Microsoft is allowing users of Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Upgrades to me never feel as good as a clean install. My 8.1 “upgrade” never did work properly and with Windows 10 you get some additional disk system partitions so I feel a clean install is worth the extra steps.
It must be an upgrade though to qualify as free, you cannot do a clean install as you need a valid Windows 10 key. Keys for previous versions of Windows don’t work even though they are allowed as part of the upgrade program.
In order to get a clean install from a previous version of Windows to Windows 10 on a new hard disk or SSD these are the steps I used.
- Backup your machine (Macrium Reflect Free Edition works well)
- Perform the upgrade to Windows 10
(Either by the reservation method or the Windows 10 download https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/software-download/windows10 )
- Reboot and ensure that your “upgraded” Windows 10 has successfully activated
(Check in the system section of the control panel WinKey + Pause / Break)
- Once successfully activated use the Windows 10 downloader to produce a USB installer
(See above for link)
- Swap the old, upgraded, hard disk for your new SSD, boot from the Windows 10 USB and install
- Skip the step where the Windows 10 installer asks for a Product key
Possibly use one of these (untested)
- Once installed, log in and check your activation status in the System section of the control panel again. It should be activated already as long as you had an Internet connection before, during and after installation.
If not, I found on one machine that running Windows Update and a reboot activated the machine after a little while.
The reason it just works? It seems that the upgrade is logged with Microsoft and as they already know about your valid Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 license. So once upgraded to Windows 10 any subsequent installs will work once connected to the Internet.
Finally, although you can use the excellent recovery mode in Windows 10 to either reset or reinstall windows if your SSD dies (and they do, without warning!) then you will be back to a full reinstall so use Macrium Reflect again to produce a full backup of your activated Windows 10.