How to perform a Windows 10 repair upgrade

by Tashreef Shareef
Tashreef Shareef
Tashreef Shareef
Windows & Software Expert
Tashreef Shareef is a software developer turned tech writer. He discovered his interest in technology after reading a tech magazine accidentally. Now he writes about everything tech from... read more
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  • Microsoft offers multiple recovery and repair options to perform Windows 10 repair upgrades.
  • The in-place upgrade recovery method allows you to reinstall Windows 10 without deleting personal files or installed third-party apps.
  • Using SFC and DISM tools, you can scan and repair system files without reinstalling the OS.
  • Alternatively, you can use the Reset this PC or clean install option to get your PC operational in extreme cases.

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A lot of things can go wrong with your Windows 10 computer. Apart from the usual blue screen of death crashes, a recently installed update or an incorrect modification to registry entries can break your system.

Fortunately, Microsoft offers some built-in measures to set things right.

If the usual troubleshooting steps did not help fix your slow computer, a clean install is the most common recommended course of action as a last resort.

Apart from the Start Fresh, Reset, and clean install option from the bootable media, there is a repair upgrade option as well.

Windows 10 In-place upgrade or Windows 10 repair install is a system repair process that can repair and reinstall Windows 10 without affecting your programs and personal files.

When the upgrade is complete, you will have a freshly installed OS with all the files and apps installed on your system.

In this article, we take a look at the in-place Windows 10 upgrade along with other repairing methods to help you fix your Windows 10 computer.

How to perform a Windows 10 Repair and In-place Upgrade 

1. Create a backup

Before we make any modification to your system, creating a backup is essential. There are built-in Windows backup tools and third-party backup programs that can help you create a complete backup of your system data, including personnel files and media.

 Third-party tools like Macrium Reflect are an excellent backup solution to create a full image backup. You can use image backup to restore the computer to its normal operation.

Once you have the backup ready, let’s get started with the Windows 10 repair solutions.

2. Use System File Checker and DISM for system repair 

If you know your way around the command processor (Command Prompt), Microsoft offers two system scanning and repairing utilities – System File Checker (SFC) and Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM). 

DISM uses Windows Update to provide the files that are required to fix file corruption. That said, if the Windows Update client is broken, you will need to provide a repair source to provide required files from a bootable storage device or Windows side-by-side folder from a network share. 

The System File Checker tool is deployed with the command sfc /scannow in the Command Prompt. It scans the system for missing or corrupt system files and restores them.

Here’s how to use the System File Checker tool to repair missing or corrupted system files.

  1. Open the Command Prompt as administrator. To do this, press the Windows key, type cmd, right-click on the Command Prompt and choose Run as Administrator. Alternatively, right-click on Start and choose Command Prompt (admin).
  2. Next, run the System File Checker tool with the following command:
    sfc /scannow 
  3. This command will take a few minutes to complete depending on your computer hardware. Make sure to wait till the verification is 100% complete before closing the Command Prompt window.
  4. If the System File Checker determines that a protected system file requires repairing, it will restore the file from a cached copy located in system32.

If SFC failed to repair the system file and the issue persists, you can use the DISM tool. It is more advanced than SFC and detect and fix issues that SFC cannot.

  1. As with SFC, open the Command Prompt as administrator.
     perform a Windows 10 repair upgrade
  2. In Command Prompt, enter the following command to run the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool.
    DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth
  3. As discussed earlier, if the Windows Update client is broken, you can use a bootable drive as the repair source. To do this, run the following command:
    DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth /Source:C:\RepairSource\Windows /LimitAccess
  4. In the above command, replace the C:\RepairSource\Windows placeholder with the location of your repair source.

If an issue is detected, it will ask you to proceed with the repairing process. Press Y on your keyboard to continue and apply the changes. Once the fixes are applied, reboot the computer and check for any improvements.

3. Use a Restore Point

Windows 10, by default, creates and saves snapshots of your system image known as Restore Points. You can use these restore points if something goes wrong with your computer and restore the PC to its normal working condition.

  1. Press the Windows key + R to open Run. 
  2. Type create a restore point. Next, click on Create a Restore Point option from the search result.
  3. In the System Properties window, click on the System Restore button.
     perform a Windows 10 repair upgrade
  4. Click Next. Windows will populate your screen with available restore points. Check the Show more restore points box if available to view hidden restore points.
  5. Choose the most recently created restore point and click the Scan for affected programs option. Go through the list of apps that may be uninstalled if you proceed with the selected snapshot.
  6. Click Next
  7. Read the description and click the Finish button to start the restore process. 

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Your computer will shut down and restart a few times during the process. A success message will greet you after a successful restart. Depending on the restore point selected, you may lose some programs installed before the restore point was created. However, none of your personal files will be affected.

4. Repair with In-place upgrade 

If you want to reinstall Windows 10 without deleting your system files, settings and programs, perform an in-place upgrade. This is helpful if Windows 10 Start menu and metro apps are not working, corrupt system files due to virus infection, failed Windows update installation and everything else that has left your PC unusable.

Performing an in-place upgrade requires a Windows 10 setup media or a bootable flash drive. Note that to be able to perform an in-place upgrade, you must be able to boot into Windows 10. Trying to repair install without booting into Windows will result in loss of user data and installed apps.

After the in-place upgrade, Windows 10 installation will be reset back to its original version. If you want to install feature updates, keep your PC connected to the internet during the in-place upgrade. 

Note: You may not be able to perform an in-place upgrade if the bootable media Windows 10 version is older than the one installed on your computer. Make sure to download and use the latest Windows 10 version ISO image available from Microsoft. 

  1. Create a bootable media using the media creation tool. Make sure the bootable media matches your current edition of Windows 10.
  2. Go through the installation wizard as you normally would when clean installing Windows or a feature update. If you don’t have a flash drive to create bootable media, mount the ISO image file, double-click on the mounted driver, and double-click on the setup.exe application.
  3. In the Choose what to keep window, select Keep personal files and apps and click Next.
  4. When ready to install, click the Install button to begin. Wait for the installation to complete.

Once the in-place upgrade is complete, you will be asked to sign in using your Windows account and complete the setup.

If you launch About Windows, you will notice that the Windows 10 installation is reset to its original version; if you were not connected to the internet during the installation, download and install pending updates from Settings. To do this, go to Start, click on Settings, choose Updates & Security.

5. Use Reset this PC

The Reset this PC option in Windows recovery allows you to restore system operation. Choose this option if your PC isn’t running as it should, and performing an in-place upgrade did not help.

Using the Reset this PC recovery method is easy. However, it is important to understand the result of employing this method of recovery. It offers two options to choose from. You can choose – keep my files to remove apps and settings but preserve your personal files and Remove everything to erase everything and clean install Windows 10. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Press the Windows key + I to open Settings.
  2. Go to Update & Security.
  3. From the left pane, open the Recovery tab.
  4. Click the Get started button under the Reset this PC section.
     perform a Windows 10 repair upgrade
  5. In the Choose an option window, select an appropriate option. 
  6. Select Keep my files if you want to keep your files and Remove everything to erase and start from scratch.
  7. The reset process may take some time to complete, so wait till the PC restarts. After the restart, complete the setup and restore files from your backup, if any.

That said, the Reset this PC option is handy only if you want to reinstall Windows 10 without deleting your files or don’t have bootable media to clean install. 

Since you have to reinstall all the apps after the reset, a clean install with a completely new OS installation makes more sense. In addition, a clean install is recommended in case of malware infestation and system instability issues. Wiping clean your installation drive with the new OS will clean leftover files and start from scratch.

6. Clean install Windows 10

Before you proceed to clean install Windows 10, make sure to create a backup of your personal data. Reinstalling Windows will erase all the data in your installation drive.

PCs with existing Windows 10 OS can reinstall the OS without requiring the activation key. You may also want to create a list of all the apps installed on your computer and sync passwords and other data so that you don’t lose any critical data residing in your system during reinstall.

Once you are ready to clean install Windows 10, follow the steps below.

  1. Make sure you have created a bootable flash drive with the latest version of the Windows 10 ISO image.
  2. Shut down the computer and connect the setup media to your PC.
  3. Power on the system and wait for the computer to boot from the bootable media. If not, enter the Boot Menu and change the boot order to boot from the installation media.
  4. Choose your Language, time and keyboard input method and click Next.
    perform a Windows 10 repair upgrade
  5. Click the Install now button on the Windows Setup window.
    perform a Windows 10 repair upgrade
  6. If you have Windows 10 multiple edition installation media, choose the right version and click Next.
  7. Accept the license terms and click Next.
  8. Choose Custom: Install Windows only option.
  9. Choose the drive to install Windows 10 and follow on-screen instructions to complete the installation.

Once installed, your PC will restart and prompt you to complete the setup by adding your Microsoft account. You can restore files from your backup and complete the setup by installing essential apps for your needs.

Microsoft offers many recovery and repair options. The System File Checker and DISM tool, in most cases, can find and fix system-related issues. If that does not help, use Restore Points, in-place Windows 10 upgrade, Reset this PC or as a last resort, perform a clean install.

While you cherish your repaired or upgraded Windows 10 system, do let us know your favorite recovery method in the comments.

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