Not sure whether you want to upgrade to Windows 10? Well, if you do upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1, you can always roll back to the previous version if you decide Windows 10 isn’t for you. But there’s another way to try out Windows 10, and you don’t have to wipe out your current version of Windows to do so.
Microsoft offers a free Windows 10 Enterprise evaluation edition that you can run for 90 days. No strings attached. The Enterprise version is basically identical to the Pro version with the same features. If you like Windows 10 after checking out the Enterprise edition, you can then upgrade your existing version of Windows 7 or 8.1 for free before the deadline runs out on July 29. If not, you can stay put. Here’s how to grab the Enterprise version.
Where to Install the Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation Edition
First you’ll need a place to install the Enterprise edition. If you have a spare PC lying around, you can install the Enterprise edition cleanly on that machine. If you have a PC with enough disk space, you can create a dual-boot setup that allows you to run more than one operating system on the same PC by storing them in separate partitions. As a third option, you can set up a free virtual machine program that lets you install and run Windows 10 in its own environment within Windows 7 or 8.1. One free VM program is VirtualBox made by Oracle; the other is VMware Player made by VMware.
How to Download the Enterprise Evaluation Edition
To download the Windows 10 Enterprise 90-day trial edition, go to Microsoft’s TechNet Evaluation Center. Follow the steps to sign in with your Microsoft account (or create one if you don’t yet have one).
You’re then asked to register for the software.
Next you’re prompted to download the installation file, which is formatted as an ISO file that you can burn onto a DVD. Make sure the option to Save File is selected and then click OK.
After the ISO file has downloaded, you’ll need a software program to copy it to a DVD. You can burn the ISO file to a DVD in Windows 7 or 8.1 by right-clicking on it in File Manager or File Explorer and choosing the option to Copy image to CD/DVD.
After you’ve completed the process, place the DVD in the drive of the PC on which you wish to install the Windows 10 Enterprise Edition.
Boot up the PC from the DVD. At the Windows setup screen, accept the license terms and click Next. At the screen to determine which type of installation you want, click on the option for Custom: Install Windows only (advanced). At the screen to determine where you want to install Windows, make sure the correct partition is highlighted. On a clean PC, there should only be one partition with unallocated space.
On a dual-boot PC, you’ll want to select the second partition with unallocated space, which should have been created when you set up the dual-boot system. Click Next.
Windows 10 installs. Follow the standard screens to set up and customize Windows 10. At some point, you’ll see a screen that asks how you want to connect—Join Azure Active Directory or Join a local Active Directory domain. Neither one should apply since you’ll likely be checking out the Windows 10 Enterprise edition on your own. But in this case, choose the option to Join a local Active Directory domain.
And since you probably don’t have an Active Directory domain, Windows will prompt you to create a local account. Go ahead and do that.
You can always switch to a Microsoft account after Windows is fully set up. That’s just a matter of launching the Settings screen, going to the Accounts category, and clicking the link to Sign in with a Microsoft account instead.
You now have 90 days to try out the Enterprise edition, which at this point will extend you beyond the July 29 deadline for upgrading to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7 or 8.1. Only now you can play with Windows 10 for awhile and still work with your current version of Windows.