Making The Jump

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

You can upgrade a device running Windows 7 to Windows 10 without losing your files and erasing everything on the hard drive using the in-place upgrade option. You can quickly perform this task with the Microsoft Media Creation Tool, which is available for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

However, before proceeding, you have to make sure to confirm the hardware compatibility, purchase a license of Windows 10 (as necessary), and create a full backup in case you need to rollback. In addition, you want to make sure that the “Windows 7 Service Pack 1” is installed on the computer.

It is also recommended to uninstall any software (such as antivirus, security tool, and old third-party programs) that may prevent the successful upgrade to Windows 10. It would help if you disconnected any hardware connected to the device, including printers, phones, cameras, external hard drives, and other USB peripherals, to help avoid problems.

In this guide, you will learn how to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7, ensuring you do not run into issues during the installation. (If you prefer to upgrade performing a clean installation, then follow these step-by-step instructions.)

Windows 10 system requirements

To upgrade to Windows 10, the computer must meet the minimum system requirements:

Windows 10 2004 hardware requirements
Processor1GHz or faster CPU or System on a Chip (SoC)
1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit
Hard drive space
Existing installations: 16GB for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit
Clean install or new PC: 32GB or larger
GraphicsDirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
Display resolution800×600
NetworkingWi-Fi or Ethernet adapter

You will also need to be running the latest version of your current operating system, in this case, “Windows 7 Service Pack 1.” If you do not have this update already installed, you can download it here.

Quick tip: You can check which version of Windows opening the Run command using the Windows key + R keyboard shortcut, typing winver, and click the OK button.

To upgrade your Windows 7 device, you need a valid Windows 10 product key. You may be able to use the existing Windows 7 product key, but it may or may not work. If you try and see the “This product key didn’t work. Please check it and try again, or try a different key” message, you will need to purchase a new license.

Create a full backup of Windows 7

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 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
    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
    Create system image option on Windows 7
  5. Select the On a hard disk option.

    Backup destination on Windows 7
    Backup destination on Windows 7
  6. Click the Next button.

  7. Click the Start backup button.

    Start full backup of Windows 7
    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 Windows 7 bootable media.)

  9. Click the Close button.

Once you complete the steps, a full backup will be created in the external storage, which you can then 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 in case you need to restore them manually if the unexpected happens. If you need assistance, use this guide with the complete process to backup and restore Windows 7 and files.

Upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10

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

  1. Download the Media Creation Tool from Microsoft.

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

  3. Double-click the MediaCreationTooxxxx.exe 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.

    Media Creation Tool upgrade Windows 7 to WIndows 10 option
    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 (if applicable).

  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.

    Keep files during Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade option
    Keep files during Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade option

After the installation, you will need to go through the out-of-box-experience (OOBE) to finish setting up Windows 10. You can also watch this 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 February 12, 2021: This guide was originally published in August 2015 and it has been revised in February 2021.