Microsoft is aiming to make it that bit easier to upgrade to Windows 10 for existing Windows users with the Windows 10 November Update, the first major update to the new operating system since it launched in July.
The update delivered a host of updates and improvements. One of those, it seems, is a tweak to the activation process that now allows users to perform a clean install of Windows 10 and activate it using a valid product key from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.
When Windows 10 launched, it was offered as a free upgrade for anyone running one of those older versions of Windows. Many expert users prefer to take a different route and do a clean install rather than an in-place upgrade, but those doing so have found that they often couldn't take advantage of the free upgrade offer, because Windows setup failed to detect an existing version of Windows.
Microsoft has now resolved that issue with the November Windows 10 update.
However, there was another twist in the tale: some users downloading the Windows 10 November update from Microsoft's site reported that installing it reset some key privacy preferences governing online tracking that they been chosen when they first upgraded to Windows 10. As these default to allowing tracking, the users were understandably concerned.
Microsoft's response to this was to withdraw the November Update as a download while it fixed the issue, which it now claims to have done. Users may continue to get it via Microsoft's preferred method of waiting for it to be delivered via Windows Update.
Windows 10 was launched at the end of July to great fanfare, and legions of users are upgrading or awaiting their chance to upgrade for free via the Get Windows 10 app (right) that Microsoft delivered as an update to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems a few weeks back.
However, if you haven't got that app for some reason, or just favour a more direct approach, there is a shortcut to getting Microsoft's new operating system by using a media creation tool available from Microsoft's site.
Whichever way you choose to get Windows 10, just make sure you leave plenty of time for the upgrade as it can prove a very lengthy process.
In our tests with the release code, we used the media creation tool to download an installation image of Windows 10 onto a USB flash drive, which can then be used to upgrade multiple computers without having to download afresh.
This where you'll meet the first hurdle, as you need to download a 32-bit or a 64-bit version of the media creation tool, depending on whether the PC you want to upgrade supports 32-bit or 64-bit processing. In Windows 7, you can look in Control Panel > System and Security > System to see whether you are running a 32-bit or 64-bit version.
The second hurdle is that you need a blank USB flash drive (or alternatively a blank writable DVD) that is at least 4GB in size to hold the installation files.
The final caveat is that you need to download the correct version of Windows 10, which is available to end users in Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro editions. If you are currently running one of the Home editions of Windows 7, or the base edition of Windows 8, and you download Windows 10 Pro, Windows Setup will treat it as a first-time installation and ask for the product licence key (we know - we tried it).
Having said all this, we found that the media creation tool offers you the option of creating an installation disk, or just installing Windows 10 directly onto the PC you are using.
Once you have chosen, the tool will start the download process. The download is at least 3GB in size, so is likely to take hours depending on the speed of your connection. We found it took at least 2.5 hours.
After this, the media creation tool will kick off the Windows 10 setup, or write the files to your chosen installation media, which means another progress indicator for you to watch for a while.
Once you have the installation media, you can launch the setup program on it to begin installing Windows 10, and look forward to waiting some more. The installation can easily take another couple of hours, especially as setup will look for and fetch any vital updates and patches before beginning the actual installation.
The process itself is frustrating, as the progress indicator reaches 100 percent several times, only to start again from zero with some other process such as installing features and drivers and restarting the computer several times.
Even when fully installed, Windows 10 will ask you to confirm settings such as your location and privacy preferences, such as which of the built-in services you are happy to share data with and whether you want to permit Microsoft to collect diagnostic and use data as you use your computer.
However, this should all prove worthwhile when you finally finish and are faced with the Windows 10 home screen with the restored Start button and Start menu. For more, see our review of Windows 10.
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