OT: Upgrading to Windows 10 directly, for free

PeterDuke wrote on 12/19/2015, 8:44 PM
Having now upgraded three computers to Windows 10, I thought that I would share my documented steps. It is based on a blog by Tom Warren, which I have expanded and I hope clarified.

How to upgrade to Windows 10 without waiting in line

Microsoft is providing a free upgrade to Windows 10 for Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 users, via the normal upgrade process. Here is a way that you can avoid the wait and upgrade to Windows 10 straight away and optionally create a clean Windows 10 installation disc/drive. You have 12 months to do this for free, following the release of Windows 10 on July 29, 2015.

Firstly, back up all your files and data just in case. If you're on a 32-bit version of Windows, then download the 32-bit Media Creation Tool, and if you're using a 64-bit version, then grab the 64-bit Media Creation Tool. You can check your Windows version by right clicking on My Computer or This PC in File Explorer and going to properties, and it will be listed under system type.

Run the tool and then select the “Upgrade this PC now” option. Windows 10 will start downloading, and once it's ready you'll be presented with three options: keep personal files and apps, keep personal files only, and nothing. Select the first option (keep personal files and apps) to ensure your PC upgrades and you keep your files and applications. Windows 10 will start installing and after a few reboots and customisations (and a few hours if you are on a slow internet connection) you'll be upgraded. If you decide you want to go back to your previous Windows installation, then you can safely restore by going to settings > update & security > and choose the option to go back.

If you want to be able to re-install Windows 10 from scratch, find the Windows 10 installation key that was allocated during the free upgrade, by using Belarc Advisor or other tool. Also note the version of Windows you now have (Home or Pro, 32 bit or 64 bit). Now create your Windows 10 installation media using the Media Creation Tool once more, but this time choose “Create installation media for another PC” and download the appropriate version as identified above. Note that the Windows Key has been authorised for this upgraded computer, and probably will not work on a different one. It should, however, work for both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Windows 10 on that computer, but not both Home and Pro versions.

The above procedure involves the time consuming download of Windows 10 twice: firstly to upgrade your PC and secondly to create your reinstallation media. You can skip this second process if you like, but you cannot avoid the first if you want a free upgrade to Windows 10 (i.e. free installation key).


Tom Pauncz wrote on 12/19/2015, 8:50 PM
Great post Peter...
Seems like a no-brainer and painless ...
ushere wrote on 12/20/2015, 12:41 AM
nice explanation...

i've upgraded the 3 desktops and 4 laptops in the house (old laptops incl). all went painlessly other than my nle, which did showed a few strange idiosyncrasies. bit of research uncovered a few others having 'weirdness' with certain software. rather than dig around and loose more hair i simply did a 'clean' reinstall over the existing win 7. of course had to reinstall all software, etc., but it was well worth it.
Kit wrote on 12/20/2015, 3:26 AM
Or you just allow Windows to update automatically and it will give you windows 10. The real trick is avoiding Windows 10 if you don't want it. With all the nags to upgrade Microsoft are acting like spammers. The way Microsoft are pushing Windows 10 it currently looks more like malware than software. I think a combination of GWX and O&O ShutUp10 can keep it at bay for now. I'm staying with Windows for as long as practical - it doesn't track my every move nor force me to take updates. I do have Windows 10 on one tablet and over all I prefer Windows 8 which I'm keeping on my other tablet. One can only hope that by July next year Windows 10 will have improved and Microsoft will have relented on spying and force updates.
Jøran Toresen wrote on 12/20/2015, 6:08 AM
Is it not possible to use the Media Creation Tool to create an ISO-file on a flash drive and install Windows 10 from scratch using the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 installation key?

This is what I intend to do. If this is possible, you don’t have to install Windows 10 twice.

Jøran Toresen
JJKizak wrote on 12/20/2015, 7:45 AM
Microsoft is getting more "Appleish" every day. The delay in updating to Windows 10 has been also been incorporated in the normal updates to Windows 7. My latest updates took 56 minutes just to figure out what to manual download where it usually took about 8 to 10 minutes. Then add the actual download and install and you wasted a whole day.
TheHappyFriar wrote on 12/20/2015, 1:32 PM
You can't use your 7 or 8.x install key. You need the key from Win 10. Wince Win 10 (if upgraded) is an upgrade you shouldn't be using your old 7 or 8.x on one machine & Win 10 upgrade on another. However, there's nothing stopping you from going back to your previous once via install discs.
DeadRadioStar wrote on 12/20/2015, 2:53 PM
"Is it not possible to use the Media Creation Tool to create an ISO-file on a flash drive and install Windows 10 from scratch using the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 installation key?"

It was necessary to go through the upgrade process with the first release because as part of that process, Microsoft uniquely identifies your specific computer. Then if you subsequently do a clean install, it comes up as already activated beause they've "seen" the hardware before.

I believe that since the "1511" update you can now use any qualifying Windows 7 or 8 product key to activate a clean installation of Windows 10.
PeterDuke wrote on 12/20/2015, 5:09 PM
"I believe that since the "1511" update you can now use any qualifying Windows 7 or 8 product key to activate a clean installation of Windows 10."

Good news, but too late for me. The old key did not work for me when I tried it.

Bear in mind that you only need to download an installation copy of a particular version of Windows 10 once. It can be reused on other computers.
BruceUSA wrote on 12/20/2015, 9:00 PM
Black Friday I bought a system builder Windows 10 64 bit Professional DVD Disc that I am saving for down the road I am gonna build a another bad ass system Perhaps , Skylake E CPU.. My current desktops running Windows 7 64 bit Professional. All programs are running great including Vegas Pro 11, 12,13. I am hesitate to upgrade my system at the movement. I will wait until June 2016 and go ahead do the upgrade then. Because I think The great Windows 7,8 will end of life eventually just the Window XP. In the mean time I am downloading this tool to perform the upgrade. Thank you for the link.

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Jamon wrote on 12/20/2015, 9:32 PM
Anyone purchasing a system builder Windows 10 license for personal use will have a non-genuine unlicensed install according to the terms. That is because the system builder license is specifically intended for "preinstallation on customer systems that will be sold to end users", not for personal use. It is literally for professional system builders, who are not big enough to deal with direct OEM licensing, but still build and sell computers so need Windows licenses to install for their customers.

People building their own PC with Windows 7/8 would purchase the OEM system builder copy because they're cheaper, but in Windows 8.1 it was specified that the license in newer versions does not cover that use case:


For personal use of Windows 10, "Full packaged retail product is needed."

If someone has a system builder license for Windows 7 or 8 (which I did), and upgrades to Windows 10 for free, I'm not sure what happens with the licensing, if it then becomes invalid, or is upgraded to a different non-system-builder type. Personally I just skipped all that and bought the retail download directly from Microsoft.
PeterDuke wrote on 12/20/2015, 11:42 PM
"In the mean time I am downloading this tool to perform the upgrade."

Note that there are 32 bit and 64 bit versions. If you run the 32 bit version on a 64 bit machine (and presumably vice versa) you get an error message.

Also note that these are only downloaders.
PeterDuke wrote on 12/21/2015, 2:02 AM
Jamon, I think people can get their knickers in a knot worrying too much about the letter of the law regarding licencing. If what you are doing seems reasonable and unlikely to cause ripples, then just live and let live.
Jamon wrote on 12/21/2015, 3:59 AM
The problem is that the licensor decides when they'll react to the ripples. Microsoft specifically spelled out the licensing arrangement, that they do not allow individuals to use the OEM licenses for personal use. That is why the cost of the license is less than the correct one. If everyone ignores the change and continues to use OEM inappropriately, Microsoft decides how they respond. They could remove the OEM licensing for small system builders, or raise the price, or find a way to enforce it and deactivate your Windows 10 install on the next update until you respond with proof of purchase from a legitimate OEM, or do nothing at all.

If someone is going to cheat Microsoft's licensing scheme by paying less for an invalid license, just because it technically activates, and does the same thing as the more expensive one if they ignore the actual licensing terms, then why not go further and pirate Windows and send them a donation for even less? You can feel like you're still supporting them, but Windows isn't worth more than $50 so that's what you'll pay. That's the whole point of licensing, that we do not get to decide how we use Microsoft's software. It's there's, and if we disagree with their terms, then we don't get a license to use it.

There's always plenty of free Unix-like operating systems with permissive licensing if someone doesn't like Microsoft's terms. Lightworks is compatible with Linux.
Dexcon wrote on 12/21/2015, 5:09 AM
My understanding is that the difference between OEM and stand-alone versions of Windows relates to the flexibility of the transfer of the attached licence once Windows has been installed and activated on a particular device (e.g. a computer). A year or so ago, a large local on-line computer stare offered for retail sale both OEM and full versions of Windows 8.1, the latter being more expensive than the OEM version. The product details for the OEM version showed that the OEM version could only ever be used on the one computer, whereas the full version could be transferred from one computer to another. So, it seemed to me that if the computer with the OEM version was destroyed, you would have to make another Windows purchase to gain a new licence for the next computer. Whereas with the full version, the existing licence could be transferred to the replacement computer.

The 'useterms' for Windows 10 on Microsoft's website makes this difference apparent at term 4 'Transfer'. It also points out that the pre-installed version (presumably meaning OEM) licence can be transferred to another user but along with a transfer of the device to that new user as well. It uses the term 'stand-alone' for, presumably, the full version of Windows. I might be wrong with these two assumptions, but it seems rather logical to me.

I'm therefore not seeing any cheating in buying an OEM version for a lower cost than the full version because the trade-off with an OEM purchase is that licensing flexibility is less than that which comes attached with the full version. Perhaps it's a bit like some hotel prices and air fares. You can pay a low cost for a hotel room or an airfare, but it may come with a condition of no changes or cancellations to the booking, whereas a higher price/fare for the same room/seat often provides more flexibility with changes/cancellation conditionally allowed.

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C drive: 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

D drive: 6TB WD 7200 rpm Black HDD 3.5"

E & F drives: 2 x 2TB Barracuda HDDs 2.5"


Jamon wrote on 12/21/2015, 6:06 AM
Did you look at the URL in my post? There's no need to dig further, as it is a very clear summary from Microsoft:

"If you are building a system for your personal use or installing an additional operating system in a virtual machine, you will need to purchase a full version of Windows 10 ... Windows 10 ... system builder software does not permit personal use, and is intended only for preinstallation on customer systems that will be sold to end users."

"System builder products may only be used to preinstall as the operating system on a customer system you build to sell to an end user."

People used to believe that the only difference was that with OEM it was locked to that one PC you built, and if you bought retail then you could reactivate it on any PC you want. OEM is a license for the computer, and retail is a license for the user.

But that's not the full story. Microsoft is very clear that OEM is only for preinstallation on a PC intended for resale, not for the personal use of the builder.

If your friend has a local computer shop, and he builds a computer and installs an OEM system builder copy of Windows 10, and you buy it from him, then it's legit. If you buy the components from your friend's shop, and you build the computer and install an OEM system builder copy of Windows 10, then it is not legit.

Also, if you install Windows in a virtual machine, you have to pay for another full retail license. You cannot use OEM in a VM, or your main computer's retail license.
JohnnyRoy wrote on 12/21/2015, 6:18 AM
> "Did you look at the URL in my post?"


I was just going to make the same post. It's pretty clear from your link that Windows 8 allowed people building their own computers to use the OEM license and that Windows 10 and 8.1 DO NOT!

I have 4 Windows licenses (2 x Windows 7 and 2 x Windows 8) all OEM. I wonder if Microsoft is going to allow me to upgrade this to Windows 10? I haven't tried yet.

JohnnyRoy wrote on 12/21/2015, 6:21 AM
> "There's always plenty of free Unix-like operating systems with permissive licensing if someone doesn't like Microsoft's terms. Lightworks is compatible with Linux."

Apple Mac OS X is also FREE and is compatible with Final Cut Pro X. lol ;-)

That's one of the great things about moving to the Mac... I no longer have to pay for my OS. Why do you think Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 for a year?

Jamon wrote on 12/21/2015, 6:27 AM
> "Why do you think Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 for a year?"

... So they have more people to spy on? ... (Partially a joke)
TheHappyFriar wrote on 12/21/2015, 6:43 AM
OEM Windows always meant cheaper, no support. Then it was locked to one computer (I think XP started this). I didn't look in to the system builder options, but I remember seeing system builder, OEM, upgrade & full for 7 & 8.x. MS has always allowed OEM to be transferred with the hardware.

I bought Full 8.1, it was cheaper then any other option, plus I wanted to upgrade my hardware.

Plus.. Apple might be giving away "free" OS's (it IS included with all their hardware, and they are the ONLY ones who sell their hardware new, so "free" is debatable to me), but MS doesn't make you buy all new software every time a new version comes out. So it's a trade off. :)
ushere wrote on 12/21/2015, 5:23 PM
there is no such thing as 'free' from either apple or windows - i can guarantee they'll still be making their money off you one way or another. AND both will 'spy' on you for marketing purposes at least...

Kit wrote on 12/21/2015, 5:57 PM
I used to think Apple spying was worse but now with Windows 10 I'm not so sure.
Stringer wrote on 12/22/2015, 8:23 AM
Is the .ISO download the current build, or will there be a lot of updates after the installation is complete?
Former user wrote on 12/22/2015, 8:55 AM
There are always updates. :)
Stringer wrote on 12/22/2015, 9:00 AM
Thanks, but that was not my question.

Perhaps PeterDuke can answer..

Does the current install include build 1511