How to install Windows 10

Two common installation issues solved

Before we get down the nitty-gritty of installing the OS, there are a couple of common installation errors. Here’s how to fix them.

Something happened

Microsoft has thrown out some useless error messages before, but the ‘Something happened, Something happened’ one has to be one of the worst ever, giving no clue as to what the issue is. Fortunately, the issue can be fixed in one of two ways.

Something Happened Windows 10

The first option is to change your computer’s Region settings and tell it that you’re in the US. To do this open up the Control Panel from your computer’s Start Menu and select Clock, Language and Region -> Region. Click the Administrative tab, click Change system locale and use the drop-down menu and choose English (United States). Click OK and then OK again to apply the settings.

Change Windows System Locale

The second option is that you’re trying to install Windows from a USB flash drive or DVD, but you created the installation media without the proper permissions. To change that, download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool and locate it on your hard disk. Right-click it and select Run as Administrator. Follow the wizard through as before and re-create the installation media. You should now be able to install Windows 10.

Processor not supported

If you get the ‘Processor not supported’ message, it’s because your CPU needs to support Execute Disable Bit. This feature is designed to stop malicious code from running on your computer, by marking some bits of system memory as non-executable; it means that if a virus infects this part of RAM, your processor will refuse to run it.

Practically any processor capable of running Windows 7 or Windows 8 has this hardware feature, so that problem is likely to be that it’s been disabled in your computer’s BIOS. To re-enable this feature you need to restart your computer and go into the BIOS (Delete, F2 and F10 are common keys to enter it, but check your computer’s manual for full instructions). Every BIOS is different, so the exact instructions will differ from computer to computer.

Look for a section on your processor, such as CPU Configuration, which is likely to be in the Advanced section of the BIOS. Make sure that the Execute-Disable Bit is turned on, which may also be called XD or NX. Finally, make sure that you’ve turned on the virtualisation option. Save your settings, reboot your computer and you should now be able to install Windows 10.

Enable execute disable bit in BIOS

Step 1 – Enter your computer’s BIOS

You first need to make sure your computer is set to boot from your DVD drive or from USB. Insert your DVD or USB installation disk and restart your PC. You may find that your PC has a special boot override menu, which you can access with a key such as F10; look out for the message while your computer starts. If this is the case, press the key as soon as the message is displayed, then select your DVD drive or USB stick to boot.

If you don’t have a boot override menu, you’ll need to go into the BIOS or UEFI Setup program, which is where you change some of your computer’s more low-level settings. The right key to enter Setup varies from PC to PC, but is usually Delete, F2 or F10, and you’ll need to press it almost immediately after you turn your PC on or restart it. If you look carefully, you may see the relevant key displayed onscreen as the computer turns on. Some more modern laptops, such as certain Lenovo models, have a special button to enter the Setup program, which you’ll most likely find next to the power switch. Setup menus vary widely in look and layout, but all follow a similar logic, so if you look carefully you’ll be able to find all the options we mention in this guide.

Can’t find the option? Follow our how to boot from USB guide for more detailed instructions

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Step 2 – Set your computer to boot from DVD or USB

Once in Setup, find the Boot section. Now change the boot order to put the device you want to boot from first; this will be DVD or USB, depending on your installation media type. Bootable USB flash drives are sometimes listed as hard disks. If this is the case you’ll need to set ‘hard disk’ as the first boot option, then go into the hard disk boot order sub-menu and put your USB boot disk at the top of the list. Find and select the Save and Restart option or equivalent. Your PC should now boot into the Windows 10 setup program – you may see a message to ‘press any key to boot from USB’, so do so.

Set your BIOS boot order

Step 3 – Choose the Windows 10 clean install option

Once you’re in the Setup program, select your language, time and currency format and input method, and click Next. Click the Install Now button. Enter your Windows key if prompted, and read and accept the software licence. In the next screen, select ‘Custom: Install Windows only (advanced)’.

Select your Windows installation type

Step 4 – How to find your Windows 10 license key

At this point you’ll be asked for your licence key. What you put it, depends on the type of Windows 10 that you have, but we’ll explain how to deal with everything here.

If you’re already on Windows 10 and want to know your license key, you can always download ProduKey and extract your Windows 10 product key from there. Write this down on a piece of paper or save it to an external drive.

READ NEXT: Best external hard drive – The best portable and desktop drives

1. If you have bought Windows 10 from a store or as a download

If you physically purchased a copy of Windows 10, either from a store or via an online shop as a download, you will have a full and proper Windows 10 code. You should enter this at this point and you will not be asked for it again. This is the simplest way of handling the installation.

2. If you have upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8

Provided you created new boot media using the latest version of Windows 10 (i.e. you weren’t using an older installation disc or USB key), you can now just enter in your valid Windows 7 or Windows 8 key, and your licence will automatically be updated to a Windows 10 one with no additional hassle.

3. You bought Windows 7 or Windows 8 and want to move to a new computer

If you paid for a boxed or downloaded copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8, your licence allows you to move it to a new computer, provided you delete it from the device the OS is currently installed on. This means that, even if you upgraded your original computer to Windows 10, you can move your OS to a new computer and claim another upgrade to Windows 10. With the new system, you just need to enter your Windows 7 or Windows 8 licence key when prompted and your computer will upgrade to Windows 10.

Step 5 – Select your hard disk or SSD

What you’ll see in the next screen depends on whether you’re installing on a blank disk, or whether your disk has had an operating system installed on it previously. If it’s a blank disk, you’ll be shown a drive with ‘Unallocated Space’, so just select it and click Next. Windows will then start the installation process.

If your disk has had an operating system on it previously, or if you have more than one hard disk in your PC, you’ll be shown a screen with several disks and partitions. The disks will be called ‘Drive 0’, ‘Drive 1’ and so on, and if a disk has previously had a Windows installation it will be split into partitions with labels such as ‘Recovery’, ‘System’, ‘MSR’ and ‘Primary’.

Select your Windows partition

Before you install Windows 10 you’ll need to delete all these partitions, by selecting each one and clicking the Delete icon. This will erase all data on the partitions, so quadruple-check that a) you’re deleting partitions from the correct drive and b) that you’re absolutely sure you’ve already backed up everything you need.

Bear in mind that this may also delete your manufacturer’s recovery partitions, so you won’t be able to go back to your previous operating system. Once you’ve finished deleting partitions, make sure the drive you want to use for your Windows 10 installation is selected and press Next to install.

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