3 Ways to Install Windows 10 using an .ISO File (with or without a DVD Burner)

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Perry F. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have two laptops with Windows 7 that I would like to upgrade to Windows 10. From what I understand, I can use the Microsoft Media Creation Tool to download Windows 10 in an .ISO file format. When that is done downloading, I would then burn the .ISO disc image file onto a DVD, then use the DVD to install Windows 10 onto my machines. The problem however is that I don't have a DVD drive on either laptop - so how can I use the .ISO format to install Windows 10? "

My response:

In a nutshell, an ISO file is an exact copy of an entire CD or DVD, placed into a single file to make it easily portable. An ISO file makes it very easy to download an entire CD or DVD from the Internet in a similar manner as to how .ZIP files operate.

When it comes to using an .ISO file, you have 3 options:

  1. You can burn the .ISO file to DVD, and keep the DVD permanently to be used whenever you need it - this is the intended use. Obviously, if you don't have a CD or DVD burner, then you will have to use options #2 and #3 below.
  2. Instead of burning the .ISO to DVD, you can use a program called Rufus which allows you to use a USB thumb drive instead of a DVD to create the disc image. You could then install Windows 10 from the USB thumb drive via the desktop, or boot off the thumb drive as if it were a DVD - but only if your computer supports booting from USB.
  3. If you intend to upgrade to Windows 10 from within the Windows 7 or 8 desktop environment, you don't need a DVD or USB thumb drive; instead, you can mount the .ISO image file using "virtual DVD software", which emulates a DVD drive. This effectively takes the .ISO file and reads it as if it were a real DVD, which is then accessible via My Computer (or "This PC"). My favorite program for doing this is Daemon Tools Lite (free) - just be careful when installing this program as the setup file comes bundled with extra junk software. Another program I use is WinCDEmu; it's very light weight and easy to use. To use it, simply right click over top of the ISO file and then mount a drive letter. To remove the virtual drive, right click the drive letter via My Computer or This PC and 'eject' the disc.

I hope that helps.

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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gi7omy's picture

If you have the media creation tool then all you need to is to select USB drive instead of the iso image and it will download and install to the thumb drive with no other modification or copying required

Dennis Faas's picture

Good point, but the question as I understood it was to re-use the media on multiple computers. In that case, downloading 1 ISO image is the best choice. I personally download ISOs and store them on my hard drive for later use - I always end up using them multiple times on different computers.

LS_6386's picture

Is it not the case that, for a *free* upgrade to Windows 10, it is first necessary to allow Windows Update to install Windows 10 (in this case 'over' Win 7); then, if the user chooses, now that Windows 10 has been validated on the particular machine, a fresh install of Win 10 can be done, e.g. from USB, and the fresh install will then also be validated? Downloading the iso and directly installing Win 10 over Win 7 will, I believe, mean that the user will have to purchase a Win 10 license.

Dennis Faas's picture

I've downloaded the Windows 10 ISO and ran that from within the desktop environment countless times to perform upgrades from Windows 7 and 8 to 10 without any issues whatsoever. If you want to reboot and install using the DVD, then you will first need to extract your Windows 7 or 8 license and use that as your 'key', which would then qualify you for the upgrade. I have personally not used that method, but it is said to work. The newest version of Windows 10 (starting with the 'fall update', 10586) allows this, whereas previous versions did not (10240).

kitekrazy's picture

Just curious of this has been done. If there is any rebooting in the install process will Windows know where to get the rest of the installation. I'd probably prefer this over any process.

Dennis Faas's picture

All Windows installation files are copied over to a cache before any reboots. And yes it works - I've done it at least a hundred times.

milo499_3783's picture

It is an excellent article explaining how to install Win10. After reading this , I decided to upgrade my computer running Win 7 Home Premium.
1. Downloaded WinCDEmu from the link that you provided & installed it. . It was about 1.7 MB size.
2. As I have limited Internet connection , Obtained Win 10 Home 32 Bit ISO and Win 10 Home 64 Bit ISO from my friend. Created a Bootable CD of Win 10,Home 64 Bit.
3. Using WinCDEmu mounted the Win 10 Home 32Bit ISO and tried try to install Win 10 Home 32Bit.
4. I got a message “ You can not install Win 10 because your Processor does not support NX “.
Did a Google search about NX support. Found from a Forum that in BIOS , NX support has to be Enabled or in some cases it will be indicated as XD Technology ( Executable Disabled ) . In my case it was in BIOS --- Security – XD Technology ( Enabled). So I Disabled it. If any one is having NX Support (Disabled) in their BIOS , it has to be (Enabled) , where as XD Technology has to be (Diaabled).
5. After Disabling the XD Technology in my BIOS ( My processor is Core 2 Duo , 2.66Gig ) , booted to Win 7 Home Desktop , mounted Win 10 Home ,32Bit ISO using WinCDEmu and upgraded my OS to Win 10Home ,322 Bit selecting the option “ keep all my files “. The Upgrade went smoothly without a hitch & keeping even my Original Desktop. Nothing changed except the OS.
6. Connected to Internet , Control Panel—System & Security – System—and clicked on Activate Window. It Actvated.
7. Checked everything worked as expected. Made an Image of C partition using Acronis.
8. Used the Win 10Home ,64Bit , bootable CD to do a clean install . Installed all my SW such as MS Office , Acrobat etc. Connected to Inter net and Control Panel—System & security – System – Clicked on Activate Window. It activated immediately.
This is how I , installed Win 10. Hope this will be useful to some other novice like me.