Will Windows 10 Install Automatically?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Patricia C. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I have successfully reserved my copy of Windows 10 using the 'get windows 10' app on my desktop. I am having second thoughts about whether or not Windows 10 will install properly, so I'm not sure if I should cancel it. I might just wait for the Windows 10 ISO, so I can do a clean install. Question: if I go ahead and let Windows 10 install through Windows Update (which is due July 29), how will it be installed? Will Windows 10 be installed automatically? If the install fails will I be able to get my files back? "

My response:

Based on previous Windows upgrades (from within the desktop of a pre-existing Windows environment), Windows 10 will not install automatically without prior notice and interaction on your behalf. For example, a PC running Windows 7 via the desktop that is upgrading to Windows 8 goes through a series of stages (questions), which eventually leads up to an End User License Agreement (EULA) before giving Windows 8 the "go ahead" to perform the actual install. I suspect the Windows 10 upgrade will be much the same.

Should You Worry about Windows 10?

As for having second thoughts about installing Windows 10 (whether it's through Windows Update or a clean install) - you won't need to worry about any of that providing you make a disk image backup of your system and all your files before the July 29 deadline. As long as you have disk image backups and you test the backup procedure, then you should be good to go and there should be no need to worry. There's really nothing else to say and do beyond that.

For disk image backups, I recommend Acronis True Image. I've been using it on all my PCs for 10 years now and it's saved my bacon many, many times, which is also why I keep mentioning it repeatedly in the newsletter. It's really that good, and I'm sure many users reading this will attest to its effectiveness. You can purchase it through our website (1 PC license, or a 3 PC license, which is the best deal). If you don't know how to set up the backup, I would be more than happy to help you with it - just send me an email.

What if Windows 10 Install Fails and You Don't Have a Backup?

If you don't have a backup and Windows 10 fails to install, then getting your files back will likely be a painful experience. You can hire someone to do it for you (like myself), or you can attempt to do it yourself. I don't recommend the latter, but the steps (roughly) would be as follows:

  1. Take the hard drive out of your PC and attach it to another system.
  2. Boot the secondary PC and attempt to locate all the user files from the failed Windows install.
  3. Note the many locations of all user files on the hard drive, and copy those files onto another hard drive.
  4. Next, launch an Administrative command prompt. Take ownership of the files you copied onto the secondary hard drive using the "takeown" command, followed by resetting the access control list permissions using the "icacls" command. You will most likely need to do this recursively as there will be folders inside of other folders and you don't want to do this on a folder by folder basis or it will take weeks to complete. Needless to say, this is all very surgical, and special care must be taken to not take ownership of the wrong files or you could do some serious, irreversible damage. If you don't reset the permissions, you won't be able to to modify any of the files you copied over.
  5. After the files have been copied and permissions reset, you will most likely want to format the drive so you can reinstall Windows.
  6. Shut down the secondary system and take the formatted drive out, then put it back into your system.
  7. Reinstall Windows and all your programs.
  8. Replace all your user files from steps 1-4 back onto the system.

Hope that helps.

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 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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guitardogg's picture

It has NEVER been a good idea to use the first release of any Microsoft product, especially Windows! I have always recommended waiting at least until the first major updates. All indications are that this may be the best initial release of Windows ever, but I'm not going to put in on our almost 2000 PC's until the bugs are shaken out. Probably close to the one-year dead line (which they might extend).

Dennis Faas's picture

I agree with what you're saying but Windows 10 is effectively a polished version of Windows 8, and it's been subject to heavy beta testing. If Microsoft wasn't confident that this was going to work I don't think they would be rolling it out to millions of users. That said, a disk image backup is your best friend if it just happens that there are major issues.

dan_2160's picture

While I certainly understand the reluctance of people responsible for dozens to thousands of computers to install Windows 10 any time soon, my experience so far suggests that there's likely little reason to delay if you're dealing with just a handful of computers.

I've installed the Windows 10 Previews both as an upgrade to an existing Windows 8.1 installation and as a clean install (both on back up drives; my Windows 8.1 is still intact). Both times Windows 10 installed very smoothly -- the smoothest installation of a modern Windows operating system (Windows 98 or later) I've even experienced. The in-place upgrade left all my programs working just fine (and I've got a lot of them). I lost a few Windows tweaks -- I had to make the shortcut arrows disappear again from the icons on my desktop (took about 2 minutes) and I had to redirect some of the temporary directories from Windows' defaults to my own choices. Otherwise, it was very smooth sailing.

Whenever a new preview build was installed, I had to make those same changes.

The clean installation also went quite smoothly. Cynical as I can get about Microsoft, I've got to report that they seem to be doing a very good job with Windows 10. Nonetheless, I still installed Start10 from the good folks at http://www.stardock.com so the Start Menu would more closely resemble that in Windows 7 (especially getting all those darned Modern UI programs separated out from the applications I actually use. But even Microsoft's new Start menu is pretty nice without the tweaks -- I think it will appeal to more casual users than heavy duty, computer users. But who knows? At least we've got plenty of choices regarding the Start button and menu.

f58tammy's picture

I just completed the Windows 10 Pro Technical Preview to the Windows 10 Pro OS update. It took less than 25 min to complete the entire process. I lost no files and my desktop was the same. On the task bar there is a icon for the Action Center next to the clock and date. Click on it you will see the "All Settings" button that will open the settings page. You will want to click on Update & security, on the left is a column with Recovery listed (For those who like using the "System Restore" it is by default turned off, you will have to go and configure it) with 3 options one being "Go back to a earlier build". This will put your previous OS that was updated to W10 back on your computer, you will have to reinstall some 3rd party programs after the process is completed.
For those who want to wait for a service pak to come out, I don't believe Microsoft has any plans of releasing one for W10, they will be making any changes and upgrades when needed and/or developed thru the update process. They have stated that Windows 10 Will be the last OS they are planing on developing from scratch. I believe it will just be known as a Windows in the future, any distinction won't be necessary.
I hope this was helpful to someone.