How to upgrade to Windows 10

Everything you need to prepare for Microsoft's big day

Windows 10 will be pumped into PCs all around the world on 29 July, and existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users will be able to get it for free*. Hooray!

Before you upgrade however, there are a few bits of housekeeping you need to sort out, if you want everything to go smoothly:

*Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1 users aren't eligible for the free upgrade. Sorry folks.

1. Get up to date

Before you start anything, make sure all the latest updates have been installed on your PC.

If you're a Windows 7 user, that means you have to have Service Pack 1 installed, while Windows 8 users will need to have the latest version of Windows 8.1.

You should be automatically prompted for any updates that have yet to be installed, but you can also do it manually. Hit the Start button, then All Programs, then Windows Update. So far, so simple.

3. Backup

As with any major OS update, you should ensure that all of your important files are backed up either to an external hard drive, or to your cloud service of choice.

We're not saying that things are going to go horribly wrong, but hey, they might. If they do, at least you won't have a panic attack.

Which version of Windows 10 will you get?

There are two main versions of Windows 10 - Home and Pro. The version of Windows 7 or 8.1 you're currently running, will determine which one you get upgraded to.

Existing Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, and Home Premium users will be upgraded to Windows 10 Home.

Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate users will get Windows 10 Pro.

If you're running Windows 8.1 Home, then you'll get Windows Home, and 8.1 Pro and Pro Student users will, you guessed it, get Windows 10 Pro.

What's the difference between Home and Pro?

For most people? Not much. The main experience will be identical: Cortana, the new Edge browser, full apps... everything remains exactly the same.

Where the Pro version differs is in its advanced security features.

As the Pro version is aimed at power users and businesses where security is paramount, Windows 10 Pro lets users encrypt individual files and retain them alongside unsecured ones, and they can also be saved straight to USB sticks and external hard drives.

Other extras include Group Policy Management, the Windows 10 Business Store, Remote Desktops and virtualisation - none of which sound terribly exciting to the average user, so don't worry if you're not running Pro - you won't feel like you're missing out on anything heart-hammeringly exciting.