How to Get Your PC Ready for Windows 10

By Ed Rhee

Windows 10 will be available starting on July 29. Get your PC ready for the upgrade with these tips.

Windows 10 has arrived, and Microsoft is offering the latest version of its PC operating system (OS) as as a free upgrade to users running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1. If you’re planning to upgrade to Windows 10, here’s how to get your PC ready.

Tip

Wondering what's new and cool in Windows 10? Check out eHow's 10 Important Changes You Must Know to Use Windows 10.

Step 1: Check Compatibility

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure your PC meets the Windows 10 system requirements, which are:

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1
  • CPU: 1 GHz or faster
  • RAM: 1 GB for 32-bit OS or 2 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Disk Space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS or 20 GB for 64-bit OS
  • Video Card: DirectX9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
  • Display: 800x600 resolution

If you’ve been keeping your PC updated regularly through Windows Updates, you might have already noticed the “Get Windows 10” app running in your system tray in the lower-right corner of the screen. This tool not only allows you to reserve your free copy of Windows 10, it also checks your PC to see if it’s capable of running Microsoft’s latest OS.

To run the check, click on the “Get Windows 10” app in the system tray, then click on the three dashes in the upper left-hand corner to bring up the menu. Next, click on “Check your PC.”

System requirements report

Review the results of the compatibility check to make sure your PC can run Windows 10. You also have the option of checking your hardware and software programs manually at Microsoft’s Compatibility Center.

Warning

Some Windows 10 features will require advanced hardware. Example: The new Windows Hello feature, which can automatically log you in by looking at your face, and enable fingerprint authentication on laptops with fingerprint scanners, won't work with just any run-of-the-mill webcam. Rather, it requires a specialized illuminated infrared camera like the Intel RealSense 3D. For a list of devices with a RealSense 3D camera, go here.

Step 2: Back Up Personal Files

Prior to performing any major OS upgrade, you should always have a recent backup of your important personal files, including photos, music, and videos. Make sure the backup files aren’t located on the PC itself. Ideally, you’ll want them on a completely separate device, like an external hard drive or a USB flash drive.

Tip

Cloud storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive are handy for file backups too. Each offers a limited amount of free storage, after which you'll have to pay. Both Google Drive and OneDrive offer 15GB free. Dropbox Basic (free) accounts start with 2GB, but you can earn up to 16GB of additional space via friend referrals and other means.

Step 3: Make a List of Programs and Licenses

Create a list of all the programs you use on your PC, and make sure you have their license keys. What's a license key? A series of numbers and/or letters provided by a software developer to a licensed user of its program. If you bought a program online, check your email receipt for the license key. If the program came on CD or DVD, the key may be printed on a sticker on the CD/DVD sleeve. Another good place to look is in the software program itself, such as under the "About" section. If these efforts fail, try contacting the vendor.

If you run into any problems during the upgrade, you may have to reinstall some programs and re-enter the license keys. Write down the keys in a text (TXT) file with Notepad -- Windows' no-frills text editor -- and save the file to a USB flash drive for easy copying and pasting later.

Tip

If you have to re-download programs from the Internet, use VirusTotal, a free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs, to check for malware.

Step 4: Gather Hardware Drivers

Even if your hardware works in Windows 10, your PC maker or other hardware vendor may release newer drivers to optimize performance, increase stability, or add features. Go to your hardware maker’s support page to see if it offers updated drivers, particularly for printers and graphics cards.

That's it! Keep in mind that the system requirements are based on the pre-release version of Windows 10. Once Windows 10 is released, the official requirements may change slightly.