Performing a clean install of the free Windows 10 upgrade is a 2 step process. Firstly as an in-place upgrade to register the free upgrade and then as a clean install. This is an inconvenience especially when upgrading multiple desktops and sometimes in-place upgrades from one version of an OS fail to complete.
In-place Upgrades can Fail
Reasons for failed upgrades range from undetected incompatible hardware drivers, erroneous applications, user tweaked settings, malware, antivirus and hard disk accelerator software through to not enough disk space, underlying bad disk sectors and proprietary disk compression or encryption software.
Although these possibilities have been around for many years, the free offer of a Windows 10 upgrade has made more people than ever want to jump up onto this new release and because of the time limitation before the free upgrade offer expires in July 2016, it has made the heightened the perception of urgency to do it now (it could just be because ‘the grass is greener’ or maybe even some think Microsoft will suddenly have a change of heart and whip this free upgrade from under them).
And while the vast majority of people will simply perform the in-place upgrade and allow Windows 10 to merge onto their existing PC setup, some, however, prefer to go down the ‘purists’ route of a clean install. Migrate all the useful data off their existing system, wipe the drive (preferably after having run a HDD surface scan on older drives), install a fresh OS and enjoy the challenge of searching out any missing drivers for those odd hardware pieces.
In order to be eligible for a Windows 10 free upgrade you must allow the upgrade process to identify that your existing OS installation is valid in terms of version (Windows 7, 8.0, 8.1), edition (Home or Pro), and activation (genuine software, not a trial, or otherwise not properly activated). For those interested in more detail, go to the Windows 10 FAQ.
Two-Step Upgrade Process
This leads us back to our original point; performing a clean install of Windows 10, whilst trying to qualify for the free upgrade, is a 2 step process. Firstly the existing OS must be registered as being eligible and secondly that eligibility must be migrated over to the new clean install.
Given that quite often the reason for a clean install is that this existing OS is experiencing some of the issues I mentioned right at the very start of this article this can mean that this initial in-place upgrade never completes, preventing enrolment of the PC to enable a subsequent clean install.
However, this is a shortcut to this initial step – that of enrolling/registering/certifying (call it what you will) the PC’s existing OS that it is indeed suitable and eligible for a free Windows 10 upgrade without having to perform the entire Windows 10 in-place upgrade first.
Naturally, before proceeding, any data migration from the old PC must be completed, either in the form of a backup, file transfer or Easy Transfer Wizard. You may even want to consider performing a full system image copy in case you do not successfully complete the fresh install phase. Proceed only if you have a way to recover.
- Download a copy of Windows 10.
- Use your preferred method to access the files within the downloaded ISO (such as burn it to disk, mount it within Windows or use a 3rd party utility to expand it).
- Search for gatherosstate.exe. Depending on the version of the image you chose, it will either reside in sources or \Windows\x64\sources or \Windows\x32\sources. Copy gatherosstate.exe to your desktop.
- Ensuring you are properly connected to the internet, run the gatherosstate application. After a few seconds, an additional file should appear on your desktop – GenuineTicket.XML. This is confirmation that your existing PC and OS have passed the pre-requisites needed to perform a clean Windows 10 install. Save the file GenuineTicket.XML to a location NOT on your system HDD (as this is going to be wiped). Any location will do; USB, network share, even email it to yourself!
- Perform your clean install of Windows 10. When requested for the product key, click the ‘SKIP’ button.
- When the clean install has completed and you’re looking at your fresh desktop, locate GenuineTicket.XML and copy it to the hidden folder C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\ClipSVC\GenuineTicket. You can navigate to it directly by pasting this URL directly into a RUN dialog box (Win+R to activate, or Win+X,R or just type in RUN into the Cortana search box).
- Reboot your PC.
- That’s it! In order to confirm activation, bring up the SYSTEM panel (Win+Pause, Win+x, S, or type SYSTEM into the Cortana search box). The System dialog box will now confirm that this new installation is activated.
- Allow updates to be performed on your new system, via SETTINGS, Update & Security.
- Enjoy that new-fresh Windows 10 installation smell!