Windows 10 official accessibility upgrade offer expired on December 31, 2017.
That being said, under certain conditions, older PCs can still be upgraded to Windows 10 from a PC running a genuine copy of either Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 SP1. Go to https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10 to upgrade this PC to Windows 10 or to create Windows 10 installation media on a bootable flash drive.
On this page you will be able to download the Media Creation Tool to your PC (click the Download Tool Now button) You will then be able to choose to either Upgrade your PC to Windows 10 or to create a flash drive to clean-install (Custom Install) Windows 10 on another PC. (Either way, this is a large download and will take a while. At least an 8GB Flash Drive necessary)
WARNING! When you perform a clean (Custom) install everything on your hard drive will be overwritten and lost. You should not perform a clean install until you have saved all of your data (files, photos, and/or music) and made provision to re-install all of your necessary programs.
How to perform a clean install of Windows 10 and why you want to do it.
Notes on an Upgrade
If you wish to upgrade your PC to Windows 10 from a genuine copy of Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 SP1 you will need the Product Key Code, which is a 25-digit code from a sticker located somewhere on your PC. Go to this Microsoft Support page for help finding the Product Key Code.
The Product Code sticker should look something like this:
On a laptop, if the sticker in not located on the back (bottom), look under the battery. The real sticker is even smaller than shown, you may need a magnifying glass to read it.
Most pros recommend that you save (backup) your data (important files, photos, and/or music BEFORE upgrading. It's probable you may need to re-install your programs after the upgrade, so be sure you have installer programs and product codes for them, especially Microsoft Office and third-party software, if installed. Also make sure you know your network credentials (SSID and WiFi password(s) and also your usernames and passwords for email accounts and cloud services, if any. If you take care of these things BEFORE the update everything should go much easier.
It's possible that if your PC is running a genuine copy of Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, you should be able to choose to Keep personal files during the upgrade. However, most third-party software such as antivirus programs may not work and you may need to update hardware drivers after completing the upgrade. However, it's never a bad idea to have a data backup along with other computing information set aside if you need it.
Windows 10 Upgrade Recomendations
Just because you may be able to upgrade your older PC from Windows 7 to Windows 10 for free DOES NOT mean that you should do so in all cases. Even Microsoft recommends a new PC purchase if your PC is too old. How old is too old? If your PC is 10 years old or more I also recommend a new PC purchase rather than an upgrade.
It is very likely that if your PC is running Windows 8.1 you will have no problems what-so-ever with an upgrade to Windows 10. Since new PCs shipping with Windows 8.1 started shipping in late 2013 and early 2014 these PCs are not so old as the majority of Windows 7 PCs and their hardware should be completely, or nearly completely, compatible with Windows 10.
Hardware compatiblilty is a major factor in determining wheather a PC should be upgraded or replaced. So, if your PC is less than 7 years old you should probably be able to get away with an upgrade rather than a replacement.
That said, you are still taking a chance to depend upon elderly PC hardware. If your livelihood depends on your PC you should carefully consider whether you want to take such a chance. Getting away with an upgrade in the business world may be too much of a risk. At the very least you should make sure your data backups are secure and current! And if you have no backups - get a new PC and start making copies of your critical files as soon as possible!
If your PC is running Windows 8 you still have a few years before you must make this decision. But if your PC is running Windows 7 you have until Jan 14, 2020 before you MUST either upgrade your current PC to Windows 10 or get a new PC with Windows 10 pre-installed since Windows 7 will truly become an unsupported orphan Operating System on that date, joining the earlier Windows editions of Vista, XP, ME and 95.
Where's the Control Panel?
Since the introduction of Windows 8 Microsoft has moved some of the Control Panel items to Settings. This process has continued with Windows 10 moving Windows Update to the Update and Security section of Settings. Eventually, Microsoft tells us, it hopes to move all of the important Control Panel items to Settings with future updates to Windows 10.
However, right now there are still quite a few of the original Control Panel items remaining, but there is no longer a link in the new Windows 10 Start Menu to the Control Panel, so how do we get to it?
Get to the Control Panel
Since Windows+X key combination no longer provides an easy link to the control panel we must now search for it. Simply click the Start Menu button then type control panel.
If you have not misspelled control panel you should see a search results window replace the start menu with a best match listed as Control Panel and labeled as Desktop App.
If you just click this listing the Control Panel will open.
However you can also right-click the Control Panel listing and choose either pin to start or pin to taskbar from the results. If you pick one of these choices a link to the Control Panel will be placed either in the Windows 10 start menu or in the Task Bar.
However you get to the Control Panel if you don't find the item you are looking for then it will have likely been moved to Settings. There should be a direct link (Gear Icon) to PC Settings in the Start Menu (and now as well in the Windows+X Quick Link Menu).
Note: If you have installed Classic Shell (see below), you will notice that Classic Shell start menu allows you to include a link to both PC Settings as well as the Control Panel.
Finally: If you did not install Classic Shell or wish to clutter things up with extra links or Shortcuts you can download the Win+X Menu Editor from Winaero and use it to add a link to the Control panel (without removing Settings) to the Quick Link Menu, which some call the Power Users Menu.
In Windows 10 privacy has become a most talked-about issue because of the inquisitiveness of Cortana and also because of the default privacy settings. If you value your privacy and do not wish for Windows to always send your location and some of your telemetry info back to Microsoft you may wish to change some of the settings.
To be certain you've gotten them all you can also go to this very informative page at PC World Magazine. The author lists all of the privacy settings you can change to ensure that your personal information remains personal on your PC rather than being sent to Microsoft.
- Go to PC Settings (click the gear icon in the Windows 10 Start Menu) then choose Privacy.
- In Privacy under Windows Permissions go to each of the headings - General, Speech, Inking and Typing personalization, Diagnostics and Feedback, and Activity History then turn all the switches to OFF in each section.
- Be sure to change the Diagnostic Data from FULL to BASIC in Diagnostics and Feedback.
- Also be sure to uncheck the box in Activity History labeled - Send my activity history to Microsoft.
There is also another excellent Windows 10 privacy article from ZDNet that will help you protect your privacy as well as your peace of mind concerning Windows 10.
The privacy issue in Windows 10 has almost become a non-issue because of the manner on-going Windows 10 updates have addressed these problems.
If you do not mind having your personal preferences and some personal information in the Microsoft servers then Cortana can become a helpful personal computer assistant. Go to this Microsoft page to learn more about Cortana works and decide whether or not you wish to enable and use it.
Note: You can learn even more about the pros and cons of Cortana in the tutorials from the online PC magazines - links below under Dig Deeper. Microsoft's Cortana is probably no more dangerous to use than Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa. Especially if the Privacy Settings are properly set in PC Settings.
Windows 10 Start Menu
There are those who feel that the Windows 7 Start Menu was nearly perfect for both a desktop and a laptop PC. They also feel that the Windows 8 Start Screen was a near-disaster for desktop PC users. Now Microsoft has re-introduced the Windows Start Menu that comes with Windows 10 in a slightly different form than some had been expecting. If you happen to like the new Start Menu you can go to this PC World Magazine page to learn how to make it more attractive and usable.
But, if you're not so hot on the Windows 10 Start Menu with all of the live tiles and relative complexity then you can easily download and install a great third-party Start Menu replacement called Classic Shell Start Menu (link below) that will give you back the Windows 7 Start Menu on Windows 10; or as close as you can get.
Classic Shell start menu is stable, highly customizable, and FREE!
Even though Classic Start Menu is no longer being actively developed it is still a great addition for Windows 10 for users who still like Windows 7.
If you upgraded from Windows 7 you will surely want to install a Start Menu program that looks and functions more like Windows 7. Get the free Classic Shell Start Menu (also called Classic Start) or a low-cost start menu Start 10 from Stardock $5.
If you upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 and you want Classic Start be sure to go to FileHippo to get the latest version that will work with Windows 10 or better yet, simply install it with Ninite. If you install Classic Start with Ninite you will get the latest version by default.
BTW, using Ninite is the easiest way to get Classic Start installed on your PC - You can even change the Start Button image if you wish! Go to this Start Button Image page to choose a Start Button image after you have installed Classic Start.
Note: After active development of Classic Start was discontinued the original HTTP page was deemed a security risk by modern internet browsers.(HTTPS is now standard) As a result, the proponents of Classic Start opened a new page on GitHub and renamed it Open Shell. GitHub also hosts a mirror of the original Classic Shell site.
Programs and Apps
In the Programs and Features section of the Control Panel you were once able to uninstall any program on your PC. However in Windows 10 Programs and Features is not able to remove some of the new Apps that come with Windows 10.
Most new Apps can be removed from the Start Menu by either unpinning them or uninstalling them by right-clicking on them on the Start Menu. However, if you want a one-stop place to uninstall any program or app from your PC you can go to PC Settings. Once there choose Apps. If no start menu replacement is installed then PC Settings is accessable by clicking the Gear Icon in the Windows 10 Start Menu.
In Apps and Features section of Apps you can view a full list of all of your installed programs and Apps either by size or alphabetically. Sort by Size, Name, or by install date to easily find the program or app you are seeking. Simply click on the name of an App or Program to uninstall it.
However you will notice that some Windows 10 Apps that are tied closely to the operating system are not able to be uninstalled. You can still unpin them from the Start Menu and disable their functions in the Privacy and/or Notification sections of Settings if you wish.
Compatibility with earlier versions of Windows
There is some concern that a PC with Windows 8 or Windows 10 will not be compatible with or run the same programs as a PC with Windows 7.
Some have said that Windows 8 or Windows 10 is not supported by their employer's Information Technology (IT) department. This may only be a concern if you were to carry your personal Windows 8 or 10 PC to your workplace to connect it directly to the business network.
But if you plan to use your Windows 8 or 10 PC at home merely to work with files from your business then this should not be a concern at all.
A PC running Windows 8 or 10 will run nearly all of the programs a PC with Windows 7 can run. There are very few exceptions and these exceptions are mostly older programs created for Windows XP. (Windows 7 may also have problems with some of these older programs.)
So, if you must work with business files at home on your personal PC you should ask your boss or IT department to provide you with the proper program(s) to open and save these files in the proper format. Ask for the installer programs for the programs along with necessary codes or passwords, if any.
If the program(s) have been created or updated at any time in the past 5 to 10 years they are almost certain to install and run properly on Windows 10.
For more go to Windows 8 and 10 Help and Tips for information that applies to both Windows 8 and Windows 10.
To learn even more about Windows 10 you could simply Google it, but you can also take advantage of the excellent Windows 10 articles published in the popular online PC magazines. CNET and PC Magazine both have good articles, but the most comprehensive is How to use Windows 10 from Laptop Magazine.