Windows 10 Upgrade From Windows 8

Windows 10 isn’t just about correcting Windows 8 mistakes, though. There are new features that Windows 8 users will love. The coolest new feature is Cortana, which appears net to the Start button on the taskbar. Windows 10 with a powerful new Start menu also comes with multiple desktops, which is helpful for cleaning up a messy workspace. So, the task is easy - upgrade you PC to new OS version.

You’re not interested in a clean install, you don’t want to fuss with wiping your computer, you just want to take the plunge and upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10. It might be a relatively straight forward process, but it’s always useful to bring a guide. Read on as we walk you through the upgrade process. And before we go - you can read answers to most popular questions in article Should I Upgrade to Windows 10.

Why Do I Want To Do This?

While there is something to be said for a pristine new clean installation there’s also something to be said for upgrading your OS version and keeping your applications, files, and folder structures all in place. Upgrades aren’t without the occasional hiccup but from a time-saving and ease-of-use standpoint they’re much faster and easier than doing a full wipe and then dealing with importing all your old files and installing apps.

Just because it’s a pretty simple process (or should be if everything goes smoothly) doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need to do before you upgrade and important choices to make during the upgrade process. While a lot of sites are just pointing people at the installer and telling them to just download it and run it, we’re taking the time to give you some pregame tips and walk you through the process.

If you want to do clean installation and not an upgrade, please see our guide How to Clean Install Windows 10.

What Do I Need?

Windows 10 should install without a hitch, but driver problems are a possibility and, during any system update, there’s always a chance something will go wrong. Before you begin the process, make sure you have all of your data files backed up, preferably to a cloud service such as Microsoft’s own One Drive, where you can download them again if your computer crashes. If you don’t have a system restore disk already, it’s a good idea to make a full system backup, using disk imaging software. Finally, make sure you have 1 to 2 hours free to run the install.

To upgrade from Windows 8 or 8.1 to Windows 10 there is a very small list of must-haves and a few recommended items. Let’s take a look at what you need before proceeding and then highlight some best practices.

An Activated Copy of Windows

The most important thing is that your current version of Windows is properly activated. Although Microsoft alluded to the idea that Windows 10 would be a sweeping upgrade that would even install on pirated and/or unactivated copies of Windows that plan never came to fruition and you most certainly need an activated copy under the current deployment model.

To check if your copy of Windows 8 is activated, press Windows Key + W to pull up the Setting search and type in “activated” to access the “See if Windows Is Activated” menu. Alternatively, you can look under Control Panel -> System to see the status of the machine.

Windows 8 Activation for Upgrade to Windows 10

Windows 10 Minimum Requirements

Before upgrading Windows 8 to Windows 10, you should check if your PC or tablet can be compatible with Windows 10.

Minimum requirements of Windows 10:

  • A 1GHz processor or faster;
  • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit machines or 2GB for 64-bit machines;
  • 16GB of hard disk space for 32-bit machines or 20GB for 64-bit machines;
  • A DirectX 9 graphics card or later, with a WDDM 1.0 driver;
  • An 800 x 600 display or better.

In theory, a PC compatible with Windows 8 can support Windows 10 well. If your PC is ready, simply follow the guide to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8.

The Appropriate Windows 10 Update Tool

Running the tool usually produces a compatibility report that either indicates that the upgrade can proceed or describes what kind of remediation is necessary to result in a successful upgrade. The items that can appear in such reports generally focus on hardware and software.

Although the Windows 10 update tool is pretty straight forward you need the right version for your hardware. The first step is determining if you are running a 32-bit machine or a 64-bit machine. You can check what version of Windows you are currently running by simply looking in the same place in Windows 8 that we highlighted in the previous section on checking your Windows activation. The same panel/menu that tells you if your computer is activated also tells you your “System type”.

In Windows 8 it will actually (and helpfully) both tell you if you’re running Windows 32-bit or Windows 64-bit as well as what the actual architecture of the underlying hardware is and if it supports 64-bit computing. (e.g. you have Windows 8 32-bit installed but the hardware actually supports 64-bit). There’s a huge catch here though: you can’t upgrade an installation of Windows from 32-bit to 64-bit even if the hardware supports it; you have to do a clean install.

With that in mind, whatever bit-version of Windows you are running on your about-to-be-upgraded machine that is the version of the download tool you need to download if you wish to do an in-place upgrade and not a clean wipe.

Windows 10 Upgrade Tool

Running the Upgrade Installer

When you’re ready to upgrade run the installer tool, labeled MediaCreationTool, to get started. You’ll first be prompted to upgrade the PC or create installation media for another PC. Select “Upgrade this PC now” to begin the upgrade process and click “Next”. This begins the download process which is a long or short affair dependent entirely upon your Internet connection speed. We zoomed to 100 percent in a matter of minutes on a speedy cable connection, but if you’re on a slow connection you might be watching the meter for some time.

Windows 10 Upgrade from Windows 8

When it finally finishes downloading and unpacking the installation media you’ll be prompted to accept the terms of the license agreement. Click “Accept” and the installer will do a final update check before kicking you over to the final confirmation page.

Windows 10 Upgrade Step by Step

By default the installer will select the largest “what to keep” selection it can. If you want to make changes to what it is keeping click the small “Change what to keep” link as seen in the screenshot above. You’ll be prompted to select to select which kind of installation you want.

Windows 10 Upgrade without losing Data

Here in this section you’ll select to keep personal files and apps, personal files only, or nothing at all and your apps, files, and settings will be deleted. The little micro-summaries under the entries aren’t perfectly clear so feel free to click on the “Help me decide” link for more information. The most obvious and smooth transition is offered by “Keep personal files and apps”.

When you’re ready click “Next” to proceed and it will return you to the final screen. Confirm that on the “Ready to install” screen it shows what you want (e.g. you selected “Keep personal files and apps” and that’s what it says). After confirming the installation click “Install”. Your PC will reboot a few times as the installer works and when it’s done you’ll be returned to the Windows login screen.

Configuring Windows After The Upgrade

When the login screen pops up for the first time, you’re not quite done yet. There are quite a few little tweaks you can perform before booting into Windows 10 for the first time and we recommend you take advantage of them.

Windows 10 Configuration

As soon as you log in for the first time you’ll be prompted to accept the “Express Settings” or click the tiny link to “Customize settings”. You should definitely click “Customize settings” to see what Microsoft has set as the defaults and confirm whether you want them set as they are.

Windows 10 Customize settings

The first screen is called “Personalization” but should really be called “Can we send a bunch of information about you to Microsoft?” The privacy conscious will want to turn off everything in this menu. (If you later discover you just can’t live without a personalized Cortana experience you can always turn it on again). Later you can Disable Cortana at any time.

Windows 10 Personalization

The second screen is focused on browser protection, hotspots, and error reporting. SmartScreen is useful if you use the Microsoft Edge browser or the Windows Store. Privacy oriented folks will likely want to turn off page prediction as it sends your browsing data to Microsoft. The connectivity settings really only matter for laptops and tablets.

Windows 10 Apps

The final screen shows you the four new default Windows apps for photos, web browsing, music, and movies/TV. If you click “Let me choose my own default apps” it doesn’t actually let you choose the apps at this moment but merely allows you to uncheck one or all of the four default app selections (you’ll be prompted to make your default choices later when you open your preferred web browser for the first time and so on). When you click “Next” this final time you’ll be sent, after a short wait, to the Windows 10 desktop.

If your computer has not been activated, then you can force it to do so. Get up a command prompt from the Start Menu and type, slmgr.vbs /ato. This will force your computer to activate its new license with Microsoft. If the process fails, give it a few tries.

Windows 10 Activation

Now is the time to check on your apps, see if they survived the upgrade process (and update them if necessary) as well as to plug in your peripherals, check that all your hardware works (and update the drivers if necessary) and then get down to enjoying Windows 10.