Windows 10: Key Questions Answered

John Lister's picture

Windows 10 is now available. While there's no immediate rush to get it (the upgrade is free for another year), here are some of the basics to know if you're thinking of trying out the new system.

Can I get Windows 10 right away, or do I have to wait?

Many users are still waiting for Windows 10 to download to their computer, even though they have reserved their free upgrade using the 'Get Windows 10' app via the tray bar. It is possible, however, to forcefully download Windows 10 directly from Microsoft's website as an in-place upgrade or as an .ISO, which is used to create a bootable DVD or USB to install Windows 10.

Both install methods can have two very different outcomes, however.

Windows 10 In-Place Upgrade vs ISO Install

If you install Windows 10 as an in-place upgrade from within a Windows environment and the device qualifies for the free upgrade, the device will be registered permanently with Microsoft as having a valid Windows 10 license - without charge. You can then perform a clean install of Windows 10 on the device as many times as you want without ever having to enter in your license key.

Using the Windows 10 DVD as an In-place install

You can in theory make an .ISO DVD or USB and run the setup file from within a Windows environment and this would be considered an in-place upgrade. You could then take the .ISO DVD or USB and use it on another system and perform the same installation method without having to download Windows again on another machine. This will save a lot of time.

Using the Windows 10 DVD, USB to Clean Install

If you choose not to perform the in-place install and download Windows 10 as an .ISO file AND reboot the system without running the setup.exe from within Windows, you will likely be asked for a Windows 10 license at some point. Rumors suggest that you can "skip" the license request; once you boot into Windows, you will automatically be activated once you login with a Microsoft account - but only if your system was previously activated and genuine. We can't confirm this, yet, however.

As such, we suggest you do the following in any case:

1. Use Magic Jellybean Key Finder (free) to extract your existing Windows Key, as you may need this later. Print out the key or carefully write it down a piece of paper. You can also save it as a text file but you won't be able to open a text file during a windows install, so you will need a hard copy on paper some way or another.

2. Backup your files using a disk imaging program (such as Acronis True Image) before installing Windows 10. This is the only sure fire way of rolling back Windows in case something goes wrong, whether you're using an .ISO or an in-place upgrade from the install tool.

Will my PC be able to run Windows 10?

There are many users reporting that their CPU is not Compatible with Windows 10; however, Windows 10 will almost certainly install without any issues on any computer made in the last decade.

For both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions, you'll need a 1 GHz processor, a Direct X 9 graphic card and a resolution of at least 800 x 600 pixels. With the 32-bit edition, you'll need 1GB of RAM and 16GB spare hard drive space. With the 64-bit edition you'll need 2GB of RAM and 20GB spare hard drive. If you aren't sure of your computer's specification, the best rule of thumb is that if your computer can run Windows Vista or later without problems, it will almost certainly run Windows 10.

What are the main new features?

The key features for everyday use are Microsoft's Edge Browser, which replaces Internet Explorer, plus Cortana, a "personal assistant." There's also the option to use Windows Hello, which can replace the traditional user name and password sign-in with facial recognition. If you have a "2-in-1" computer where you can remove the screen from a laptop set-up and use it as a tablet, a feature called Continuum will automatically switch the layout and controls to best suit your current set-up without the need to reboot.

What are the main control changes I should know about?

The Start menu is back in Windows 10 but with a different look that's a blend of Windows 7 and Windows 8. By default, you'll see large icons (tiles) for some of your main programs, along with "live" tiles that update automatically with relevant information such as a weather forecast. Clicking on or tapping "All apps" in the bottom left of the screen will give you a complete list of all the programs on your computer in alphabetical order.

Pressing "Alt" and "Tab" together will still cycle through your open windows as usual. However, you also have another option called Task View which you can get either by clicking on an icon at the bottom of the screen (a large rectangle with a smaller rectangle either side) or by pressing the Windows key and "Tab" together. (Source:

Task View lets you view the contents of multiple windows at once and create virtual desktops, meaning you can group windows together and work with one group at a time. Though it sounds complicated, it's relatively intuitive and is worth experimenting with if you tend to have a lot of programs open at once, or if you use multiple monitors.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you plan on upgrading to Windows 10 soon? If you've already tried it out, what's your initial impression? Have you experienced any early problems?

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Average: 4.9 (11 votes)


ruellej's picture

I was planning to upgrade to win 10 but what really turned me off was the inability to turn off the automatic updates feature as it was in early win OS.

I believe MS will get around to adding this option before the year is up, especially if the quality of their patches in the past is anything to go by. Ditto for their drivers.

nate04pa's picture

1. I noticed that the "Get Windows 10" icon in the system tray no longer appears. I plan to wait before installing Win 10 on my main system. I'll probably download the ISO file at a later date and use it.

2. I had been running the Win 10 Technical Preview on another system. Yesterday I received an update to Build 10240 which is no longer labeled Technical Preview. I am wondering if that is the "Official" release and I am free to use it "for the life of the device". For the most part it ran OK.

Syscob Support's picture

Having been a Windows® developer since the days of the 3 slice toaster, not by preference (Lisa & Mac was my OOP start), I have to say this is the first “in place update” which MS appears to have properly designed and tested. It actually worked. There is a whole lot of waiting—but what can one expect from the owners of the “Please wait”™ trademark—even on a really fast machine. And a number of updates get applied during the setup. But the sequence of events is sensible for a change.

gmthomas44_4203's picture

checked hidden files and had $windows.~etc., checked update history and found win 10 update failed on 7-29 and on 7-30. From win 7pro on sony vaio i7. Never had problems with updates or downloads in the past. Don't have Nvidia, Now what???

Phil's picture

I have "system builder" copies of Win 7 Pro SP1 on my machines - with a unique license key for each.

From your article and the Microsoft article it links to, I get the impression that if I enter my existing Win 7 license key during a clean install of Win 10, that would be as good, as far as Microsoft is concerned, as doing an in-place upgrade, in terms of giving me a free license to Win 10.

Is this correct? If so, I'd buy a new drive (maybe even an SSD) and make that "Drive 0," do a clean install of Win 10 onto the new Drive 0, connect my Win 7 drive as "Drive 1," and use the Drive and Image version of Laplink's PC Mover program to migrate my applications and files, which is what I used to migrate from my old XP drive to a brand-new Win 7 drive.

Laplink makes you buy a separate license for each pair of migration drives, but this seems like the middle-path between an in place upgrade and a pure clean install and reinstalling all my applications.

Does this sound feasible? The key question is whether simply entering my license key would unlock a free clean install and license Win 10 on that machine.

Or do I have to first clone my Win 7 drive onto my new drive, unplug one of the Win 7 drives, boot into Win 7, do an in place upgrade, then wipe that installation and do a clean install. That sounds unnecessarily complicated and time-consuming, not giving MS any protection that just entering the code wouldn't do more simply.

Dennis Faas's picture

You need to do an in-place upgrade on your existing Windows - first - and after that, you can clean install Windows 10 onto another hard drive (SSD, for example).

I don't know about using the Laplink; you might want to just reinstall all your programs and files manually - that's what a clean install is all about. If you use a third party program to move you over there is a chance it won't work because the registry is involved, etc.

Installing all programs manually will at least give you some indication as to whether or not the program you're attempting to install is compatible: either the installer will have errors, or the program won't run properly after being installed (assuming you test each one after installing it).

Phil's picture

What the Laplink program does is scan your existing installation and flag which of your applications it thinks will, may, or won't transfer successfully.

You can then go down the list and select or de-select applications to be transferred. You can do this in stages. It's time-consuming but has the virtue of bringing applications over that you've lost the installation disks for and transferring your application tweaks as well.

They have a very good 24-hour online chat for technical help. I did that on another machine so I could keep the chat alive through reboots and such - and because I unplugged the ethernet cable from the machine being upgraded until I was done and had reinstated my firewall and antimalware programs).

It's not a panacea, but it is a big help. I suppose doing a clean install, manually reinstalling those applications you still have the media for, and using Laplink for others would be another option.

wa3vez_5091's picture

Several years ago a Microsoft tech ruined my 95 system and I was moved up to the top level of support. The Tech said they could not fix the system and told me I would have to completely redo it. As compensation for the three days I spent they sent me a free windows 7 system when it was released. I had no idea this was an enterprise edition until I tried to update to 10.

Is it possible to upgrade this to 10? I am not a business just a home user. I contacted the Support group and they just read the regulations 3 times and hung up on me. Do you know who to contact or write to at Microsoft?

I am sure if I could get to a Manager Level they could help me with this problem.

Phil's picture

If doing a clean install is always preferable - to avoid bringing over potential existing problems - why advocate disk imaging at all? Why not insist on always doing clean installs of the OS and all applications?

If it's valid to restore a disk image since the system was running acceptably before a problem occurred, migrating an acceptably performing machine to a newer version of Windows by using a program that ports installed applications and tweaks should also be seen as valid.

Sure, you may get your machine running leaner and meaner with a clean install and fresh installs of all your applications, but at the cost of a tremendous investment of time in doing the re-installs - and then re-downloading and re-installing all the updates to the applications and then re-tweaking them to your preferred settings.

How long would it take for the theoretically faster clean rebuild of the system to save enough time to amount to a net saving over the in-place upgraded or ported installation?

shujin's picture

First thanks for all the help you have provided us on Win10 and other subjects....
I had a recent high-end computer that came with an SSD boot drive (only 128 GB). how much does the in-house upgrade to Win 10 take? I only have 20 GB of space left on the boot drive (SSD) even after deleting all unnecessary files on it. I have always installed my programs on another internal drive other than the boot drive yet the programs still use space on the boot drive even after I install them on another drive. Could the lack of available blank space be preventing the installation of Win 10 from even beginning? I bought a 500GB SSD to replace the small one when I install Win 10.... I hope they can be partitioned like a regular hard drive...
Thanks again

PayPaul's picture

Is it true that Windows 10 doesn't allow windows to be resized using the arrow handles?

anton_van_wamelen_3476's picture

We had an upgrade from windows 7 pro to Windows 10 pro on a 60 Gb SSD and we decided to upgrade the SSD to 12 GB and now the Microsoft server blocked my key....

It is to us a mystery when the windows is genuine and the key still blocked...

There is no chat room with remote help from Microsoft like Acronis and other software houses do.

We have tried to reach them 3 times and still the numbers given the helpdesk could not verify them, rather strange...

They give me the advice to wait till they will delve into the matter, a ref. number was given...

Do you know what's wrong here?

Thank you

anton_van_wamelen_3476's picture

My horror story

I have made probably the dummest mistake upgrading my SSD from 60 to 12 GB and now have this above situation...

I phoned the helpdesk 4 times in a row and got to sum up the ID numbers time and time again till I got sick of it, but they could not verify them. So they gave me a REf number instead.
The last time I was diverted to a person who wants me to sum up them again, and I hang up...

Going to the internet for help and reading all those horror stories made me feel sick in the stomach...

For if you have upgraded get your key first...