Note: This was originally posted in April, 2016.  Although Windows 10 free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 ended in July, 2016, there is still one more avenue to get a free upgrade.

This upgrade is still offered for users who require assistive technologies.  For more details, please visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/accessibility/windows10upgrade.

Updated on 9/2/18: This assistive technologies update offer ended on 31/12/17.

Yes, I think upgrading to Windows 10 is a good idea. In fact, Microsoft is offering PC users of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10 for free of charge. This very generous offer ends on 29/07/16. After that date, PC users will not be able to upgrade for free but they will have to buy a license. I recommend that people should go for this free upgrade while the offer still stands.

However, there is a 1 out of 10 chance that upgrading your computer will either not work or (even worse) stuff up your computer. To avoid this happening, I highly recommend you have your computer professional do the upgrade for you.

For those who are interested, this post will give you some information about the process of alternative way to upgrading your computer to Windows 10 (you will see it’s quite complicated!)

Although the upgrade takes a long time, the majority of PC users would not have a problem upgrading their computers to Windows 10. However, there are certain cases where Windows 10 upgrade fails miserably and in the worst case scenario, your PC would not start again.

For example, I upgraded my friend’s Toshiba Laptop (Toshiba Dynabook T553 – Windows 8.1) to Windows 10 Home (64bit version) in August, 2015. It appeared that the upgrade finished successfully but when I restarted the laptop, a blue screen came up saying “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL” and it would not start at all.

Before the upgrade, I consulted with Windows 10 on screen upgrade compatibility checks and it said it was all good to go. It took a short while to find out what was causing this error. The cause of the error was an installed anti-virus program (ESET anti-virus ver 8.0.304.7) where a file (“epfwwfp.sys” residing in the Window’s system folder being used for Window’s firewall setting) was conflicting with the Windows 10 start up.

Under usual circumstances, it would not be possible to fix this error. The only way was to:

• Start the laptop using a startable operating system installed CD (you will need a Laptop CD/DVD drive)
• Locate the problem file
• Rename the file with a different name (e.g. “epfwwfp.sys.bak”).
• Take out the startable CD and restart the laptop.
• Finally the laptop could start with Windows 10.

Many brands of PCs (such as Lenovo, HP and Acer etc.) coming with pre-installed Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 are designed to use the full power of the PC using special designed software for the PC. As you can imagine, Windows 10 was not in existence when those PC were sold in a shop. So, there could be a case that your upgrade to Windows 10 might fail.

So, my recommendation is to upgrade your computer to Windows 10, but be careful how you do it. Most people would simply do an upgrade when prompted by Microsoft (this would involve simply clicking ‘yes’ when asked if you would like to upgrade. 9 times out of 10 this should be fine). However, just in case your upgrade might fail or stuff up your computer, I recommend doing the upgrade another way. This involves creating your own Windows 10 installation disk and using a brand new hard drive. This isn’t easy but in my opinion it’s the safest way to upgrade your computer, especially if you are worried that the other (easier) method might go wrong. Here are the steps to going about it:

You will need:

• A brand new hard drive (you can buy one from the computer shop and they usually cost about $70-$80 AUD to start with. Make sure you ask them to prepare your hard drive as an “Active-Startable simple drive” [if I may use computer jargon, “MBR – Master Boot Record Disk” not “GPT – GUID Partition Table” Disk]. This is to avoid any potential installation errors).

• A blank writable DVD (i.e. a DVD that can be burned)
• A CD/DVD drive (make sure it can both play DVDs and burn DVDs).
• Software to burn a DVD (e.g. Nero etc. or you can use Windows built in burning program. Refer to the following link: For Windows 7;http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/burn-a-cd-or-dvd-from-an-iso-file For Windows 8.1; http://www.sysprobs.com/how-to-burn-mount-iso-to-cd-dvd-in-windows-8-1-without-software )

• Your 25 digit product key for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (this is a 25 digit code that is normally attached to your PC as a sticker.

• Internet connection for Windows 10 activation

• Your computer manual

• Tools to open up your computer (e.g. Philips screw driver) to replace a hard drive.

You also MUST KNOW what operating system is running on your desktop or laptop. There are 2 types:

a) “32bit (x86)” which can only utilize up to 4 Gigabytes of installed memory (i.e. RAM – Random Access Memory). This is regardless of your PC’s installed memory size which may be bigger than 4 Gigabytes

b) “64bit (x64)” which can utilize much bigger installed memory.

If you are not sure which operating system you have, you can check by going into your Control Panel and open “System” (it will list your operating system under ‘System type’).

Lastly, you MUST KNOW how to start your computer from DVD drive (Please consult with your Manual).

What to do:

1. Burn a Windows 10 installation disk. This is a 3 step process. Firstly, download the Windows 10 media creation utility program from Microsoft here:https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/software-download/windows10

(Download media.creation.tool.exe. Run it)

Secondly, choose “Create installation media for another PC” when prompted. Then follow the steps shown on the screen to create the media for the Windows 10 (iso) image. Make sure you choose an appropriate Windows 10 version (Pro or Home) where the media should be US English based. The final step is to burn a Windows 10 installation DVD from the created (iso) image file using your disk burning software.

2. Replace your old hard drive with your new hard drive (make sure to keep your old hard drive in a safe place). Your computer manual should have instructions on how to replace your hard drive.

3. Turn your computer on (you will find that your computer will switch on but won’t start. This is normal).

4. Open your CD/DVD drive and insert your Windows 10 installation DVD disk.

5. Switch off your computer then switch it on again (your computer should ask you to press any key to continue. When you do this, your Windows 10 installation disk should automatically start).

6. Make sure you install with the same ‘architecture’ (i.e. 32bit (x86) to 32bit or 64bit (x64) to 64bit – Installation DVD contains both 32bit and 64bit version). Follow the installation instructions and when prompted, type in your 25 digit product key.

7. This should result in a successful installation and activation of Windows 10.

Extra options:

Installing other language versions of Windows 10

Let’s say you have installed Windows 10 as a US English version, but you would like to change it to another native language (e.g. Japanese). You can do this by installing another language version of Windows 10. Make sure you install with the same ‘architecture’ (e.g. 32bit (x86) to 32bit or 64bit (x64) to 64bit) using another brand new hard disk.

Product Key

Let’s say you have successfully upgraded your PC to Windows 10 but for some reason (e.g. your hard drive has died) you need to re-install Windows 10. For this process, you will not need to put in your 25 digit product key again, even if you are prompted to do so (if this happens, just select ‘Skip’). The reason you won’t need to keep typing in your product key is because your PC will automatically be recorded by Microsoft as a “Windows 10 activation enabled PC” on their online database (the registration procedure of Windows 10 is totally different from previous operating systems).

Going back to older versions of Windows

Let’s say you’ve tried Windows 10 but prefer your older version. It is possible to go back to your older Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. All you have to do is replace the new hard drive back to the old hard drive with Windows 7 or Window 8.1 installed on it. You can always make your computer Windows 10 again in future.

Worried about Spies?

Many PC users say Windows 10 is sending information to Microsoft and spying on us. In my opinion, Windows 10 is a much better computer client operating system than previous Windows versions. Why not take advantage of the free upgrade? If you are concerned about Microsoft spying on us, there are already many utility programs available to disable sending such info to Microsoft.

Future Upgrades

The next major update of Windows 10 is scheduled as early as August, 2016 by Microsoft. I quite like Windows 10, but if you have any concerns for upgrading your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, talk to your friendly computer professional.

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