Download Windows 10 .ISO (DVD) for Clean Install?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Tim A. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

When will the full retail version (OEM) of Windows 10 be available as an .ISO file, so I can burn Windows 10 onto DVD and install it that way? I would much rather install Windows 10 clean using my DVD drive than to install it using Windows Update. A colleague of mine says that installing Windows over top of Windows (I.E: doing a Windows 'upgrade') is never a good idea. He says that upgrade installs usually leave left-overs from the previous Windows installation which can interfere with the new Windows 10 install - or worse, cause the new Windows to fail completely. He recommends backing up the drive, formatting it, then installing Windows clean. I agree and would rather not take my chances. What do you think? "

My response:

This is a good question, and you are not the only person to ask.

So far, I have not read any definitive answers as to when Microsoft will release the final build of Windows 10 (OEM) as an .ISO download so that users can do a 'clean install' using the method you describe. That said, Microsoft will be releasing boxed versions of Windows 10 on DVD for those who cannot use Windows Update to upgrade (such as Windows XP Vista users). Rumors suggest that Windows 10 retail DVD will be available on August 31, so I suspect the .ISO will be available on or around the same date.

A failed Windows Upgrade Can Break the System

As for installing Windows 10 as an in-place upgrade (I.E.: to install Windows over top of Windows): there is a 50% chance that the install will work - that is, it will either install without any problems, or it will fail during the install. This scenario is true, even for clean installs; however, a failed upgrade install can be much worse, especially if you don't have a backup.

If Windows 10 fails to install during an in-place upgrade, it will most certainly break your current Windows installation - which also means it most likely won't boot afterward. In that case, you will need to fish out all your user data from the failed install, format the drive, then reinstall Windows and your programs all over again. That would most likely take a few days for most users (and it would not be a simple task). This is the fear most users have - and with good reason - as it's based on previous history.

Make a Disk Image Backup before Upgrading to Windows 10

To avoid this potential catastrophe, I highly recommend you do a disk image backup of your operating system before applying the Windows 10 upgrade. If Windows 10 fails to install, you can use your disk image backup to revert your system to the way it was before with no harm done. For this task, I recommend Acronis True Image; 1 PC license is $49; where as the 3 PC license is $79, which is a much better deal if you own more than one PC.

1-on-1 Help Setting and Configuring a Disk Image Backup

If you need help setting up a disk image backup for your system, please don't hesitate to contact me. I can use remote desktop support to connect to you, look at your system and analyze the configuration, and set the backup for you properly.

Other Questions Related to Windows 10 Upgrade

We've recently answered more questions related to Windows 10, including in-place upgrades and clean installs. Feel free to read more:

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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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eppack's picture

In regards to today's "episode" (6/15/2015), can the forthcoming Windows 10 ISO likely be used to install it on a virtual machine on the PC? If so, suggestions on how best to do this?


Elaine Pack
Ivy, VA

Dennis Faas's picture

Yes that can be done very easily as most virtual machine platforms (VMware, for example) support booting straight from .ISO.

dan_2160's picture

I can report that installing the technical preview of Windows 10 as an update to Windows 8.1 was the smoothest Windows upgrade I've ever experienced. While you lose some customizations (like elimination of the shortcut arrow on desktop icons and the location of some temporary files), it worked quite nicely. Now I used a spare cloned drive for this test and Dennis is absolutely correct when he urges us to make a backup image of our hard drive (or "C" drive if you use two separate drives, one for Windows and applications, the other for data).

However, I've got to encourage readers to consider other tools to produce the back up image because Acronis True Image Home (which I've used for years on all of our small business's computers) can sometimes be a problem. I've found a free alternative that is just as solid at creating back up drive images and a whole lot faster and problem-free. It's AOMEI BackUpper Standard. Like Acronis, you can also install it on a flash drive in order to restore a backup image to a computer that's gone bad. And did I mention it's faster than Acronis, less trouble-prone, and free? (Just for emphasis.) Both Acronis and AOEMI work with the Windows 10 technical preview.

Netpilot's picture

@dan_2160: I'm not trying to troll here, but your comment did bring up some questions and important issues for me. I hope I'm not going to go too far off-topic.

Before I ask anything, let me say that I completely agree that a full system backup is critical before doing a version upgrade of any operating system. In fact, I prefer clean installations, especially because MS has changed the default locations of critical folders in past major upgrades, like the location of user folders and the location of important files like Outlook PST files, etc.

That said, I too, have had better experiences upgrading to Windows 10 from 8.1 than I had from 8 to 8.1 in test environments, provided that the prior system was fairly clean and had no important folders relocated. (Caution to SSD users!)

On to the partially off-topic: I am a fan of Paragon backup products. (Disclaimer: no affiliation). I prefer AOMEI next and Acronis last of the three.

You mentioned backing up small business's computers. None of the three backup products mentioned are meant or licensed for business use (although I do agree the license wording is quite blurred when it comes to "home office" use.) Are your problems with Acronis specific to a business environment?

Since I pay a fairly handsome price for my preferred Paragon Disk Manager Suite for home use, I am curious as to what you find 'problematic' and 'trouble-prone' about Acronis?

Finally, although you describe AOMEI as 'faster' and 'problem-free', does it have the flexibility needed for serious protection, like bare-metal backup to dissimilar hardware? Or is it more that it simply meets your needs for what you use it for: making a reliable backup of the workstation in case a restore is needed (we all know the various reasons.)

(Edited for clarity)

Dennis Faas's picture

I did try the latest version of AOMEI and it's very buggy. The UI repeatedly craps out on me and I have to forcefully close it using task manager. It may be free, but I'll gladly stick to Acronis True Image.

pc7wizard_3730's picture

I uninstalled it after 5 minutes of use, it wouldn't back up to my USB 2 TB hard drive.

POC...I'll stay with my Acronis 2011 version, it does complete image backups with no hassle at all!!!

Free doesn't mean BETTER!!!

joeoloughlin's picture

I have used and been abused by most of the well known backup
products. AOMEI is, without any doubt, the best of the bunch.
It's simple and easily used menu driven interface is nothing
short of a miracle - some of the "others" are almost impossible
to use without spending hours trying to understand how they
don't work. On top of all that AOMEI is FREE and it clearly
does the job that the others don't. It is fast, with an
interesting update available, and exactly what I was hoping

pc7wizard_3730's picture

Hello Dennis,

Thanks for your help in the past. Now I have a question about this forced upgrade of win 10 in July, how do we stop it?

M$ has pushed their little toolbar icon onto all my win based machines...but I do NOT want my home systems being pushed this POC before it has been fully tested for 6 months to a year.

If it's crapware, I do not want all my machines going down!!!

M$ track record on updates has not been very good over the last 2 decades!!!

I have already turned OFF automatic updates, but as I stated, they forced that toolbar onto the machines already.

Suppose I could shut off the router, but then NO updates or web searches would occur.

Any thoughts on this Dennis???


Dennis Faas's picture

You can cancel the Windows 10 upgrade if you right click on the "get windows 10" icon next to the clock, check your upgrade status, and then follow the onscreen instructions. There will be a link to cancel the upgrade on proceeding pages.

robhp's picture

If one were to get the standalone (NOT suite) program for imaging from Paragon, which program would that be ?

PS Hopefully it allows one to run it from a bootable CD (the way God intended)

Netpilot's picture

@robhp: If you google 'paragon backup', the second result will give you the link to Paragon's standalone 'Backup & Recovery 15 Home' edition. The product can create a Win PE boot disk that contains the recovery program, from which you can perform a restore from your backup image disks.

gsteele531_6987's picture

Creating a Windows image backup is always a good idea; unfortunately, it doesn't always work. When a machine is new, OK - but after a while . . .

Here's the problem: some (not all) Windows installations create a small first partition, typically 100 MB, in addition to the large partition on which the Windows OS is installed. That first partition is the boot, and active, partition, and is also used to hold the volume shadow copy that is used in an image backup. You can see it using Disk Manager.

Trouble is, the partition is also used for other purposes, which gradually reduces the available space. At some point, you will be creating your monthly image (you DO create a monthly image, right?) and the process will abend with a message that you don't have enough space on the disk to hold the volume snapshot/shadow copy.

Of course, this is a typical contagious Microsoft brain freeze, as you check and note that you have GOBS of space on your hard drive, and your cranial temperature drops below 32 degrees. Well, yes - gobs of space - but not on the ridiculously small and now increasingly clogged mini-partition.

Just expand the partition? Nope - because the Windows partition abuts it, and you can't shrink a partition from the front to allow the preceding partition to expand into the freed space - only from the back.

The workaround is to change the boot and active partition using bcdboot and Diskpart (the volume shadow copy is created on the active, boot partition), which should strike terror into the hearts of the average user, since screwing up the process means your computer won't boot. It also fouls up your Windows Home Server's ability to back you up. Of course, you could always buy a new machine . . .

I find this to be an execrable example of thoughtless design, affecting the mere mortal community right where it is destined to hurt the most: backup. And particularly the most capable and useful backup, the system image - from which you can recover everything - which good little doobies create each time they are ready to try a "let's see what happens" experiment, as their emergency chute.

As I said, not all Windows installations do this; some choose sanity instead, and put the boot files on the OS partition and make that active. Problem solved. But for those of us who receive the gift of two - count 'em, two - partitions, not so good, and image backups fail. That way, we get to spend some of our money on a third-party app to perform what should be a rock-solid function in any OS. Whee! A third party! <sarc>