Planning for 2020
Note: these comments may be irrelevant after July 29, 2016.
Are you like me? I'm very happy with Windows 7 which I've been using for 6-8 years and my computer is tweaked just like I like it. This custom-built computer has adequate power for now and is easily upgradable. But Microsoft is definitely going to kill Win 7 in four years while I hope this computer will still be going strong. At that time, I'll have to upgrade to the newest version of Windows for which Microsoft may want to charge me $249 by then.
By July 29 - I should have started sooner - I will upgrade "this" computer to Windows 10 for free. Then I'll revert and go back to using Win7 until it can't walk any more. However, any time in the future I'll have a free Win10 license ready to run.
There are two ways I could do this "upgrade on new installation" or "upgrade, archive, and revert." I'll use the first method, "upgrade." If you have an OEM Windows without install or restore media, you may have to use the second, more complex method.
METHOD 1 - A clean install
My plan is to install Win7 on a new hard drive in this box and allow it to get upgraded. Since I'm no fan of dual boot - and am not sure I could dual boot the same DVD key - I'll disconnect my current C: drive and repeat the basic process I performed 2 years ago. Once Win 10 is installed, I'll take the new drive out and return to my running machine. Occasionally I'll swap back to Win10 to get updates and verify the installation.
Since this is a generic computer and I have a retail copy of Win7 on DVD, it shouldn't be significantly different from what would happen if I had a drive failure. At this writing, I have installed Win7 on a new drive, but am missing a few drivers. I'm looking into a utility to extract the running drivers from the running installation which happens to be on the same hardware. There's also the issue that a reinstallation of Win7 will require over 200 updates and can take a week to complete. There is a means to shortcut that problem by manually installing just a few updates.
METHOD 2 - Upgrade and revert
If you don't have your original distribution media or find it difficult to temporarily replace your primary boot drive, you will need to upgrade the way Microsoft expects most people to. This will require multiple backups, one or more large capacity external drives, and a lot of interactive patience.
Start with a complete data backup to reliable media. Don't forget any settings and customizations you've made to your applications and your password database. Also backup your email and account details and passwords if not included in your data folders. This protects your data in case something goes terribly wrong.
Then do a full system image of your Win7 boot drive. There are multiple programs that can do this; most of the ones with comprehensible interfaces you will need to pay for. This allows you to get back to where you started if the upgrade and revert processes fail.
Now allow the Win10 upgrade to install and use it for a while so it has a chance to stabilize. After you're comfortable that everything is working and no data or applications have been lost or corrupted, create an image of Windows 10.
Within 30 days of the upgrade you can revert back to your previous operating system. Theoretically you have a perpetual license to reinstall Win10 on this computer at any time in the future - even if you've made minor changes like adding memory or replacing a hard drive. I don't know how either process works or will work. If anything fails, you've still got your image backups to get back to where you started.
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