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

However, before proceeding with the upgrade, you need to make sure to confirm the hardware compatibility, purchase a license of Windows 10 (if applicable), and create a full backup in case you need to rollback. In addition, you’ll also need to make sure that the “Windows 7 Service Pack 1” is installed on the device.

Also, it’s recommended to uninstall any software, such as antivirus, security software, and old third-party programs that may prevent you from upgrading to Windows 10. You should also disconnect any hardware connected to the device, including printers, phones, cameras, external hard drives, and other USB peripherals to avoid problems.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 making sure you don’t run into issues during the installation. (If you prefer to upgrade performing a clean installation, then follow these step-by-step instructions.)

Windows 7 to Windows 10 upgrade system requirements

To upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, your device must meet the minimum system requirements:

Windows 10 2004 hardware requirements
Processor1GHz or faster CPU or System on a Chip (SoC)
RAM
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

In addition, you’ll also need to be running the latest version of your current operating system, in this case “Windows 7 Service Pack 1.” If you don’t 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, as the free upgrade offer ended in July 2016. However, it’s still possible to upgrade to Windows 10 using a Windows 7 product key, but it may or may not work. If you try, and you see the “This product key didn’t work. Please check it and try again, or try a different key” message, you’ll need to purchase a new license.

How to create a full backup of Windows 7

Although, Microsoft has been improving the upgrade process with Windows 10, there are always chances that the upgrade will cause problems, and to avoid any issues, you should make sure to have a full backup of your system that 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 don’t 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 in case 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 something happens. If you need assistance, use this guide with the complete process to backup and restore Windows 7 and files.

How to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10

To upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7, 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’ll need to use another web browser like Google Chrome.
  2. Click the Download tool now button and save the installer on the device.

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

  4. Click Accept to 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’re 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’ll need to go through the easy out-of-box-experience (OOBE) to finish setting up Windows 10, and then you’ll once again see your familiar desktop and every new feature included with Windows 10. You can also watch my YouTube video tutorial to perform the update.

Additionally, make sure to use Device Manager to check that every piece of hardware is installed correctly on your system, reinstall your antivirus and any other software you uninstall before the upgrade.

Update October 15, 2020: This guide was originally published in August 2015, and it’s been revised in October 2020.