Windows 10 has been announced, and you can try the Technical Preview on your PC now. As you’re trying it, you can help Microsoft polish the preview version by joining their Windows Insider program.
However, installing Windows 10 comes with some risks, which is why you should really install it either in a virtual environment or on a second device.
Want To Try Windows 10? Here’s How You Get Started
Windows 10 is set for release in 2015. Until then, there is a lot of work for Microsoft to do, and with your help they hope to bring us the greatest version of Windows yet. So if you’re interested, forget the fact they skipped “Windows 9” and head to windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview where you can sign up to the Windows Insider Program and download the Technical Preview release of Windows 10.
The system requirements for Windows 10 are as follows:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Free hard disk space: 16 GB
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
- A Microsoft account and Internet access
When you download the Technical Preview you will find a Product Key for you to use along with a selection of links to different international 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Make sure you use the correct version for your system. While previous 32-bit Windows releases would install on 64-bit hardware, the Windows 10 Technical Preview does not.
The download is in ISO format, which means you can mount it on your own device to browse the contents of the disc and burn it to DVD or write it to a USB stick.
Installing On A Live System? Back Up First
You really shouldn’t install the Windows 10 Technical Preview on your current, live Windows device unless you know what you’re doing and understand the impact this might have on system stability.
Why? Well, this might happen:
Unexpected PC crashes could damage or even delete your files, so you should back up everything. Some printers and other hardware might not work, and some software might not install or work correctly, including antivirus or security programs. You might also have trouble connecting to home or corporate networks.
Also, if your PC runs into problems, Microsoft will likely examine your system files. If the privacy of your system files is a concern, consider using a different PC. For more info, read our privacy statement.
Source: Microsoft’s Windows Technical Preview FAQ
If you want to risk this, then the best thing to do is ensure your system is properly backed up, that you have copies of your data on external drives or cloud storage, and that you have a copy of Windows 8 on DVD or USB to reinstall from – you won’t be able to use the Windows 8 recovery partition as you cannot downgrade from Windows 10!
Whichever device or installation method you plan to use, only install the Windows 10 Technical Preview ISO once you are fully prepared.
Installing Windows 10 Technical Preview On A Spare PC
The steps outlined here can be followed whether installing as an upgrade or onto a clean partition.
Computers running Windows 7 and later can be upgraded to the Windows 10 Technical Preview via the downloaded ISO, once burned to DVD or written to a USB flash device. You can use Rufus and to create a bootable USB with the Windows 10 TP ISO. Also make sure to allow booting from USB in the BIOS. Note that systems you think might be compatible could in fact disappoint you, so to quickly find out how compatible your system is, attempt the upgrade method.
With the disc in the tray or the ISO mounted, the installer should autorun. Begin by agreeing to the licence terms, then selecting your preferred language, date & currency settings and keyboard language, and click Next.
In the following screen, click Install Now to get started, and wait as the OS installs. How fast this happens will depend on the speed of your hard disk drive and DVD drive. Once complete, you’ll be able to choose between Use express settings and Customize, just as with Windows 8.
It really is that simple!
Setting Up An Account
If you own a Windows account already, (which you will have needed to download the Windows 10 Technical Preview) you will probably know that you can use this to sign into your virtual PC. You may use this for Window 8 already, or your Xbox 360 or Xbox One, or Windows Phone.
With Windows 10, signing into the computer with your usual account will result in changes being synced to the cloud. There seems to be some sort of hierarchy of versions which will mean that the changes made to your Start screen (such as the chosen theme colour) will reflect on your Windows 8 Start screen, so be careful with the choices you make.
To avoid this happening, create a local account for Windows 10 Technical Preview (select Create a new account > Sign in without a Microsoft account) or else use a different Microsoft account. Justin’s guide explains more about user accounts on Windows 8, information that applies to Windows 10.
With the account set up, Windows 10 will proceed to install apps. This will take a few moments, and then Windows 10 will start.
Time to explore the Technical Preview!
No Spare PC? Install On A Virtual Machine Instead!
If you’re missing the option of a spare PC and want to try the Windows 10 Technical Preview, your best alternative is to download the ISO and install it on a virtual machine.
Oracle’s VirtualBox is probably the best option here, particularly as it is open source and regularly updated. You can download it from www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads. Already using VirtualBox? Make sure you update to the latest version before attempting to install the Technical Preview – if this doesn’t happen automatically when you run the software, open Help > Check for updates… and follow any instructions.
With the app updated, restart and click New. Name the operating system Windows 10 and select Windows 8.1 in the Version dropdown, specifying whether your ISO is 32-bit or 64-bit. Move through the wizard accepting the recommended settings (ensuring you have sufficient hard disk space for the VM) until the virtual machine has been set up, and click Start.
At this point, the virtual machine will boot, ask you where the ISO file is (it might be on DVD or on a HDD) and installation will commence as described above.
Problems may occur with VirtualBox. If it reports a lack of RAM, make sure all other programs are closed. Failure to install can also be related to the host PC’s DEP settings. To adjust these, open System Properties, click Advanced > Performance and in Settings open Data Execution Prevention. Here, change the setting from Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only to Turn on DEP for all programs and services except those I select.
For further information on running VirtualBox, see our unofficial VirtualBox user guide.
Best Of Both Worlds: Running Windows 10 On A Virtual Hard Disk (VHD)
Not keen on a virtual machine or installing over the top of your current OS version, but still want to try Windows 10 and don’t have a spare PC?
Let’s try the VHD method, which is ideal for trying out a new modern Windows OS without messing up everything else on your system. Note that a system encrypted with BitLocker cannot use this method.
To try this, you’ll need a computer with 64-bit Windows 7 or later (Ultimate or Enterprise, although the version shouldn’t matter on Windows 8 machines). You’ll also need the installation media: 32-bit or 64-bit should work equally well. Prepare beforehand, ensuring you have at least 20-30 GB depending on whether you choose the 32-bit or 64-bit version. For using Windows 10 Technical Preview for more than just evaluation, you’ll need twice this amount.
Write To USB The Right Way
Begin by downloading the ISO as described above, writing to USB. Some guides online suggest that you use Microsoft’s own ISO-to-USB writing tool, however this automatically writes in the NTFS disk format; if you’re using a Windows 8 or 8.1 computer, you’ll need the USB drive to be formatted as FAT32. You can deal with this quickly with the Windows Explorer format tool (remember to set as FAT32), then mounting the ISO file and copying the contents of the virtual DVD to the USB device.
Next, open Computer Management (open File Explorer, right-click My Computer > Manage) and expand Storage > Disk Management. Here, select the drive you’ve made space on, then open Action > Create VHD.
Here, browse to the location you wish to create the VHD and give it a filename, and make a note of these details for later. Next, set a Virtual hard disk size (25 GB upwards), ensuring that VHD is selected in the top section and Fixed Size in the lower.
Click OK to continue, and watch the lower right corner of the Computer Management screen where a progress bar illustrates the creation of the VHD. Once complete, Computer Management will show a brand new device of the size specified. Make a note of this, as well.
Disable UEFI Security Options
Users of Windows 8 and 8.1 devices with the OS pre-installed will need to disable security options in the UEFI, but this can be re-enabled after installation. Follow Chris Hoffman’s guide on reaching the UEFI Firmware Options screen. to do this.
Booting Your Computer With The Windows 10 TP Installer
The next step is to reboot your PC, with the USB stick connected. Windows 7 users will need to look for the message to press a key to boot from the external device.
For Windows 8 users, this is best achieved by opening Run (WINDOWS + R) and entering shutdown.exe /r /o /f /t 00. In the Windows Recovery Environment, select Use a device and then select your USB stick.
In a moment, your system will be booting from the Windows 10 Technical Preview disc and ask you to begin installation; do so, but pause at the Which type of installation do you want? screen. Here, tap Shift+F10 to open the Command Prompt and check the location of your VHD. This might be C:\VHD or it might be the drive number allocated in Computer Management. Use the dir command to find the contents of each drive and directory where you believe the VHD to be.
When you find it, type run diskpart and then Enter the following:
select vdisk file=c:\vhd\[full path to your VHD file]
Now, select the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) option, and you’ll be asked where you want to install Windows. Select the new drive (ignoring the message that “Windows can’t be installed on this drive”) and click Next. Setup will now proceed, with the few steps required as described above.
Once Windows boots, you’ll still have the same hard disk drive (or SSD) but it will now have a virtual partition on it, displayed by Windows as a genuine partition with Windows 10 Technical Preview installed in it, but in actual fact it is essentially a file.
When you’re done testing Windows 10 TP, open the location of the VHD and delete it. You will also need to open MSConfig, switch to the Boot tab and delete the entry for Windows 10.
Conclusion: Help Microsoft Improve Windows 10!
As you use Windows 10 Technical Preview, you will notice popup messages in the corner of the display. These are questions from Microsoft asking you to rate and give feedback on features.
Never before has Microsoft asked for feedback in this way from such a large group of users, evidence it would seem that they are taking complaints about Windows 8 very seriously.
Did you install the Technical Preview, yet? Run into any problems? Let us know how it went for you, and if you have any tips to add.
Explore more about: Windows 10.