. Click the Accept button for the licensing agreement.

  5. Select the “Upgrade this PC now” option to download the files and begin the upgrade to Windows 10.

    Media Creation Tool upgrade Windows 7 to WIndows 10 option

  6. Click the Next button.

  7. Type a valid Windows 10 product key for the edition you are trying to upgrade. (The Windows 7 product key won’t work.)

  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Click the Accept button to agree to the licensing agreement again.

  10. Select the “Keep personal files and apps” option.

  11. Click the Install button to upgrade to Windows 10 from 7.

    Keep files during Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade option

After the installation, you must go through the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to finish setting up Windows 10. You can also watch my YouTube video tutorial to perform the upgrade:

Once on the desktop, you want to use “Device Manager” to check that every piece of hardware is installed correctly on your system, and then reinstall your preferred antivirus (if applicable) and any other software you uninstall before the upgrade.

Update June 6, 2024: This guide has been updated to ensure accuracy and reflect changes to the process.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 15 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 21 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].