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How to upgrade Windows 10 with USB, DVD or local media

Most Windows 10 devices are upgraded to newer versions of the operating system using Windows Update or Enterprise-grade update management solutions.

While that works out fine in many cases, some administrators may prefer (or need) to upgrade using other methods. Common scenarios where this may be preferred are local installations without Internet connection, upgrading multiple PCs, or running into errors when trying to upgrade using Windows Update.

Microsoft provides options to create Windows 10 installation media. You may write the data to an USB Flash Drive or DVD, or run the setup directly from the ISO image that gets created during the process.

The following guide walks you through the steps of installing or upgrading Windows 10 using these methods.

Step 1: Create the installation media or ISO image

creating windows 10 media

You may use Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool to create Windows 10 installation media.

  1. Visit the official Microsoft website and download the Media Creation Tool to your system. Click on the “Download tool now” button to start the process.
  2. Run the program once it is on the local system. Note that you can only run it on Windows systems.
  3. Accept the Software License Terms on the first screen to proceed.
  4. Select “create installation media” on the next screen. While you can use it to “upgrade the PC now” as well, it is better, usually, to use installation media as it gives you more control and options should something go wrong.
  5. Keep the detected language, edition and architecture settings, or change them if you need installation media for a different setup.
  6. Select which media you want: USB flash drive or ISO file.
    • USB Flash Drive: needs to have at least 8 Gigabytes of space. Note that all data on the drive will be deleted in the process.
    • ISO: no requirements but you need a blank DVD if you want to burn it to DVD (may need dual-layer DVD).
  7. The tool downloads the latest available Windows 10 installation from Microsoft.
    1. If you select the USB option, data is saved to the USB drive and it is prepared so that you may boot from it.
    2. If you select ISO, you get the option to burn it to a DVD if a DVD writer is available. Otherwise, the ISO is just saved to the local system.

Using Windows 10 installation media to upgrade

The installation process depends on the installation media.

Option 1: using USB or DVD installation media

This is probably the common option to upgrade a Windows 10 system. You need to have the installation media at hand to perform the upgrade.

  1. Connect the USB Flash drive to the PC you want to upgrade or insert the DVD  into the drive.
  2. Start the PC or restart it.
  3. Some systems pick up the installation media automatically and boot from it.
    1. If that is not the case, you need to change the boot order (from default hard drive) to the installation media so that it is used. This is done in the BIOS of the PC. Check instructions on the screen to find out how to enter BIOS, usually using ESC, DEL, F1 or one of those keys.
    2. In BIOS, change the boot priority so that the PC checks USB or DVD boot media first before using hard drives.
  4. Make sure you select “keep files and apps” in the setup dialog if you want to upgrade and not do a clean install.
  5. Follow the instructions to install the Windows 10 upgrade on the device.

Option 2: installing directly using an ISO image

windows 10 iso setup

If you don’t want to install from USB or DVD, or cannot, you may run setup directly from the ISO image instead. Note that you need to select ISO during creation for that.

  1. Open File Explorer on the Windows 10 device.
  2. Navigate to the folder the ISO image has been saved to (e.g. the Downloads folder).
  3. Right-click on the ISO image and select Open With > Windows Explorer. Doing so mounts the ISO image on Windows so that you may browse it and run files directly.
  4. Open the mounted Windows installation ISO image from the sidebar list of all connected drives and locations if that did not happen automatically.
  5. Launch the setup.exe file that you find in the root folder of the mounted image; this starts the setup and thus the upgrade of the system.
  6. If you are asked whether you want to “get important updates”, select “not right now”.
  7. Make sure you select that “keep personal files and apps” is selected if you want to keep your programs, settings, and files.
  8. Follow the screens to upgrade the device using the ISO image.

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