Windows 10 Upgrade: do I have to Reinstall Programs?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Ed H. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Regarding Windows 10: do I have to reinstall my programs once Windows 10 is installed, or will everything move over automatically? I'm confused because I read that if I install Windows 10 I will have to reinstall programs, but other websites say that I won't have to reinstall any programs. How can I know for sure? "

My response:

Most users will be doing an 'in-place upgrade' through Windows Update; in that case, most of your programs (including your user data) should automatically move over without any problems. On the other hand, if you are doing a clean install of Windows 10 using a DVD or USB drive, then you will have to reinstall all your programs and user data because a clean install usually means formatting the hard drive, which erases everything.

Windows 10 Clean Install vs In-place Upgrade

Most tech users, including myself, prefer the clean install method because it means that Windows will be completely 'clean' with little to no chance of errors. On the other hand: because an in-place upgrade will move over all your installed programs and user data, there is also a chance that any errors that you had in the previous Windows environment will also be ported over to the new installation of Windows. That's why a clean install is the preferred method -- but only if you don't have any problems reinstalling all your programs and user data afterward.

Please note that you can only do a clean install of Windows if you have downloaded the Windows 10 .ISO from Microsoft (and you make a bootable DVD or USB from it), or are using a genuine Windows 10 DVD purchased from a store. You cannot do a clean install through Windows Update / by reserving Windows 10 via the Get Windows 10 app.

How to Know if your Programs are Compatible with Windows 10

If you have the 'Get windows 10' app running in your tray bar next to the clock (denoted by the white Microsoft Logo), you can have it perform a compatibility check on your system. From there it will tell you of any compatibility problems, including which programs ("apps") won't work after the upgrade has been completed.

To check if your PC, hardware, and programs are compatible with Windows 10, do the following:

  1. Left click on the white Microsoft logo in the tray bar next to the clock. This is the "Get Windows 10" app; if you don't have the app, refer to my article on How to Reserve Windows 10 Upgrade (Free).
  2. Once you click the white Microsoft logo, a new window will appear with the title "Get Windows 10"; go to the upper left of the window and click on 3 blue lines that look like a square to open up a sub menu.
  3. From the sub menu, look under the heading "Getting the Upgrade" and click on "Check your PC". This will run the compatibility check on your system. If there aren't any issues with apps or hardware, it will say "This PC meets system requirements" and will have a big green check mark.

What if a Program or Hardware isn't Compatible with Windows 10?

If you encounter a program that isn't compatible with Windows 10, you have two choices: one is that you can wait and see if the software developer will release a compatibility update to make the program work with Windows 10; optionally, you can scour the Internet and look for an alternative program that has similar features and performs the same function as the program that has compatibility issues and install that instead.

In the case of a hardware incompatibility: the rules are the same, except that the hardware manufacturer will either release a driver update which you will either receive automatically through Windows Update, or you will have to download from the manufacturer's website manually. Or, there is a possibility that no update will be released and you may have to look for alternative hardware to use in Windows 10.

Other Questions Related to Windows 10 Upgrade

We've recently answered more questions related to Windows 10, including in-place upgrades and clean installs. Feel free to read more:

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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dan_2160's picture

I've tested (using a spare solid state drive as my "C" drive (for Windows and applications) along with a separate conventional hard drive for all data, etc.) recent builds of the Windows 10 Preview both ways in the past week or so. The installation over Windows 8.1 went more smoothly than any other in-place Windows upgrade ever. All programs continued to work just fine. I had to recreate a few customizations I had made, but otherwise it was a very smooth transition.

However, it did preserve some very irritating quirks I had developed in Windows 8/8.1 -- I'm a bit too adventurous trying out customizations and new applications.

So I decided to do a fresh install of Windows 10. It, too, went smoothly. Now I'm in the lengthy process of installing applications over the next week or two (a little each day ... I do have to work). So far, so good -- and without the irritations I had developed in Windows 8/8.1.

So I would agree with Dennis that a clean install is the way to go if you do not want to carry over any quirks that had developed in your previous version of Windows.

But either way, it is a smooth upgrade. But always be smart and make a clone or disk image back up before starting the upgrade to Windows 10. Play it safe.

beergas's picture

Upgrade to Win 10 x64 Pro went ok. Did get caught in that loop bug afterwards where Win threw me into Recovery mode where ended up at tail end again with Hi screen. So redid the screen resolution, themes, etc. that didn't come across.
Had to redo a bunch of prior apps like hotkeys, alarm clock, lastpass. And Chrome as default took lot of work. MS Edge not yet ready to block spam and malware.
Overall decent performance. GodMode, and DoNotSpy10 (avoid the 'extras' it offers during install) are best for config of new setup.