Dear Lifehacker, I'm looking for some advice when it comes to upgrading to Windows 10. As several blogs have reported, it will soon stop being free so I'm keen to give it a go before MS starts charging. However, I'm not sure if I'll like it. My question is: What is the best way to backup my current computer configuration so I can switch back in the event that Windows 10 just doesn't do it for me? Thanks, Window Washer
For those who haven't heard, Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade will no longer be offered from July 29. From that point onwards, Windows 10 Home will cost $179. If you're still using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and are keen to give Windows 10 a go, now is the time!
The first thing to do is check whether your machine is actually up to the task. Windows 10 will run smoothly on almost any Windows 8.1 machine, but can be a bit flaky on older PCs running Windows 7. The minimum system requirements are as follows:
- CPU: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Free hard disk space: 16 GB
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
- Display: 1024×600
- A Microsoft account and internet access
If your computer qualifies, a clean install won't be necessary -- but you should still backup all your files and important data just in case. This is annoyingly time-consuming, but in the unlikely event that something goes wrong the effort will definitely be worth it.
One thing to bear in mind is that you only have one month to return to your old operating system. While it's still possible to recover your previous configuration after this date, the process is more complicated. So try to make your mind up within four weeks, minimum.
Otherwise, rolling back to Windows 7 or 8.1 is a relatively painless process. After backing up your data, simply go to Settings, select Update & Security and click on Recovery. You'll then be asked to select a reason for going back. (You can be honest or just pick one of the options at random.)
After the OS recovery, all your personal files will be kept, but any apps and drivers installed after the upgrade will be removed. (Important: Don't forget your OS password or you run the risk of getting locked out.)
Microsoft provides the following additional tips on its support page:
Note: If you go back to Windows 8.1, some apps that came with Windows, like Mail and People, might not work anymore. To fix them, reinstall them from the Store.
- Keep everything in the windows.old and $windows.~bt folders after the upgrade.
- Remove any user accounts you added after the upgrade.
- Know the password you used to sign in to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (if you used one).
- Have the USB drive you used to upgrade to Windows 10 (if you used one).
For what it's worth, we think Windows 10 is a worthy upgrade -- especially if you're using Windows 8. You can check out some of the best Windows 10 features here and eight interesting new tricks and shortcuts here. Have fun!
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