Compatibility testers are available for Windows 7, 8.1 & 10.
The Windows 10 compatibility tester cannot run on Windows XP or Vista but a substitute is available.
1 Test for compatibility with Windows 7 & Windows 8.1
1.1 If you plan to install Windows 7 or 8, you need to check your computer’s hardware & software compatibility with the new OS.
1.2 In addition to providing information about the chances of a successful installation, the compatibility reports will alert you to any hardware components that you will need to pay attention to afterwards. See Where to get hardware drivers.
2 Test for compatibility with Windows 10
2.1 If you plan to install Windows 10, you need to check your computer’s hardware & software compatibility with the new OS. Review the Windows 10 System requirements carefully; whilst it starts off with a simple table of requirements, there is an awful lot tucked away in its details [see also my section 3 below].
- If you are using Windows 7 SP1 or 8/8.1, use the Windows 10 upgrade checker [GWX]. I am not sure but I think that if you have Windows 7 pre-SP1 and do not want to complete that update first, you might have to use the same substitute compatibility checker that I suggest for XP & Vista users.
- If you are using XP or Vista you will have to use a substitute compatibility checker because the Windows 10 upgrade checker [GWX] cannot run on Windows XP or Vista. So, for XP & Vista, run the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant instead as that does run on those OSs. The Windows 10 System requirements and the Windows 8 system requirements are just about the same so the results will still be useful.
2.2 In addition to providing information about the chances of a successful installation, the compatibility reports will alert you to any hardware components that you will need to pay attention to afterwards. See Compatibility report for Windows 10 FAQ - Windows Help & Where to get hardware drivers.
3 Additional Windows 10 system requirements
3.1 To install a 64-bit OS on a 64-bit PC, your processor needs to support CMPXCHG16b, PrefetchW, and LAHF/SAHF. This is stated in Windows 10 System requirements but is tucked away near the end [Additional requirements to use certain features section, four bullet points up from the end]. The Windows 10 upgrade checker [GWX] and Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant check all these items.
3.2 Early versions of the Windows 10 System requirements stated that the CPU must support SSE2, NX, PAE extensions [a requirement that was introduced for Windows 8.1]. Whilst current versions of the Windows 10 System requirements statement do not include this constraint, a forum user reported on 18 April 2016 that lack of support for NX extensions was given as the reason for failure during an attempted upgrade to Windows 10. The Windows 10 upgrade checker [GWX] and Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant check for these items. For further information about SSE2, NX, PAE requirements, see
What are PAE, NX, and SSE2 - Windows 8.1 Help and note in particular its statement that CPU NX extensions might be available but turned off in the BIOS.
Your PC's CPU isn't compatible with Windows 8,10 where some alternative BIOS names for these extensions are mentioned. There is no need to use the Microsoft SysInternals tool that is referred to.
4 Install Windows 10 as a test before parting with any money
4.1 Even if your computer is compatible you might find that Windows 10 does not perform very well. It does make tougher demands on your hardware then previous OSs and applications can be noticeably slower.
4.2 Just by way of example, I have Windows 10 running well on a twelve year old Dell Inspiron 9300 with just two problems [that I have managed to work around] yet I was in touch in the Dell forums with another user of the same model with apparently the same specs but his Windows 10 problems proved insurmountable.
4.3 You won't know if it works until you try it. So even if it passes all the tests, get yourself a system imaging utility such as Macrium Reflect [free edition] and make a system image of your computer] before installing Windows 10.
- There is guidance on using it on their website and also at Backup and Restore with Macrium Reflect - TenForums.
- You will normally also need to make a Macrium Reflect rescue disk.
- A system image will enable you to get back to where you started so that you do not destroy your original OS.
4.4 You can install Windows 10 by booting the computer from installation media created using the Media creation tool. Make sure you choose the right Windows 10 in the choices you make here so that you can avoid any need to reinstall if you do decide to buy it.
- If your review of the Windows 10 System requirements indicates that you can use 64 bit [x64] Windows 10 then you can choose that for its faster processing capabilities. If not, or if you think that you will be in other respects pushing the specs, choose 32 bit [x86].
- To decide whether or not you want Windows 10 Home or Pro, see the comparison chart in this Wikipedia article comparing Windows 10 editions. As far as home users are concerned, the only difference that is likely to matter is encryption [EFS, Bitlocker] as it is only available with Windows 10 Pro.
- During your test installation you will be asked to provide a product key but you can skip that and the installation will complete so that you can test your computer with Windows 10. The installation will not be activated so it can only be used for a limited time before limitations start to be imposed [I do not know how long this will be or what limitations will appear].
4.5 If you currently have Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, you might still be able to upgrade for free. See Get Windows 10 upgrade still - GroovyPost