Thursday, July 30, 2015

Windows 10 Updating, Reinstalling And Activation Guide: Essential Advice To Avoid Problems

Yesterday saw the release of Microsoft’s highly anticipated Windows 10 operating system. For the most part things went fairly smoothly as it was rolled out over Windows Update, but a few problems have raised their heads with people unable to update or activate their new OS. Here’s a complete guide on how to how to avoid problems if you haven’t already updated, how download it, install it and activate it to make sure you register your free copy
Update first to activate
w10 update
Updating Windows 10 is a fairly painless process – image credit: Antony Leather
Whether you want to install a fresh or just install the update and leave it at that (this can install Windows 10 but keep all your files and programs intact), it’s a very good idea to install the update first by allowing Windows Update to do its thing or by forcing the download. This takes information about your system and allows Microsoft to register it, activating your copy of Windows 10 forever – you won’t be obtaining your free copy till you’ve activated. After this, you’ll be able to reinstall to your hearts content but if you create your own install media and install a fresh straight away,  you risk not being able to activate your operating system – more information on this in a minute.
Force the installation
W10 update tool
Microsoft has released a tool to allow you to manually force the update to be installed or to download the OS to create your own installation media
Some users have found that they’re still waiting for the update to be applied and I’ve certainly experienced this on one of my personal systems. I reserved Windows 10 and made sure my previous OS was up to date and of course it’s genuine too. However, I’m still waiting for things to kick off. Thankfully there’s a way to force the update to happen and to create your own media for installing a fresh on your PCs. A tool is offered by Microsoft allowing you to do this (download it here), which forces the update to download – useful if your PC or laptop for some reason hasn’t started the process yet.

Don’t have genuine product key/your key is built into your device?
Some devices including laptops made by manufacturers such as Dell, don’t have a genuine product key sticker located on the device somewhere. So, if you wipe your device and try to install a fresh, you’ll likely come unstuck when it comes to activating. In most of these cases, the key is stored in the BIOS of the system, so when you’d use your restore media to reinstall Windows, the OS would automatically activate online without you needing to do anything.
Unfortunately this isn’t great if you’re upgrading to Windows 10 – my own Dell laptop that I bought earlier this year didn’t automatically activate when I installed from scratch (not updating) using media created using Microsoft’s tool. When Windows 10 boots up from a fresh install, it will ask you for a product key and this isn’t the Windows 7 or Windows 8 key of your original OS – at least mine didn’t work – it’s one for Windows 10 that will have been applied to your device once you updated.
activate windows 10
I’m not saying that all devices will fail to update, but mine certainly didn’t – in any event, you can check whether your device has been activated in Windows 10 by going to the Start Menu > Settings > Update and security> Activation. If your device says it’s activated then all is well and good and you don’t need to do anything else.
So, what you actually need to do is update first to be on the safe side. This will register your device with Microsoft and once installed, Windows 10 will receive its own product key and once you’ve located this, you can note it down and use it to install Windows 10 from scratch after you’ve formatted your hard disk or are installing on a new one.
Find your Windows 10 product key
Once you’ve updated to Windows 10, either normally or using the tool listed above, you can use a program called ProduKey  (Download ProduKeyto reveal your Windows 10 key – this will only be shown after you’ve updated.
w7 key
Locating your Windows product key – image credit: Antony Leather
w10 key
Locating your Windows 10 product key – image credit: Antony Leather
As you can see above, a new line showing Windows 10 will appear in ProduKey, whereas on the same system before there was obviously nothing as Windows 10 hadn’t been installed yet. This product key is the one you need to use when installing Windows 10 from scratch. Once installed, during the setup you’ll be asked for it and inputting this worked first time for me, meaning my laptop has now been registered and can be activated again in future if I reinstall.
How to reinstall in future
There are numerous ways to clear your device and install afresh in future – either if you run into issues or just want to do some spring cleaning. Windows 10 includes a Reset option that allows you either remove everything and start afresh or to actually keep your files while removing programs and settings. To access this feature, go to the Start Menu>Settings>Update and Security>Recovery.
Capturex
This section actually gives you a number of useful tools, including the ability to roll back to your previous version of Windows, or to restore Windows from a system image. Clicking on Reset this PC gives you two options – remove everything or keep your files so if you want to perform a clean install you’ll want to remove everything. This is easier than doing it manually with your own media (as shown below), but it’s worth noting that this will remove the option be able to roll back to your previous version of Windows.
reset windows 10 (2)
The next step is a good move by Microsoft as it gives you the option to wipe your hard disk – a very useful feature if you’re selling your device. This writes over deleted files that may actually be recoverable, even though you can no longer access them. This takes a while, though, so if you just want to reinstall, hit the ‘Just remove my files’ button.reset windows 10 (3)
Create your own install DVD or USB flash drive
Creating your own install media is useful as it allows you to install Windows 10 on any PC quickly and easily, removing the need to download it again. Use the media creation tool  to create your own install media by selecting ‘Create installation media for another PC’.
windows 10 usb cd
You can then select the language needed, as well as the version and whether you want a 32-bit or 64-bit version too. The Edition or version needs to be the same as your previous version of windows:
  • Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate and Windows 8 and 8.1 Pro users should select Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium and Windows 8 and 8.1 should select Windows 10 Home
windows 10 own media
Once you’ve selected the right version, the next screen allows you to create a bootable USB flash drive or DVD. When you reboot your PC you can select this as the boot device to install Windows. I highly recommend using a USB stick – it makes the installation much faster. You’ll need a 4GB flash drive.
boot menu
Change your boot device to USB or DVD – image credit: Antony Leather
Most PCs and laptops allow you to change the boot device for a single boot, often by tapping F12 during the early stages of a bootup. Select the USB flash drive, Windows 10 will start to be installed, then the next boot things will return to normal and allow Windows 10 to continue installing. If not, check to see which button you need to press to access the BIOS – usually ‘del’ or ‘F2′, again when your PC is first starting to boot.
In the BIOS you’ll be able to see a boot options screen, where you can select the USB flash drive as the first device. Save your settings, exit and reboot – you should enter the installation but you may need to head back into the BIOS to change the first boot device back to your hard disk or SSD.
It’s early days with Windows 10, but I hope this helps clarify some issues and also help with your problems, especially if you have a PC or laptop with a hidden Windows product code. If you have any questions, feel free to comment or grab me on Twitter –@antonyleather

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