For Windows 10 PCs — out with the old, in with the new?

If you're still running Windows 10 on older hardware, it's time to start planning your upgrade path to Windows 11 and beyond.

Microsoft Windows update cycle arrows with overlay a laptop and mobile phone.
Microsoft / IDG

You’ve probably heard that Windows 11 is a “meh” operating system. And Windows 12 is little more than a dream at this point. But with Microsoft no longer updating Windows 10 (except for security fixes), what’s a PC geek got to do to get the most from Windows now?

In helping people with their computers, I’ve found there are often three types of Windows users: Those with a viable computer that supports Windows 11; those with a decent computer that for one hardware reason or another just won’t support Windows 11 and those whose PC sorely needs hardware upgrades or an outright replacement to be a viable computer for the next two years.

First, figure out whether your computer still has enough hard drive space, RAM and CPU power (even if it can’t support Windows 11 ); if so, your best bet is to make sure you’re running Windows 10 22H2 and keep your computer for the next two years. Because there are no more feature releases for Windows 10, you’ll not have to deal with any new menu notifications, news and interests, or any other major changes as Microsoft moves resources to Windows 11 and Windows 12 development.

If you worry that the lack of feature releases means you no longer have a quick way to fix a misbehaving PC computer, there is still an easy way to get Windows behaving again. It’s called a repair install, and even if the computer has issues and won’t install updates, you can download an ISO of Windows 10 from the Microsoft download site. Click on download now and save the file MediaCreationTool22H2.exe. Double-click on the executable file, accept the Microsoft license terms (you might want to read them), and choose “create installation media.”

Windows 10 upgrade Microsoft

A repair install can get Windows 10 running better, even on older hardware.

Click next, and select the language, edition, and architecture. Finally choose ISO file as the file type and wait until the ISO file is created. Click Finish and you’re ready to start the repair install process. (Do make sure you have a backup of your system — just in case of trouble.)

Navigate to that ISO you made, right-click it and select mount, or double-click the ISO and it will mount. Next, click on setup.exe. This starts the repair process of installing Windows 10 atop the existing OS and will not get rid of the data on the drive. Do not start this process using a bootable flash drive on a nonfunctional computer; doing so will pave over your data and programs.

If you have a computer that takes forever to boot and often is unusable, you need to investigate why. As the computer boots up, launch the Windows 10 task manager, right-click on the taskbar at the bottom, and choose task manager. In three columns you can keep an eye on CPU, memory, and disk activity. Let the system fully boot up and see how often one of those three is pegged at a high percentage and perhaps what software is causing the issue. While you may be able to replace the CPU, a laptop or desktop that can be serviced can often benefit from extra RAM and upgrading to an SSD drive.

If your computer is hard to repair or upgrade — for example, if the RAM is soldered to the motherboard or you have to pry the PC apart to service it — then it probably can’t be upgraded reliably. For these machines your only option is to hope Microsoft provides Extended Support for Windows 10 much as it did for Windows 7, or to buy hardware that fully supports Windows 11.

If your PC already supports Windows 11, you’re good to go for the foreseeable future. And don’t worry about those of us who’ve grumbled about the menu changes in Windows 11. Many of the applications I use still act as they have for years by installing a shortcut on the desktop. (I use a program called Fences to corral desktop icons.) For me and the users in my office, the transition to Windows 11 has been a nonissue.

Of course, it’s good to keep an eye on what’s coming next from Microsoft. We may know more later this month when Microsoft Build takes place (May 23-25, in person and online). This is often when the company begins to pull back the curtain on what it plans going forward. Already, execs have dropped hints at previous events about even more changes for the menu system and more artificial intelligence in the platform.

I’m hoping, in particular, to hear more about what hardware requirements Microsoft has in mind for future releases of Windows. That’s the kind of information that will help Windows 10 users best decide the upgrade path they want to pursue.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

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