Windows 10 in-place upgrade – success! And, it was easy!

Eric WestonProductivityLeave a Comment

I’ve completed an in-place upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. And, despite my many drivers, desktop apps and customisations, it went very smoothly indeed. Perhaps my tale will give you the confidence to make a similar move.

To refresh, or not to refresh – that is the question

I’ve completed plenty of upgrades between major Windows versions in the past. Usually I start afresh, since Windows performance can drop over time with the various clutter that builds up. The common wisdom is that it is good to ‘refresh’ Windows  periodically – and a major upgrade is an ideal time to do this.

But, this means sacrificing hours on preparing, formatting, upgrading and migrating data and then setting things up the way you want them. I didn’t want to make this sacrifice this time around if I didn’t have to – and there were two things that gave me confidence:

  1. My PC was running very well on Windows 8.1 – I didn’t feel there were slow-downs or errors to tackle.
  2. A number of articles I read online seemed to confirm that the in-place upgrade to Windows 10 is pretty robust and smoother than any previous in-place upgrade.

Sure, if I did opt for a complete refresh then some stuff would be carried over automatically anyway. For instance, my Microsoft account and OneDrive would synchronise some useful settings and documents back to the updated PC. I call this ‘migration by synchronisation’, and it is useful (though you must allow some extra time for the sync to complete).

But I had a lot of tweaks, desktop applications, and customised settings that wouldn’t be synchronised. Over all, I decided that an in-place upgrade was actually more compelling for me this time – and with proper preparation I’d be able to try it and then change my mind anyway.

My target for Windows 10 domination

I have a Lenovo X230 Tablet PC (X230T i7-3520), which is a ‘hybrid’ tablet-laptop convertible PC.

Lenovo X230T convertible PC

Lenovo X230T – a great gadget. Image by Lenovo (copyright).

This device is a few years old now. But it is still powerful, feature-packed and pretty decent in the battery department – a real workhorse. This is my third PC with a digitiser pen, and the second with touch support – I like these features, and I’ve used them in several versions of Windows over the years. Naturally I wanted to try the latest improvements to the tablet experience in Windows 10.

As I already had Windows 8.1 Pro I qualified for the free Windows 10 upgrade offer. I registered some time ago, and now the download was ready and Windows was telling me I could upgrade. I saw no reason to delay… except to do a little safe-guarding in case I found myself wanting to roll back in a hurry.

It’s nice to have options – and a disaster recovery plan

Feeling diligent, I first brought Windows 8.1 and various applications right up to the minute with updates.

Then, I created a full backup of my laptop PC, so I knew I’d be able to roll back even if some glitch made the operating system completely unrecoverable. This is routine and dead easy for me as I have a Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS2011) PC on my home network. This server PC automatically wakes up my laptop and takes backups every night (or I can trigger them manually any time). From these backups I can do a ‘bare metal’ restore any time I like, easily rolling my PC back to exactly how it was at any backup point I choose. This is a robust safety net in case I need to recover from a disaster (or even if I just change my mind).

You can create your safety net backup through any number of backup solutions where you can ‘clone’ your storage. Having WHS2011 on hand just made this super automated and convenient for me.

The upgrade process and the results

The upgrade was incredibly easy. The process started after only a few clicks, and Windows 10 got on with it, rebooting several time with no intervention required. When it finished installing and rebooting there were a handful of options to set. And then that was the end of it – upgrade complete!

I had a lot of tweaks and desktop applications in 8.1, and it seems to have all carried over nicely. I’ve used the PC for a couple of days now and I’ve found barely anything I needed to interfere with or ‘repair’ in any way. So I only have a few minor things to comment on that you might find useful:

  • The WHS2011 connector carried over and I was able to access the shared drives and so on. But backup wasn’t available. This is expected due to the way WHS2011 works. I simply uninstalled the connector, rebooted and then reinstalled. This registered the PC for backup again and it now works perfectly.
  • ‘Bins’ taskbar organiser by 1UP Industries hasn’t been updated in a long time and doesn’t work in Windows 10. But a quick search on Google reveals that, according to messages on Twitter, the developer is working on an update.

If my experience is common then Microsoft deserves some applause – the upgrade process works brilliantly. And I really like what I’ve seen of Windows 10 so far.

What I ditched

Some new features of Windows 10 make certain 3rd party add-ons redundant, so I removed them:

Bins, by 1UP Industries (link)

As mentioned above, this isn’t working. So I’ve removed it and made more use of the new start menu instead. But I’ll likely add it back again if a new version compatible with Windows 10 is released, as I do like this software.

ModernMix, by StarDock Corporation (link)

Useless as Windows 10 integrates ‘Modern’ apps better than Windows 8 or 8.1, and places them in Windows for desktop mode.

WizMouse, by Antibody Software (link)

The core feature of allowing the mouse wheel to scroll background windows is now built into Windows 10 as an option labelled ‘Scroll inactive Windows when I hover over them’.

Auto Scroll Utility version 2.15, by Lenovo

I actually only installed this from the Lenovo System Update tool just before upgrading to Windows 10. However, I did find that in Windows 10 I was getting long periods where mouse clicks just didn’t work – and that problem hasn’t reappeared since I uninstalled this utility.

What’s next and what I’m looking forward to

Soon I’ll be doing the in-place upgrade on my girlfriend’s Windows 8.1 PC, using the same general approach.

I’d have less to do on her PC anyway as she doesn’t have many apps or tweaks. But, not having to re-establish browser cookies and all that jazz will simplify her transition. And that also means an easier life for me, as I’m the technical support!

Back to my PC, I’m particularly looking forward to using:

  • Cortana: I’m interested to see how this digital assistant might boost my productivity or just make little things easier.
  • Touch input refinements: Better integration of Modern apps and more intelligent tablet mode should make the touch/pen inputs more enjoyable.
  • Virtual desktops: This is something I’ve looked at but never wanted enough to install software. Now that virtual desktop features are built into Windows I’m interested to see what they can do for my workflow.

Over to you

How about you? Are you holding off on the upgrade, or have you already made the jump? What are your fears or frustrations?

Featured image by bossco