Sunday, October 12

On 12:49 AM
Almost as surprising as deciding to skip Windows 9 in favour of 10 is the fact that Microsoft has released a "Technical Preview" for the next version of Windows, so you can try out its fancy new (old?) Start menu all for yourself. Here we take you through how to download and install the OS, whether you have a dedicated test machine ripe for the purpose, want to run the Windows 10 Preview alongside your current Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation or would rather play it safe with a virtual machine.

The first step is to download the Windows 10 ISO. There are several versions here; we downloaded the UK English 64-bit version, as our test computers were all 64-bit compatible. To see if your PC can run Windows 10, have a look at the Windows 10 requirements page; the most stringent requirement is that the operating system requires 16GB of free storage space.

How you proceed really depends on what you want to use your test PC for. If you'll no longer need the operating system it's currently running, you can just install Windows 10 over the top; we tried this with both Windows 7 and Windows 8. Bear in mind that this will destroy your previous installation, so be prepared to reinstall the previous OS from scratch from whatever recovery media you have if you no longer want to use Windows 10. Other options include installing it as a fresh install (see below), dual-booting with your current OS or installing it on a virtual machine (see page two, using the navigation at the bottom of the article). We talk you through the benefits of all options, although the clean install is our preferred method.

To install over the top of your current OS, copy the ISO you downloaded to a USB drive and plug it into your test machine. Double-click the WindowsTechnicalPreview-x64-EN-GB Disc Image to mount the image, then double-click the setup file. If you're running Windows 7, you'll first need to install the free Slysoft Virtual CloneDrive application from Slysoft in order to be able to mount disc images.

The Windows Technical Preview Setup program will take you through the installation process; there's not much to it apart from asking whether you'd like to keep your Windows settings and personal files (by this the installer means your documents rather than any system files - installing Windows 10 is irreversible). The installer will do its thing and reboot a couple of times before Windows 10 is fully installed.

If you're installing from scratch or aiming to create a dual-boot system with Windows 10 and Windows 7 or 8 (see below), you'll need to create a bootable USB drive. You'll need a model with at least 8GB capacity, which you should plug into your computer. Our preferred program to create the bootable drive is Rufus, which is both more reliable and gives you more choices than any other tool. Plug in your USB drive (double-check there's nothing on it you need, as it will all be lost), download Rufus and run it.

If you have a PC or laptop with a modern UEFI boot environment, as opposed to the older BIOS, which will probably be the case if you've bought your PC or laptop in the last three years, use the settings below for Rufus. If you have an earlier machine with a BIOS, the instructions are the same but you need to change the Partition scheme drop-down from GPT to MBR, or the computer won’t recognise the USB boot drive.

From the Device drop-down, select your USB drive. From the Partition scheme menu select GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer and from the File system drop-down select Fat32. Tick Quick format and Create a bootable disk using… and select ISO Image from the drop-down box. Now click the icon with a DVD drive and a disc, browse to the Windows 10 ISO file you downloaded and double-click to open it. Once Rufus has scanned the image, click Start to create the bootable USB drive; this will take around 25 minutes.

The best way to run Windows 10 is to put it on a complete machine and make sure that the OS is the only operating system. There are two ways that you can do this. First, you can take an old PC or laptop you no longer need and install Windows 10 from scratch, overwriting its operating system. Secondly, you can take a spare hard disk and put it in your PC, installing Windows 10 on that. If you want to use two hard disks, the best way is to power down your computer and unplug your current hard disk, then install the secondary hard disk. Once you've installed Windows 10, you can plug the old hard disk in as well and use your computer's BIOS or UEFI to choose which hard disk to boot from: Windows 10 or your old OS.

Plug your USB boot drive (see above) into your test machine, turn it on and go into the machine's UEFI or BIOS. This usually involves pressing one of the F keys, such as F2, or the delete key repeatedly as you power the computer on. Go into the Boot section of the setup menu and make sure your USB drive is the first boot option. The setup program may list the USB drive as a hard disk, so you'll need to go into the hard disk boot priority section and put the Windows 10 USB drive ahead of your computer's actual hard disk. Depending on the machine, you may have to turn off options such as Secure boot, or enable Boot from external device. Save your settings and exit.

If you're having trouble getting into the UEFI or BIOS on a Windows 8 machine, plug in your USB boot drive and then try the following method. Bring up the Charms bar, then select Settings and Change PC settings. Select Update and recovery, click Recovery and, in the Advanced start-up section, click Restart now. Once your computer has restarted, click the Use a device option and select your (UEFI) USB boot drive; Windows should load the Windows 10 setup from the drive. We found this was the only way we could get a Surface Pro to boot from USB.

Your computer should now boot straight into the Windows 10 setup program, which is almost identical to that of Windows 8. When you get to the 'Which type of installation do you want' screen, select the 'Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)' option. As long as you're sure you don’t want the old computer's operating system, you can go ahead and delete all the partitions and click Next to install.


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