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Upgrading to a new operating system might seem like a daunting thing, but nowadays it’s actually a fairly easy process. Microsoft is keen to get as many people onto Windows 10 as possible Stop the Windows 10 Download & Installation on Your Windows 7 or 8 Device Stop the Windows 10 Download & Installation on Your Windows 7 or 8 Device If your Internet has been slower than usual or if you noticed less disk space, you can probably blame Microsoft. Windows Update may have downloaded the Windows 10 installation files behind your back. Stop it! Read More , so they’ve ensured that it’s incredibly simple to upgrade your system to their new platform. Nevertheless, things can go wrong, and there are steps you should take before plunging in.

Checking your hardware compatibility, backing up your data, and having updated drivers on-hand; these are all examples of mandatory steps you must take before upgrading. Some things are less likely to go wrong than others, but why take the risk?

If you think we’ve missed any vital tips from the list below, please jump into the comments section following the article to let everyone know.

Check Your Hardware

The very first thing you need to do, above all else, is check that your hardware is capable of running Windows 10 Is Your Computer Compatible with Windows 10 & Can You Upgrade? Is Your Computer Compatible with Windows 10 & Can You Upgrade? Windows 10 is coming, possibly as soon as July. Are you eager to upgrade and will your system be eligible? In short, if your computer runs Windows 8, it should also run Windows 10. But... Read More . If you’re able to comfortably run Windows 7, then you should be okay for the upgrade, but it’s better to check now than find out down the line.

The system requirements for Windows 10, as taken from Microsoft’s specification page, are:

  • 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: 800×600

Bear in mind that these are the minimum requirements, meaning you’ll only get full benefit from Windows 10 (like taking advantage of a DirectX 10-compatible graphics card Windows 10 Is for Gamers: 6 Features You Will Love Windows 10 Is for Gamers: 6 Features You Will Love You will want to use Windows 10 for gaming! Whether it's streaming your Xbox One games to your PC, using the Xbox app, or enjoying high performance gaming with DirectX 12, Windows 10 enhances your... Read More ), if you have better hardware.

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get 10 requirements

The best way to quickly and reliably check your compatibility is to use the Get Windows 10 app Get Windows 10: It's Not a Virus! Get Windows 10: It's Not a Virus! The Get Windows 10 icon in your system tray is not a virus. It's Microsoft's official upgrade note prior to the official release of Windows 10 on July 29th, 2015. Read More that’ll be sitting in your taskbar and offering you an upgrade to Windows 10. If you can’t see it, check out our guide on how to enable the upgrade app Can't See the Windows 10 Upgrade Notification? Here's How to Enable It. Can't See the Windows 10 Upgrade Notification? Here's How to Enable It. Are you also not seeing the Get Windows app on your Windows 7 or 8.1 devices? Let us show you how to enable the upgrade notification or cancel the upgrade in case you changed your... Read More . Navigate through the app and it’ll tell you if your system meets the requirements.

You can always just do a manual check, too. If you’re not sure what your current hardware is, do a system search for device manager and select the relevant result. This will bring up a list of hardware categories, which you can expand to find out what’s inside your system. If you’re unsure about the compatibility of something, do a Google search to check the official manufacturer website or to find other user’s reports.

Clear Excess Data

It’s a good habit to do this regularly anyway, but if you’re upgrading to a new operating system then now is the perfect time to clear excess data off your hard drive How to Free Up Storage Space to Run Windows 10 How to Free Up Storage Space to Run Windows 10 Did you run out of space for Windows 10, but want to upgrade or add more apps and data? We have compiled resources that will help you free up disk space on and for Windows... Read More . You’ll need spare space to store Windows 10 and also enough room to keep your previous operating system data (which is stored for 30 days Free Up Disk Space by Removing Windows.old Folder Free Up Disk Space by Removing Windows.old Folder Windows prepares an automatic backup before you re-install. The Windows.old folder includes user profiles and personal files. Here's how to restore the data and remove the folder to free up space. Read More ). Additionally, we’re going to be backing up your data soon, so there’s no point creating a copy of stuff that you don’t need any more.

Uninstall any programs or games that you don’t use, sort through your personal data and clear your browser cache. These will all put you in good stead for a cleaner hard drive. Besides, it’s easier to do it now while you’re in the zone of computer maintenance. Be sure to check our guides on how to quickly clear your drive Go Clean Your Hard Drive: 5 Things You Can Do in 10 Minutes or Less Go Clean Your Hard Drive: 5 Things You Can Do in 10 Minutes or Less Cleaning your hard drive is about as much fun as it sounds, but what if you could make a real difference in as little as ten minutes? Read More and how to avoid junk piling up Avoid Junk Piling up on Your Computer with These Strategies Avoid Junk Piling up on Your Computer with These Strategies Not only can you free up precious space, you might also experience improved system performance. Do it regularly or automate the process, we'll show you how. Read More for more top tips.

Backup Files and Image Drive

If there’s one thing you take away from this guide, make it this: backup your data. Too many people are aware of the dangers of data loss and don’t do anything about it. Don’t let yourself lose personal photos, emails, and documents, simply because you couldn’t be bothered to set up a solid backup plan. Do it now. Data storage is a precarious thing and upgrading your operating system is a major system change. Mixing those two factors together can sometimes be a recipe for disaster.

First, you should image your drive to an external device by using software like Macrium Reflect Free. To image a drive is to create an exact replica of it at that moment in time. Everything that is on that drive will be copied – operating system, personal data, the lot. What it means is that you can take that drive image and use it to rollback your entire system should something major go wrong when upgrading to Windows 10.

crashplan

Secondly, you should use data backup software 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More to copy your personal data to an external device or to the cloud (though I don’t recommend the latter, for security reasons). I like CrashPlan, but any reputable software should do the job nicely – plus it doesn’t need to be paid. In addition to backing up your personal data, you can create individual backups of your apps, settings, and programs How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You Windows 10 is coming and you have a choice to make. Either you upgrade your existing Windows installation, or you can install Windows 10 from scratch. We show you how to migrate to Windows 10... Read More .

If the operating system upgrade goes to plan, but for some reason it wipes your personal data or apps, you can use your backups for restoration. Also, once you’re all up and running with Windows 10, set your backup software to run on a schedule. That way you’re always protected against any potential future data loss.

Remember: A drive image will take a while to complete because it’s a verbatim copy of your drive. You don’t need to create these all the time, but they’re good for when you want to take your entire drive back to a previous point. For day-to-day safety, use a data backup solution.

Uninstall Firewalls and Antivirus

Programs that are always active, those that scan or monitor your system, can be prone to causing problems when it comes to under the hood changes. To be on the safe side, it’s best to uninstall any third-party firewall or anti-virus software that you’ve got.

expert-online-security-antivirus

Additionally, some anti-virus software is developed with specific operating systems in mind. This will save you from any immediate compatibility problems when jumping to Windows 10. Besides, the new operating system has built-in protection, so you won’t be heading in bare. However, once everything is set up with Windows 10, ensure that you remember to reinstall the latest versions of your anti-virus and firewall What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? What Security Software Should You Be Using in Windows 10? Despite being bundled with its own security tool, Windows 10 needs additional software to keep your data secure and make your online experiences safe. But which security software should you choose for WIndows 10? Read More .

Download Latest Drivers

Credit where it’s due, modern versions of Windows are pretty great at keeping your drivers up-to-date automatically. And even if you don’t have the latest drivers installed, or even have them at all, chances are that you’ll still be able to use your system fine. Nevertheless, it’s best to take every precaution when upgrading your operating system. As such, we recommend that you download all the latest drivers now and store them on an external device.

newsletter-update-windows-drivers

To do so, navigate to the manufacturer’s websites and grab the files you need. You could probably get away with just grabbing the essentials, including drivers for your graphics or network card, but it’s best to get all you can as a safety net. You don’t need to install them, just keep them handy, for example when Windows hasn’t automatically upgraded the existing drivers.

Note Install Keys

Every legit version of Windows has a unique installation key to prove that you purchased the operating system. Most paid software, like Office, will also have their own keys. Again, this is something that is just good practice.

Ensure that you have a copy of all your keys before progressing with the upgrade. Your Windows key will be automatically detected during the upgrade, but it’s good to have it to hand if something goes wrong or you need to talk to Microsoft support.

Older, pre-built machines will have their key printed on the machine itself, but this practice was stopped with Windows 8. Don’t worry, it’s not hard to find out any keys registered on your system. Check out our guide on finding your Windows key Four Places to Find Your Windows 8 Product Key Four Places to Find Your Windows 8 Product Key With Windows 8, finding the 25-digit product key got harder. But you still need it to download installation media or install on a machine that didn't come pre-installed with Windows 8. Read More or our program suggestions and registry tip 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows 3 Ways to Recover Serial Numbers in Windows Read More to achieve the same. Once you’ve found your keys, record them and back that information up externally. It’s probably a good idea to create a physical copy of them, too.

Time to Upgrade

All done? You’re now ready to upgrade to Windows 10 How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You Windows 10 is coming and you have a choice to make. Either you upgrade your existing Windows installation, or you can install Windows 10 from scratch. We show you how to migrate to Windows 10... Read More safely and smoothly. Theoretically the process should be a breeze anyway, but all systems are different and you don’t want to risk the chance of yours being the one that screws up. Follow the steps above to ensure you’re covered.

Windows 10 is constantly evolving through updates Pros & Cons of Forced Updates in Windows 10 Pros & Cons of Forced Updates in Windows 10 Updates will change in Windows 10. Right now you can pick and choose. Windows 10, however, will force updates onto you. It has advantages, like improved security, but it can also go wrong. What's more... Read More , so if you find any issues then they can be patched automatically. And now that you’ve upgraded safely, go explore your new operating system and all the exciting Windows 10 features 6 Windows 10 Features You May Have Missed 6 Windows 10 Features You May Have Missed Windows 10 is chock full of new stuff. We help you discover some of the less obvious features and options that are easily missed. Read More at your fingertips.

How was your experience of upgrading to Windows 10? Do you have any of your own safe upgrade steps to add?

Image Credits:clipboard with checklist by Biro Emoke via Shutterstock

  1. Ben Stern
    March 27, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    I just discovered a BUG in the upgrade from WIN7 to WIN 10. It has been known since September 2015 , if not earlier. Yet MS has not corrected it and has no warning.

    You MUST uninstall MS Security Essentials before upgrading to WIN 10. There are a number of cases (like me) where the upgrade fails to uninstall it and is then unable to activate DEFENDER. At the moment I have neither SE nor Defender. I am glad to see that someone in this thread suggested using AVAST instead of Defender. I may install it rather than use the suggested route: restoring WIN7, uninstalling SE, and then reinstalling WIN 10 again.

  2. Ron Sonso
    October 30, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you!

    Finally, someone with a GOOD list of pre-upgrade steps. Too many forget the most important step, doing image copy backups. They trust on the published backout process. Too bad that is only good for 30 days.

    And you mention backing up Product Keys. Very good. Many people are losing programs like Office during the upgrade when they have to do a clean Win 10 install to fix problems with the upgrade. One point here is that Office 2013 does not work in any of the Product Key extraction tools. The full product key is no longer stored on the computer, so they have to have it from some other source.

    As well as "install keys" people should make sure to secure a copy of the required installation files. BEFORE the upgrade. Again, in my experience, a lot of people with older versions of Office either bought it OEM (no install disk) or have since misplaced the install disk/file. MS does not provide installation files for OEM keys and for "non-supported" versions. So a lot of people are losing their Office installations during the "adventures" they have during a Windows 10 upgrade trial.

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