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February 19, 2020

Upgrading Older PCs to Windows 10

With the End-of-Life (EOL) date (January 14, 2020) for Windows 7 in the offing, lots of businesses and organizations have to be thinking about moving on up from 7 to 10. Dire warnings and admonitions notwithstanding — see this Minneapolis StarTribune  article as a good example — I’m a little more optimistic about making that change. In my experience, if a computer will run Windows 7 it will probably also run Windows 10 as well, subject to some well-known hardware requirements. For some stunning examples of bringing new life to really old PCs, see this wonderful TenForums thread (now 47 pages long): Let’s run Win10 on really really old hardware. Maybe I should’ve kept my old Asus EEE netbook: looks like lots of people have succeeded in upgrading this old and somewhat underpowered machine to Win10.

Is the Upgrade Worth the Time and Effort?

The Windows 10 Update Assistant (available on the Download Windows 10 page) runs a hardware assessment prior to installing anything. So, if you’ve got some time on your hands, and the inclination to check things out, you can see what Microsoft thinks of your upgrade chances. As I said before “if a computer will run Windows 7 is will probably also run Windows 10 as well.” This should help you determine the likelihood of success unless you also want to read through the 461 posts (as I write this) in the “really old hardware” thread, where you can learn some useful tips and tricks on getting PCs manufactured prior to 2010 running Windows 10 (no small trick, if you ask me).

But there will be some time and effort involved in making this transition successful. Above all, I’d recommend installing and using a good backup package (such as Macrium Reflect Free) and building the rescue disk, in addition to creating an image backup, before you start down this road. Worst case, you’ll blow up your PC and leave it stuck in limbo (no OS working). Booting from the Rescue Disk you can restore the old, working Windows 7 image and be no worse off than you started out, save for the time and effort lost in trying to upgrade. IMHO, it’s definitely worth a shot, and reasonably likely to succeed for PCs built in 2012 and later. Why do I say this? Because I am running Windows 10 on three PCs manufactured or built in 2012 (Lenovo T520 and X220 Tablet laptops, plus my wife’s mini-ITX PC running on a Jetway NF9G-QM77 motherboard), and a Surface Pro 3 purchased in 2014, all without more than the usual problems one runs into on Windows 10 machines in general.

All this said, January 20 is now six weeks off, with the end-of-year holidays also nearly upon us. If you’re still pondering a Windows 7-to-10 upgrade it’s time to stop pondering, and start experimenting. In many cases, your upgrade efforts will not only be successful, you’ll prove to yourself that the upgrade still remains free of charge (see Kari’s musings on this same subject in his November 21 post “Windows 7 users — it’s time to upgrade. It’s still free!“). Good luck, happy upgrading, and happy holidays, too.


Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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