How To Upgrade to Windows 10 PLUS Keep Your Old Operating System

*PLEASE NOTE: This process requires a second internal hard drive. If you haven’t got a spare hard drive or are not prepared to purchase one, then this guide is probably not for you. This guide also assumes that the reader has a little advanced knowledge. The process itself is not that difficult, however, if every single step were to be explained in detail, it would take a small novel.

What You Will Need

  • 1 x Existing internal hard drive running either genuine Windows 7 or genuine Windows 8.1
  • 1 x Second internal hard drive – plus additional SATA cable and 4-pin male molex to SATA power connector (if required). See here: Layman’s Tech: Power Supply Units
  • Image backup software – if you don’t have an image backup program already installed, I would recommend Aomei Backupper Standard (free)
  • Bootable media created from within your image backup software

The Process


If your existing setup includes only one internal hard drive: with the PC shut down and powered off, install and connect the second internal hard drive. Now power up and boot into your operating system as per normal. If the second drive is brand new, or never been used, you’ll need to access Disk Management, then initiate and format the drive.

Create a system image. Now, make sure your existing operating system and all installed programs are up-to-date, then run your imaging software and create a full system image (storing the image on external hard drive). Here’s a guide to creating a full system image using Aomei Backupper Standard: How To Create Full System Images with Aomei Backupper.

Now we are going to restore the image backup to the second internal hard drive. Once the image creation is completed, load up the bootable media you’ve created from within the imaging program –  either place your bootable CD/DVD in the optical drive or connect your bootable USB flash drive – shut down the system and power off the PC.

Disconnect the first internal hard drive (the one on which the existing operating system is currently installed) – you can just disconnect either the SATA or power cable, or both. Then turn the power back on and start up the PC.

You may need to change the boot preference in order to boot from the bootable media: on most older (BIOS) systems tapping the F10 key will bring up the boot preference menu. On most newer (UEFI) systems, tapping the F12 key will bring up the same menu. Use the arrow keys to highlight the source of the bootable media and then hit Enter.

Your imaging program should now load. Select the Restore option and restore the image you created earlier to the second (empty) hard drive. When the restoration process has completed, remove the bootable media and restart – usually just closing out the imaging program will cause a restart. Your original operating system should now boot from the second hard drive.

get Windows10

Next, upgrade that system to Windows 10. This will take a while and the system will reboot several times. Once the upgrade has completed and Windows 10 is good to go, you should be able to restart the system and it will now boot into Windows 10.

Reconnect the original hard drive. When you are satisfied that Windows 10 is up and running fine, shut down the system and power off the PC. Now reconnect the first (original) hard drive, then power up and start the PC. From here, you can now choose which operating system to load, either your older Windows 7/8.1 operating system or the new Windows 10, via the boot preference menu as mentioned earlier.

If you started off the process with a genuine activated Windows, both operating systems should be fully activated. The beauty of this method is that the new Windows 10 operating system mirrors your older operating system, including all installed programs (depending on compatibility) plus all your personal data, etc. Plus, of course, you can fully check out Windows 10 while still retaining your original operating system.

Dual Boot

I would recommend leaving the two operating systems separate and using the boot preference menu to select which one to load – this will eliminate complications if/when you might decide to get rid of one operating system or the other. It will also help avoid a number of common issues when dual booting with Windows 10. However, if you would prefer a dual boot menu, EasyBCD is free, simple, and effective – just make sure to set a timer count down, otherwise you won’t get to see the dual boot menu and make a selection:

easybcd-set timer

NOTE: Downloading the free edition of EasyBCD from the developer requires registration. If you’d prefer not to register, it may be available from your preferred download portal. I searched for and located the download on the following portals:

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

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