Microsoft has put an immense amount of work into making sure Windows 10 updates happen smoothly. But inevitably, there are a handful of users who experience difficulty during the upgrade. This is due to the millions of configurations that exist and the complexity of making a product like Windows 10 work on the vast majority of them.
In this post, we’ll show you a few things to do in advance of the Windows 10 update. Some of these are simple safeguards that everyone should do. Others are more conservative measures that might only be worth your time if your Windows 10 PC is mission critical.
In this guide, we’ll walk through: backing up your data, creating recovery media, and disabling software and hardware that might interfere with the upgrade. Use this guide for reference for what you need to do to make sure the Windows 10 update goes off without a hitch.
Before You Begin: Am I Eligible to Upgrade?
The latest cumulative update for Windows 10 now advertises the Windows 10 update to users who might be interested in becoming early adopters. In Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, you’ll see a message that says “Good news! The Windows 10 Spring Creators Update is on its way. Want to be one of the first to get it?” If you are excited to be among the first, follow the “Yes, show me how” link to join the upgrade. If you don’t see the link, make sure you have the latest public updates installed already.
Check out our guide: How to Install Windows 10 1803 (Spring Creators Update) Using Windows Update
1. Check Manufacturer’s Website to Find Out if Your System is Compatible
Manufacturers of various brands actually do a good job of maintaining a list of systems that are compatible with specific versions of Windows 10. Check the following links to see if your system is supported by the Creators Update. If an OEM indicates a particular model is not compatible with Windows 10 1803, it is possible you could still install the update using the clean install method. Of course, the best way to do this is to ensure you have a good backup plan. Windows 10 has included a rollback feature since the first release, but it’s not perfect, so I wouldn’t count on it too much.
- Packard Bell
- Hewlett Packard (HP)/Compaq
- Dell Inc
- Sony Vaio
2. Download and Create Backup Reinstall Media for Your Current Version of Windows
You don’t want to burn your bridges while trying to upgrade to the latest Windows 10 Feature Update. It’s pretty much a sure bet that on the day Microsoft releases the new version, they will remove the previous version of Windows 10 from the Media Creation Tool. That means, you won’t be able to download the older Windows 10 release anymore or earlier versions such as 1511 or 1507, if you need to go back. It turns out, some systems while compatible with a particular version of Windows 10, might not work with the latest release. Reference our comprehensive guides for backing up your system before initiating the installation. If it’s still before the latest Windows 10 Feature Update is launched, you can use the Media Creation Tool now to download a backup copy of the Anniversary Update, Creators Update ISO or you can update your recovery drive, which will create a bootable copy of version you currently have installed, which you can use for reinstallation.
3. Make Sure Your System Has Enough Disk Space
Windows 10 requires a minimum 10 GB of free space; just to be safe, the bare minimum I would recommend is 16 GBs. Recent Windows 10 Feature Updates setup is more sensitive to disk space challenges. Now would be a good time to invest in a USB thumb drive or external hard disk with a minimum 16 GB of free space. Setup can use such storage devices to help facilitate the upgrade just in case.
You can also run the routine clean-up chores such as Windows 10’s built-in storage clean up tools and the good old disk cleanup wizard. If you still can’t make a dent in cleaning up enough space for the upgrade, check out our tutorial for Jam Software’s TreeSize, a free utility that makes it easy to find those stubborn large files.
4. Connect to a UPS, Ensure Battery is Charged and PC is Plugged In
In a perfect world, the Windows 10 Feature Update would download in 25 minutes, then install within 10 to 15 minutes. This might be the case for many users, but for other users, it won’t be such smooth sailing. While Microsoft has made significant progress in reducing the size of Windows updates, the new version of Windows 10 will be a large update. That’s just the Windows update part—the installation is the most complex sequence of setup. Windows 10 will have to decompress files, move around key operating system files and personal files, and reconfigure everything to work with your hardware. Essentially, Windows is giving you a clean installation of the new operating system without disrupting your configuration or personal data. It’s a delicate balancing act which can actually extend the time it takes to complete the upgrade. So, make sure your laptop’s battery is working and charged up, and if you are upgrading a desktop, connect it to a UPS. There’s nothing more disastrous than an interrupted Windows update.
5. Disable Your Antivirus Utility – In fact, uninstall it…
Trust me on this one. Contrary to what industry experts might say, security software remains one of the most common causes of issues during major operating system upgrades. After all, it’s doing what it’s supposed to do: blocking changes to your system configuration. Antivirus software will sometimes detect and assume an unexpected update making a major modification to system files might be an attack in progress. The same goes for software such as your firewall. To avoid false positives, Microsoft usually recommends updating the antivirus software before upgrading; you could try your luck and see if it works. If it doesn’t, then you likely know the reason why. Below are some links to instructions on how to disable popular security utilities. After the upgrade is complete, you can always reinstall your antivirus utility.
- Norton – right click Norton in the Notification Area then click Disable Antivirus
- ESET NOD32
- Trend Micro
- Webroot Secure Anywhere
6. Disable All Background Software
Startup programs can also interfere with setup; disabling them by performing a clean boot can help.
7. Disable Peripherals and External USB Devices
It turns out devices such as your smart card reader can confuse setup. This is especially the case if you are performing an offline upgrade using USB media. Common USB storage devices such as external hard disks can also confuse setup, so, if you have those attached, disconnect them. The same goes for peripherals such as your printer and scanner. The best recommendation is to have a simple configuration, no more than a keyboard and mouse.
If you have an SD card reader, eject your media before upgrading. You can also uninstall your SD card reader as an extra measure. Press Windows key + X > Device Manager > Memory technology devices. Right-click SD Controllers, then click uninstall. If there is more than one, right-click each, then click Uninstall.
8. Update or Disable Display Adapters
Some installations call for more advanced preparation. Your display adapter can actually be an upgrade blocker, too. This commonly occurs when you see a black screen during the installation then setup automatically rolls back. Uninstalling your video card driver is known to help. Also, if you have multiple displays connected, only keep one attached for the duration of the installation. In some cases, updating the video card driver to the latest version can help too.
To uninstall a video card driver, press Windows key + X > Device Manager > Display Adapters and Right-click your video card driver then click uninstall.
9. Disconnect from the Internet When Using an ISO
If you plan on using the ISO media to upgrade, disconnect from the Internet during setup. There are multiple ways to do this: you can disconnect the Ethernet cable manually, or if you are connected to a wireless network, you can manually disable Wi-Fi by turning off the Wireless switch on your laptop. An easier way to do it is to open Action Center (press Windows key + A), then click Airplane Mode. This will disable all network technologies. Proceed with the upgrade.
If you are updating through Windows Update when the download reaches 100% disconnect from the Internet LAN (Ethernet) or Wi-Fi then proceed with the installation.
10. Skip “Get Important Updates”
I noticed over the past few releases of Windows 10, the upgrade wizard can take it’s own sweet time to start if you choose the option to Get important updates. I recommend you choose Not right now. If you do choose it and setup appears to be taking ridiculously long to move past this stage, close the setup wizard and restart your machine.
11. Switch to a Local User Account
Computers connected to a Windows Server Domain should either switch to a local user account on the machine or leave the domain before attempting setup. See the section of the following article, Leave a Domain: How to Join a Windows 10 PC to a Domain – groovyPost
12. Run these Commands to Resolve Any System Integrity Issues
The Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command is a handy diagnostic tool for resolving file integrity issues that might prevent a successful install. Users can run the following commands as part of their prep routine before initiating the upgrade.
Press Windows key + X, click Command Prompt (Admin) then type each command then hit Enter on your keyboard.
Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth
Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /ScanHealth
Dism /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth
Another command you should run is the cleanup driver. Press Windows key + X, click Command Prompt (Admin) then type the following command and hit Enter on your keyboard. Restart your computer when complete. This should help with the notorious failed or non-responsive installation during the driver migration.
rundll32.exe pnpclean.dll,RunDLL_PnpClean /DRIVERS /MAXCLEAN
The point of this guide isn’t to scare you into avoiding a Windows 10 Creators Update upgrade. For most users, the upgrade can and will be successful without performing any of the steps above. But for those who seem to have bad luck or can’t afford a failed upgrade, knowing common causes of upgrade issues can save you a lot of time and hassle.
With each new Windows revision, there will always be the unexpected and it will be a learning experience in the process. You can check out our handy Windows 10 article for more details about resolving some of the common install errors users are likely to encounter. Our vibrant Windows 10 forum is also a great resource for finding solutions too.
Have you upgraded to latest Windows 10 Feature Update? How did it go? Let us know in the comments.