Windows 10 has already been installed on 110 million machines according to the latest news from Microsoft. Here we show you how to install Windows 10 right now – even if your PC hasn’t got the ‘Ready to install’ notification or GWX.exe is missing. We’ll explain how you can upgrade your PC or laptop, as well as how to do a clean install. Be sure to back up photos and anything else you don’t want to lose before starting the upgrade.
Update 30 October: Microsoft is now making it even easier to upgrade to Windows 10 by making it a one-step process. No longer do you reserve and then get a notification: now you can click and immediately upgrade. However, Microsoft is experimenting with making the upgrade an ‘Optional’ one for Windows 7 and 8.1 users. Starting at some point early in 2016 this will become a ‘Recommended’ update so iIf you’ve set Windows Update to automatically install updates, this means you’ll be upgraded to Windows 10 automatically. (You will be asked to confirm that it’s ok to upgrade, but the process will begin automatically. And, as ever, you’ll have 31 days to change your mind and roll back to the old version of Windows.)
How to get Windows 10 now: download and upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1
Note: If you want to download Windows 10 through Windows Update and it’s not working, follow our separate guide here. The method immediately below describes how to download Windows 10 from Microsoft’s website.
Step 1: Head to Microsoft’s Windows 10 download page and click on the link for the 64-bit version. Only use 32-bit if your computer doesn’t have a 64-bit processor. There’s no need to save the file – just choose the Run option.
Step 2: You will see two options: Upgrade now, or create installation media. Assuming you’re trying to upgrade the PC you’re running the tool on, choose Upgrade this PC now. The reason for this is that you can’t do a clean install straight away as part of the free update.
Step 3: Now Windows 10 will start downloading from scratch. We’ve just tried this on a laptop and there doesn’t appear to be any delay from Microsoft’s servers, even on launch day.
Step 4: If you would rather create a bootable USB or DVD to install Windows 10 on another computer, or multiple PCs, choose that option. This is a new and easier way to install Windows than dealing with ISO images, as the download tool is an all-in-one utility that will do everything for you. All you need is at least a 4GB USB drive (or single-layer writable DVD). It can also convert the downloaded files to an ISO if that’s what you want. You can choose the language, and even to create a bootable drive or disc with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. What’s important is that you choose the right Edition.
Step 5: Accept the licence terms when prompted, and the installer will then check your PC for compatibility with Windows 10, that it has enough free space and will download updates. You will not need an activation key for Windows 10 if you are upgrading from an eligible version of Windows 7 or 8.1.
Step 6: When prompted, click to install Windows 10 and your machine will reboot. You’ll see a Windows logo, followed by a language selection – UK English should be selected. Windows 10 will then install automatically, keeping all your programs (apart from antivirus), files and settings. However, as we said at the start, it’s worth backing up anything you can’t afford to lose first.
Step 7: When you finally get to the Windows 10 desktop, allow a bit of time for Windows 10 search for drivers for your hardware. Initially on our test laptop, it seemed as though the graphics card drivers hadn’t been found and installed. However, after a few minutes this was all done in the background and the correct resolution set.
If you want to do a clean install, then scroll down to the next section.
Still, it’s worth heading to Device Manager and checking that all drivers are installed, especially for the system chipset. If you can’t find Windows 10 drivers from your motherboard manufacturer, Windows 7 or 8 drivers may work.
How to get Windows 10 now: Clean install
You can’t clean install Windows 10 without going through the upgrade process above. That’s because you don’t have an product key as you do with Windows 7 or 8, so Windows 10 needs to activate automatically online after upgrading from an elibigle copy of Windows 7 or 8.1.
When Windows 10 is activated, Microsoft can identify your PC and associate it with an activated and valid Windows 10 licence. This means you can perform a clean install (even on a different hard drive, so it’s a good time to upgrade to an SSD if you have been running Windows on a traditional hard drive) and Windows 10 will activate without issue.
To check if Windows 10 has activated after upgrading, head to Control Panel > System and Security > System and look under Windows activation:
Only if you make “significant changes” to your PC will you have to call the Microsoft activation helpline.
To do a clean install, you’ll need to return to Step 2 in the walkthough above, using the tool you downloaded to create a bootable USB drive or DVD. Once that’s done, turn off your computer, install and / or remove any hard drives and SSDs you want to swap around and then boot from your USB or DVD.
If your PC won’t boot from it, head into the BIOS settings (typically press Delete, F1 or one of the other F keys just after you turn your computer on) and make sure removable drives, or the DVD drive is set as the first boot device, and not a hard drive. We can’t be specific about the menus and settings, since each BIOS is different.
How to fix flashing screen after Windows 10 installation
It was drawn to our attention on forums that many users are having issues with the screen flashing following the Windows 10 installation.
Fortunately it’s fixable. First, restart your computer. You can try pressing Alt-F4 and choosing restart if you can do it while the screen is blinking, but otherwise hold down the power button for up to 10 seconds until the computer turns off. Turn it on again, but instead of logging into Windows 10, click the on-screen power button and then hold the Shift key on your keyboard while clicking the Restart option.
Windows 10 won’t restart but will go to a screen with a troubleshooting option. Click this and then Advanced options. Now choose to restart and you will see options to go into Safe Mode. Any Safe Mode option will do. The PC will now start in Safe Mode.
Press the Windows key and R together to get the Run box. Now type msconfig and press Enter. Go to the Services Tab in the window that opens. Scroll down until you find two tasks that need to be stopped:
Problem Reports and Solution Control Panel Support
Windows Error Report Service
Disable these by unchecking them, then click Apply, Ok. Restart the computer. If that doesn’t fix it, reboot into Safe Mode again and right-click on the taskbar along the bottom of the screen. Choose Task Manager and then click on the tab for Startup programs. You can right-click on each one and disable it. This should stop the blinking screen, and you can then turn services back on in Task Manager one by one (a restart after each) to isolate which program is causing it.