How to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 10

How to upgrade Windows XP to Windows 10

This post provides instructions on how to perform an in-place upgrade of Windows XP to Windows 10, preserving your personal files, settings, and applications.

Despite what you may have been led to believe, yes, an in-place upgrade of Windows XP to Windows 10 – preserving all your documents, personal files, settings, programs and applications – is entirely possible!

However, it isn’t a simple single-step upgrade like you would use for Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. The Windows XP in-place upgrade process requires several intermediate upgrade steps using Windows Vista and Windows 7 before a final upgrade to Windows 10 is possible.

Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Windows 10

You do not need product keys for Windows Vista or Windows 7 during the upgrade process, just copies of the installation media. However, you will need to purchase a product key for Windows 10 before you can perform the final upgrade. An alternate option would be to activate the Windows 7 installation if you have an available product key, which would then qualify you for Microsoft’s free upgrade offer to Windows 10 (offer expires 29th July 2016).

The following table summarizes which key items are preserved by the upgrade process.

Personal files Files that are saved in user folders, like the Documents and Desktop folders. Yes
Settings Settings like Ease of Access, desktop background, Internet favourites and history. Yes
Applications Compatible Windows applications that were installed prior to the upgrade (16-bit/32-bit).  Yes
The instructions in this post refer to performing an in-place upgrade of a Windows XP 32-bit (x86) edition to a Windows 10 32-bit (x86) edition.

It is not possible to perform an upgrade of a Windows XP 64-bit (x64) edition to a Windows 10 64-bit (x64) edition. This requires a clean installation.

It is also not possible to perform a cross-architecture upgrade from a Windows XP 32-bit (x86) edition to a Windows 10 64-bit (x64) edition. Again, this requires a clean installation.

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4 comments

  1. Thanks for fixing the links and for the guide. Quick question, if I activate Windows 7 after upgrading from XP to Vista to 7… then I shouldn’t need a product key for Windows 10 as long as it’s before the end of the month, correct? Windows 10 upgrade from the activated Windows 7 should do it automatically, correct? Or do I just skip activating Windows 7 and then use my Windows 7 Product Key to activate Windows 10? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Ujn,

      That is correct, if you first activate Windows 7 and then upgrade to Windows 10, just press skip when prompted for a key during the upgrade process. When the upgrade is complete, Windows 10 will be automatically activated.

      You can currently use a Windows 7 key to activate Windows 10, but only with new installations (i.e. not upgrades).

      The free upgrade to Windows 10 ends on 29th July 2016.

      Kind Regards,
      Chris.

    1. Hi Ujn,

      I really appreciate you letting me know about this. It seems the article has become broken after a WordPress plugin update a while ago. My apologies!

      Should be fixed now.

      Thanks again,
      Chris.

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