Windows 10 launches on Wednesday, and you’re probably going to want to update. The good news is that Microsoft has made the process surprisingly painless. Seriously, you just click a couple buttons and everything should be set.
But the bad news is that you may not be able to update this week, even though Windows 10 is coming out. Still, there may be plenty you can do to prepare. For all of the details, keep on reading.
Getting Windows 10
If your computer is already up to date:
If you already own a computer running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, then Windows 10 is going to be completely free — and updating should be really easy. Just make sure you don’t put it off too long: if you don’t update within a year from Wednesday, you’ll have to pay for it.
If your version of Windows is as up to date as it can be, you should see that a Windows icon has appeared in your task bar. (If you don’t see it by Wednesday, Microsoft has some unfortunately complex instructions on how to make it show up.) Clicking on the icon will open up Microsoft’s Get Windows 10 app, which allows you to sign up to download the new OS and determine if your computer is compatible. Enter your email address into the system, and from there you’re pretty much set. Now you just have to wait.
Chances are good that you won’t actually be able to download and install Windows 10 immediately. Microsoft is rolling the OS out slowly to make sure that it has time to clean up any bugs that it discovers, so you may end up waiting weeks or more before you’re given the go ahead to install it. Once you are, Microsoft will download Windows 10 to your computer and then notify you with a pop up that it’s ready to install. Then it’s time to get going.
If your computer isn’t up to date:
If you don’t see an icon for the Get Windows 10 app in your task bar, then there’s a good chance you need to take care of some other updates first. If you’re running Windows 7, make sure that you’ve updated all the way to Service Pack 1. To do that, go to the Start menu and search for Windows Update. If you’re running Windows 8, you’ll have to bump it up to 8.1. To do that, click the Store tile on the Start screen; inside the store, you should see an icon for the update.
Once you’re on the latest version of either operation system, the Get Windows 10 app should be available, and you’ll be able to grab the free update.
If your computer is really out of date:
If you’re running Windows Vista or XP (…you’re not still on ME, are you?), then you’ll have to pay to update to Windows 10. It costs $119 for Windows 10 Home and $199 for Windows 10 Pro, but you’ll want to take more into consideration than just the price.
Windows 10 has the same system requirements as Windows 7 and 8, but those requirements are still substantially higher than those for earlier versions of the OS. Make sure that your computer meets these minimums before updating:
RAM: 1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit
Storage: 16GB for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit
Graphics support: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
Display: 800 x 600 resolution
Even if you do meet those requirements, you may still want to think about getting Windows 10 another way: by buying a new PC. You can buy a new laptop for the same price as you can buy Windows 10 Pro, which is worth keeping in mind.
If you’re on Windows RT:
There’s some bad news: you’ve been stranded. Windows RT machines aren’t being updated to Windows 10. Microsoft is promising some kind of update in September, but it hasn’t said what to expect just yet.
This first step isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good idea: back up your computer. If you can, make sure that all of your most important files are saved outside of your PC. More than likely you aren’t going to need this, but it’s better to have it in the event that something goes wrong.
Once Windows 10 starts installing, you’re almost set. Depending on how new your computer is, this could take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or longer, but there isn’t that much for you to do aside from click “Next” a few times.
Click Next, check off some settings, and you’re basically good to go
Eventually, the Windows 10 installer will ask you to configure some settings. It’ll offer you the option to customize the settings or to choose what Microsoft calls “express settings.” We’d recommend clicking customize — it won’t take more than a couple minutes longer, and there are some options that you may want to change. That includes how Windows handles location privacy, ad tracking, browser settings, and whether or not your computer automatically connects to open hotspots.
Once you’re through that, the installer will finish setting things up and bring you to the desktop. From there, you’re very nearly good to go. You’ll want to run Windows Update one final time to make sure that you aren’t missing any recent updates or drivers specific to your computer. And that’s it — once you’re sure everything’s up to date, you’re good to go: Ask Cortana a question. Stare at the beauty of the Start menu. Annotate something in Edge. And enjoy the rest of the new but familiar world that is Windows 10.