How to Upgrade Windows 7, 8 32-bit to Windows 10 64-bit

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Sam T. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Thanks for your ongoing and excellent articles on Windows 10. I have a question; right now I'm running Windows 7 32-bit, but I want to upgrade to Windows 10 64-bit and still maintain my free license for Windows 10. How can I upgrade from Windows 7 32-bit to Windows 10 64-bit? "

My response:

You can only upgrade to Windows 10 using the same architecture -- for example, from Windows 7 32-bit to Windows 10 32-bit. In other words, you cannot do an in-place upgrade from 32-bit Windows to 64-bit Windows and maintain all your installed programs, plus a Windows 10 license.

It is, however, possible to 'upgrade' to Windows 10 64-bit if and only if you perform the in-place upgrade from Windows 7-32 bit to Windows 10 32-bit, first. Once that is done you will have your free Windows 10 license for the life of the machine. You can then reboot the computer and insert Windows 10 media and do a clean install of Windows 10 64-bit. That is the only way you can 'leap' from Windows 7 32-bit to Windows 10 64-bit, but you will have to reinstall all your programs and user files. As such, I recommend that you perform a disk image backup of your existing operating system before you perform the upgrade so that you can retrieve your files later, plus you can revert your operating system to the previous installation if you need to.

How to Upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 32-bit to Windows 10 64-bit

Here are the steps required to perform such an upgrade:

  1. Ensure your computer meets all the prerequisites so that you can obtain a free upgrade to Windows 10.
  2. Before proceeding with the upgrade, use Acronis True Image to create a disk image backup of your operating system. Only disk image backups can allow you to revert back to your previous operating system at any time, and beyond Microsoft's limit of 30 day time limit.
  3. Perform an in-place upgrade of Windows 10 using the 'Get Windows 10' app or use the Windows 10 Media Tool. Remember, you can only perform an in-place upgrade to the same architecture that you are currently running (example: from Windows 7 or 8 32-bit to Windows 10 32-bit). Performing an in-place upgrade will ensure you retain your free license to Windows 10.
  4. After the in-place upgrade is completed, your free Windows 10 license is guaranteed for the life of the machine. Optionally: use Magic Jellybean Key Finder (Free) to extract your Windows 10 serial number and print it out (or very carefully write it down and put it aside). Microsoft will ask for this license during the installation, though you can "skip" the license check since you've already done the in-place upgrade and your machine is already registered with Microsoft. That's because Windows 10 32-bit and Windows 10 64-bit are the same product, and your free license covers both 32-bit and 64-bit installations.
  5. You are now ready to download Windows 10 64-bit using the Windows 10 Media Tool. You can use this tool to write the Windows 10 installation media onto USB or DVD. Once the media has been created, reboot the computer and boot from the install media.
  6. Once the computer has been rebooted, look for the "Press any key to boot from USB or DVD ..." prompt, and press a key. The Windows 10 setup should begin; click the "Install Now" button, and then do a "Custom" installation. You will be asked for a valid Windows 10 license; either enter it in or click the "Skip" button to skip the license check. Next, agree to the End User License Agreement (EULA), then choose a Custom installation. On the proceeding screen, click "Drive Options (Advanced)," then select all your Windows hard drive partitions (usually for Drive 0) and delete all the Drive 0 partitions, one by one. Once that is done, you should have Drive 0 as "Unallocated space"; highlight Drive 0 and then click Next and Windows 10 64-bit will begin installing.
  7. Once Windows 10 has been installed, you will need to restore some of your backed up data, such as documents, images, etc onto the drive. You can reinstall Acronis True Image and select a partial restore to achieve this - do not do a complete restore or you will revert to the old operating system. You will then need to download and reinstall all your previously installed programs -- make sure you choose 64-bit installers where applicable. If you need help restoring your data or installing programs, you can contact me for remote desktop support and I will dial into your computer and do it for you.

That's it!

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of 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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grump3_2709's picture

I had already done this & changed from 32 bit W7 to 64bit W10.
During the process the windows key is asked for but not required, just click 'Skip' & continue.
Upon completion I checked & found it had immediately been activated.

Dennis Faas's picture

Thanks for confirming this. I haven't done a clean install yet, but read online and suspected this to be the case.

ben.gertsberg_5495's picture

Should not the target machine have a 64-bit processor? When I try to boot the w10 installation app from the usb it give me an error "this 64-bit app couldn't load because your pc doesn't have a 64-bit processor"...

Dennis Faas's picture

That is self explanatory. If you don't have a 64-bit processor then you can't upgrade to 64-bit windows. Almost all PC processors are 64-bit these days and have been for the last 10 years, with only a few exceptions.

Phil's picture

As I commented on this site recently, while Microsoft doesn't provide an easy upgrade path from 32 bit to 64 bit - like it didn't provide an easy upgrade path from XP to Win 7, since they wanted folks to go through Vista first - LapLink's PC Mover filled that need. I used it when XP reached end of life last year and I migrated from XP Pro 32 bit to Win 7 Pro on two machines (a desktop and a laptop) and then from the resulting 32 bit Win 7 Pro desktop to a Win 7 Pro 64 bit desktop a few months later.

Just because Microsoft says it can't be done doesn't mean that it can't.

The best route is to do what Dennis recommended, up to the point where you've done the in-place upgrade to 32-bit Win 10 and made your 64 bit installation disk.

Then disconnect the drive you just upgraded, put in a new drive and do the clean install of Win 10 64-bit onto it. Once that's done and is your boot drive, re-attach your old drive as a second hard disk - either with an internal connection if it's a desktop computer, or if it's a laptop, with a USB - hard drive adapter kit (they're sold for techicians' toolkits, are in the $10 - $20 range, and even include a power supply for an external drive, with multiple types of plugs and jacks for the data and power connections).

Now you can download and run LapLink's Disk and Image version of PC Mover to port your applications and files. It costs about $30 per pair of hard drives. Because you have to turn off your malware programs during the migration, the computer should be disconnected from the internet after you validate your license with Laplink at the beginning of the process, and then just let it run for an hour or so to analyze which of your programs probably will, probably won't, or just might make the transfer. Select the ones you want to try, and let it do its thing. You should have a second machine to do your work on during this time, which could be all day.

They have decent chat-based support, which you can do with the machine you're working on during the migration. They'll stick with you as long as you want.

Once everything is working, and you've re-enabled your malware programs, you can re-connect your machine to the net.

Dennis Faas's picture

The laplink might work for XP to 7 as they are fairly similar, but I'm not sure about making the leap to Windows 10 - many programs I've come across aren't compatible or need tweaking with compatibility settings. Plus, if you're doing from 32-bit to 64-bit I think it would be advisable to search for 64-bit programs rather than re-using 32-bit versions.

Phil's picture

I had to get newer versions of some utilities when I made the transition from XP to 7, particularly T-Clock, the author of which didn't make a newer version (but someone else made a work-alike called T-Clock 3).

If the transition from 7 to 10 requires a lot of application replacement, I would think that would be flagged by the Get Win 10 scanner. On my 64-bit machine, it only flags my background disk optimizer and Firefox 39.0 (and I assume there's a Win 10 Firefox coming).

I haven't seen stories about lots of problems encountered by Win 7 to 10 upgraders - and if replacing - or manually tweaking - lots of applications was required, we would have heard about it by now.

I'm running 64-bit Win 7 on my main machine, and I'm amazed how few programs are available in 64-bit versions, principally Photoshop, IE, Windows Media Player, printer drivers, remote control programs, and file and disk utilities.

Most application companies have stuck with 32-bit long after the widespread switch to 64-bit machines, on the apparent theory that "64-bit machines can run 32-bit programs, so why spend the money to develop and support two versions?"

Only when very large data files - like photographic RAW files and videos (and, for utilities, disk structures) - are involved, have most program publishers made 64-bit versions available.

Otherwise, it seems that 64-bit architecture is primarily being used to support the multitasking of 32-bit applications in a larger RAM space, allowing swapping things to disk to happen less often.

nate04pa's picture

I have been using Acronis True Image for a number of years but I am disappointed in the newest version. I find the user interface to be not very intuitive.

Your comment please.

ldg1ldg's picture

What a great site! I discovered and am really impressed with the content and the obviously competent provider. thanks!!