Some Windows computers are already nagging users to upgrade to Windows 10, while others haven’t made so much as a peep about it. Here we’ll explain which versions of Windows are eligible for the free update and which aren’t. Plus, we’ll outline the system requirements so you can tell if your PC or laptop is powerful enough to run Windows 10 (it most likely will be). See also: Windows 10 hands-on review

How to reserve Windows 10

 

If your PC or laptop is running one of the qualifying versions of Windows below, you'll be able to reserve your copy of Windows 10 ahead of its launch. What does this mean, we hear you ask? Put simply, Windows 10 will be downloaded in the days (possibly weeks) before 29 July so that you're guaranteed to be able to update on that day. There won't be any overloaded servers, nor delays in downloading and upgrading. The download is 3GB.

To reserve Windows 10, click on the white Windows logo which will appear near the clock in the Taskbar (below) and then follow the instructions on screen.

How to reserve Windows 10

If you don't see the icon, make sure Windows is up to date by using Windows Update and installing all the available updates, including optional ones - but not the optional language packs. There update responsible for the icon (and GWX.exe program) is KB3035583. You'll also need to be running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or 8.1 Update as shown in the tables below. Enterprise versions, or volume licence versions, don't count.

Which versions of Windows will get a free upgrade to Windows 10?

To find out which version of Windows you have, open Control Panel and go to System. The precise Windows version will be listed. It doesn’t matter if it’s 32- or 64-bit.

Alternatively, click here to see which version your computer is running. 

Only the following versions are eligible for the update:

  • Windows 7 SP1 (Service Pack 1)
  • Windows 8.1 Update
  • Windows Phone 8.1

These versions are not eligible (some merely require updating to the versions above):

  • Windows 7 RTM (this can be updated to SP1 for free)
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8 (this can be updated to 8.1 Update for free)
  • Windows 8.1 RTM (this can be updated to 8.1 Update)
  • Windows RT (the version of Windows used on the Microsoft Surface and Surface 2 – cannot be updated)
  • Windows Phone 8.0 (updates may be available from your mobile operator or Microsoft)

In terms of specific versions, the upgrade will work on a “like-to-like” basis:

Upgrade from Windows 7:

From Edition

To Edition

Windows 7 Starter

Windows 10 Home

Windows 7 Home Basic

Windows 7 Home Premium

Windows 7 Professional

Windows 10 Pro

Windows 7 Ultimate

Upgrade from Windows 8:

From Edition

To Edition

Windows 8.1

Windows 10 Home

Windows 8.1 Pro

Windows10 Pro

Windows 8.1 Pro Student

Windows 8.1 Pro WMC

Windows Phone 8.1

Windows 10 Mobile

What about Windows 10 Insiders testing the preview builds?

A new development is that Microsoft has annnounced that people running the preview version of Windows 10 will get upgraded to the final version for free. There are two options here. If you clean installed the Windows 10 preview, then you'll need to continue on the Insider program and receive future builds and updates to test and try out before the are released to the general public.

This means there is a kind of loophole by which you can have a copy of Windows 10 even if you don't own a version of Windows which qualifies for the free upgrade. You will have to install a Windows 10 preview build before 29 July, though. Microsoft's blog clarifies that this is not intended to be a path by which you can freely upgrade your XP or Vista machine, though.

If you upgraded a genuine qualifiying version of to the Windows 10 preview, you can get the final version on 29 July and then opt out of future preview builds and simply enjoy Windows 10. However, if you wiped your hard drive to install the preview, you will have to opt in to the updates, or reinstall Windows 7 or 8.1 in order to get the upgrade to Windows 10.

What are the system requirements for Windows 10?

Just because your computer, tablet or phone runs one of the eligible versions of Windows doesn’t guarantee it will get the update. There are some hardware and software requirements as well.

These are the minimum hardware specifications needed to run Windows 10:

  • Processor: 1GHz or faster processor
  • RAM: 1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit Windows 10
  • Hard disk space: 16GB for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later
  • Display: 1024x600 pixels or higher (virtually all devices have this)

Will I lose my files and programs by upgrading to Windows 10?

Your files, settings and applications will be kept, but some settings and applications won’t be ‘migrated’ as Microsoft puts it.

For example, anti-virus software won’t be moved. Windows 10 should keep your anti-virus settings and install the latest version of your AV software after the update, assuming your subscription is current.

If it isn’t, Windows Defender will be enabled instead.

Other apps which may not be moved include those installed by your computer manufacturer, as well as those which aren’t compatible with Windows 10.

As before, you’ll get a list of any such issues before beginning the actual update, so you can choose whether or not to proceed with it. Most applications which run in Windows 7 and 8 will work fine in Windows 10, so there shouldn’t be many problems in this area.

Windows 10 upgrade: Which features will I lose during the update?

You will lose some apps, games and features. For a full list see Worst Windows 10 sacrifices http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/feature/windows/worst-windows-10-sacrifices-3614524/

Windows: 10 upgrade: Will I get Cortana, Windows Hello and Continuum?

 

 

Cortana will be available on Windows 10 for the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain. For speech recognition you will need a microphone of course, but for “better speech experience” you will need a ‘high fidelity microphone array’.

Windows Hello is a new way to log into the OS using facial recognition or a fingerprint. For that, you’ll need either a special infrared camera or a fingerprint reader which supports Windows Biometric Framework.

Continuum is where Windows 10 will switch between laptop and tablet modes. There will be a manual switch in all Windows 10 editions, but on some devices it will switch automatically, or be configurable to switch automatically.