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We have written a lot about how you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free, if you’re currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Maybe you’re not ready to make that step and commit without trying the new operating system (OS) first. Or maybe you don’t qualify for the free upgrade, but would like to play with Windows 10 anyhow.
Here we compile the ways you can try Windows 10, whether you have a Windows, Linux, or Mac computer.
Check & Prepare Your Hardware
Before you dive into the details, lets make sure you computer is compatible with Windows 10.
- Processor: 1 GHz or faster
- RAM: 1 GB (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Free hard disk space: 16 GB
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
If you would like to dual boot Windows 10 next to your current operating system, you will need a separate partition on your system drive or a separate drive to install the new OS on — this can be an external drive. For the dual boot option, we recommend at least 30 GB of space, especially if you would like to test software under Windows 10.
For managing Windows partitions, we recommend EaseUS Partition Master. The tool will guide you through the steps needed to slice off available space from a drive in use, which you can then allocate to a new drive partition. It’s highly recommended that you prepare a backup of your data before you do this.
Finally, you might need a USB flash drive with at least 3 GB of space.
Download Windows 10 Installation Files
You have two options for obtaining Windows 10 installation files. If you qualify for the free upgrade, you can download a Windows 10 ISO image. Otherwise, you can download the 90 day evaluation copy for Windows 10 Enterprise.
Windows 10 Media Creation Tool
From your Windows machine, you can run Microsoft’s Windows 10 Media Creation Tool to upgrade directly or download installation files. Note that you can use these installation media only on computers that qualify for the free upgrade to Windows 10!
Download the appropriate version for your machine, i.e. for a 32-bit or 64-bit architecture. Launch the EXE file you downloaded, select Create installation media for another PC, and click Next. Choose your Language, Edition (same as your current Windows edition), Architecture, and when you’re done click Next.
Now you can either download an ISO file, which you can use to create a bootable DVD or USB, or let the tool prepare a USB flash drive (minimum size 3 GB) for you. If you’d like to try Windows 10 in a virtual machine or if you’d like to set up a dual boot on your Mac, download the ISO file!
Some people have reported that the latter didn’t work for them. If you run into this issue, start over, download the ISO file, and create a bootable flash drive using the resources mentioned in the next section.
Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation Copy
To obtain the Windows 10 Enterprise evaluation copy, you will need to log in with your Microsoft account and register for the download. After answering the questions, continue to select whether you’d like to download the 32-bit or 64-bit version, continue to pick your language, hit Continue one last time, and — if it doesn’t start automatically — click Download to save the ISO file.
You can use the ISO file to create a bootable USB flash drive. We have previously recommended several free ISO to bootable USB tools, my personal favorite being Rufus. Note that Windows 8.1 can natively mount (“access”) ISO files.
Install Windows 10 on Windows, Linux, or OS X
With the installation files prepared, you can proceed with installing Windows 10. Once more, you have several options. You can either dual boot the OS or run it inside a virtual machine. The latter is less tricky to set up, but since virtual machines require extra resources, they can be buggy and thus won’t give you a smooth Windows 10 experience. If your system barely meets the minimum requirements of running Windows 10, you’re better off with a dual boot.
Dual Boot Windows 10
Dual booting the Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation copy will work on any Windows system and on your Mac. Installing a Windows dual boot on a Linux machine can be complicated, since Windows overwrites the Linux boot loader (GRUB) with its own. Although we’ve previously shown you how to fix that, we’d recommend you to go the virtual machine route (see below).
As mentioned previously, to use installation media created with the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool, you will need a Windows 7 or Windows 8 product key to activate Windows 10. If you have a newer computer with the product key embedded on the UEFI BIOS, you can run your old Windows version and Windows 10 next to each other, and Windows 10 should activate automatically.
Creating a dual boot on a Windows machine is straightforward. Briefly, start the setup from your installation media, install Windows 10 on the partition you designated for it, and choose which operating system you’d like to launch the next time you’re booting your computer. We’ve previously outlined the steps for installing a dual boot for Windows 8 with Windows 7 and the process essentially hasn’t changed for Windows 10.
Tip: Should you enjoy your Windows 10 installation so much that you wish you had upgraded, know that you can import the settings and apps from your previous Windows version.
On OS X, Boot Camp will help you dual boot Windows. Briefly, launch the Boot Camp Assistant from the Utilities folder, and follow the on-screen instructions. The tool will automatically create the install disk (have a flash drive and the ISO files ready), a partition, and download drivers.
We thoroughly described how to dual boot Windows on your Mac in a separate article.
Run Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine
If you don’t want to mess with partitions or the boot loader and if you have a powerful system, a virtual machine is the easiest and safest way to try Windows 10. You can create a virtual machine on Windows, Linux, and Mac and it works much the same on any OS. We recommend VirtualBox, which is available free for all three operating systems.
Start with setting up VirtualBox, then install Windows 10 using the ISO file. As mentioned above, you can use the ISO file from the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool, if you have a Windows 7 or 8 product key or if the product key is embedded on the UEFI BIOS of your device. Otherwise, use the Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation copy.
We have outlined the steps in the following articles:
- Linux: Run Windows 10 in VirtualBox (here we also explain how to set up a dual boot and fix GRUB)
- OS X: Installing Windows 10 with VirtualBox
- Windows: Try out Windows 10 in VirtualBox (the article is for Windows 8, but steps remain the same)
VirtualBox setups can be buggy. If you run into issue, play with the settings, such as the amount of RAM (Base Memory) shared with the virtual OS.
Are You Curious Enough to Give Windows 10 a Try?
Windows 10 will be with us for many years to come. We don’t recommend upgrading unless you are really keen, but it’s worth getting to know the OS of the future; you might end up liking Windows 10! The benefit of the methods above vs. upgrading is that if you end up not liking Windows 10, you can simply delete the virtual machine or dual boot partition.
How did you first try Windows 10? If you haven’t, yet, tell us which method you’re most likely to use or what keeps you from giving Windows 10 a try.