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How to upgrade a Windows 7 computer to Windows 10 - without losing your programs and files

Got a Windows 7 computer that you need to upgrade to Windows 10? Here is how to do that and keep your apps, settings, accounts and files intact.

In this article, we will learn how to upgrade a Windows 7 PC to Windows 10 "in-place" - while still retaining your programs, profile, settings, documents, pictures, music, movies, favorites, wallpaper and everything else.

This tutorial is for upgrading on same computer. If you are moving between two different computers, use this tutorial instead: How to Copy Programs and Files to New Computer

Upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 can be a smooth, automatic process in many cases. Unfortunately, in some cases, an automatic upgrade may fail, or turn out to be unavailable in the first place (such as when upgrading from Windows 7 Home to Windows 10 Pro, or from a 32bit Windows 7 to a 64bit Windows 10).

No matter how you choose to perform the upgrade, a full backup of Windows 7 prior to starting the process is a must. You don't want to lose all of your data if the Windows 10 installation process fails.

In this article, we will show how to perform a full backup of your Windows 7, and then - after Windows 10 is installed - how to restore your programs, settings, profiles and all files from that backup.

How to Backup your Windows 7 PC

The first step in a Windows 10 upgrade is to back up everything you've got. There are dozens of backup applications on the market; we strongly recommend to use a "full image" backup, i.e. the kind of backup that saves everything on the computer, and not just some of your files. This way, you can restore more than just your documents; you can restore the entire computer. The product we will be using for this is Migration Kit Pro. Its unique ability is that it can restore programs and files to a completely different Windows, i.e. restore a Windows 7 backup to Windows 10. This way, if a straightforward upgrade to 10 turns out to be impossible, you can always just install a fresh Windows 10 installation, and let Migration Kit Pro restore your programs and files to it.

How to backup your Windows so that you can restore programs, settings and files after the reinstall

Before we begin, the most important part is to have a full, complete backup of your computer. This is crucial - without this step, you will lose your programs and data if you wipe the system clean.

  1. Download and run Zinstall Migration Kit Pro on your computer.
  2. Migration Kit Pro
  3. Use its 3rd option, "Moving from Machine to Container".
  4. Select the C: drive on Source selection, and select a place to store your backup container (it's just a big file) in the Target browse selection.
  5. A good place to store the container is a USB external hard drive, but any place which is outside the computer we are wiping will do fine, such as a network drive, another hard drive in the computer etc.
  6. Start the backup process. This should take a long while, and you will see a message confirming that the container has been created successfully.

Your stuff is now safe, and we can proceed to resetting Windows on this computer.

How to Install Windows 10

Once you have your backup, it's time to perform the actual Windows 10 upgrade. There are several ways to do it; if you have purchased Windows 10 on a physical media such as a USB stick, you can just install from that. Another option is to download Windows 10 directly from Microsoft. Here is how to do that:

  1. First, we’ll create a Windows 10 USB installation drive. Here is how:
  2. On any working computer (you can do that on the one you will be wiping), download Microsoft’s Windows 10 Media Creation Tool
  3. The tool is available here:
    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=691209
  4. Once you download it, plug a blank USB stick into the computer.
  5. Then, tell the tool to create an installation media on that USB stick (DO NOT press “Upgrade Now”, since that would upgrade the computer you are doing this on).
  6. Once the tool is done, take the USB stick and plug it into the computer that we are wiping and reinstalling.
  7. Reboot the computer that we are reinstalling so that it runs from the USB stick and starts the Windows 10 installation process.
  8. In the installation process, tell the tool to do a Custom install, and then use the wizard to wipe the existing Windows, and reinstall a new, fresh copy of Windows instead.

Once done, proceed to the "Restore your programs, settings and files from backup" section.

How to Restore your programs and files to Windows 10

  1. Once you have your new Windows 10 installed, it is time to restore your programs, settings and files from the backup you've made before.
  2. To do that, run Zinstall Migration Kit Pro and use the 4th option, "Moving from Container to Machine".
  3. Selective restore
  4. Point it to the backup container you've created in the first section, and it will restore everything, including programs, settings and files, to the new Windows.
  5. If you don't want to restore everything, you can also exclude some programs / folders you don't want to recover.

That's it - you have a successfully installed Windows 10, without losing your programs and files!

Ready to go?

Ready to upgrade your Windows 7 to Windows 10?
Get Zinstall Migration Kit Pro here.

Any questions? Need guidance? Looking for help with your Windows 10 upgrade, backup or recovery? Our expect techs are standing by!

Contact us by email (support@zinstall.com), phone (877.444.1588), or chat (bottom-right corner of this page).

We are looking forward to assist you.