How to download a Windows 10 ISO file legally and install Windows 10 from it

Whether you currently use Windows 10 and want the latest version or you want to switch from another operating system, it’s possible to do so — but there may be some confusing steps. Downloading and installing the Windows 10 ISO file allows you to install the latest Microsoft OS.

If you don’t know how to download and install a Windows 10 ISO file, we cover the basics. Keep reading to learn what you need to do.

Step 1: Download the Windows 10 ISO legally from Microsoft on Windows

A screenshot of Microsoft's download page for creating Windows 10 installation media.

To get started, head to the Windows 10 download page. Under the header that says Create Windows 10 Installation Media, select the Download Tool Now button.

Next, a dialog box will ask you if you want to save a program called MediaCreationTool21H1.exe. Click Save File. This will download the file to your computer.

Step 2: Create your ISO file

Once downloaded, this ISO download tool makes it easy to turn any USB key into a bootable Windows 10 installer and allows you to download the Windows 10 ISO file for future use. When the tool downloads, run it. A terms-of-use screen will pop up, and you’ll need to then click Accept. You must then confirm whether you want to upgrade your current PC or create installation media for another PC.

A screenshot of the Windows 10 ISO file creation process.

Select Create Installation Media (USB Flash Drive, DVD, or ISO File) For Another PC, as shown above, and then click Next. Select the language, architecture, and edition of Windows you prefer. It’s usually best to check the box for Use the Recommended Options for This PC, but you can also customize it and choose a different a language or architecture. Choosing a different Windows edition, however, such as Windows 10 Pro or Home, may not be available to you. Click Next when you’re ready.

On the next screen, if you’re looking to install Windows on your PC, select the ISO File option. Doing so will save a file that you can click later (step 3) to upgrade your PC to Windows 10. For most people, the ISO file is the safest method. After selecting ISO File, click Next, and select where to save the ISO file. Once the download is complete, you will have the ISO file on your computer’s hard drive.

Step 3: Install Windows 10 directly from the ISO from within Windows 7 or 8/8.1


If you’re running Windows 8 or newer, you can upgrade your PC or laptop to Windows 10 by mounting the ISO file you just downloaded — double-click it. Windows will display the ISO as though it is a DVD drive.

From here, you can install Windows 10. Just open Setup.exe, and the installer will open. From here, you can choose to install Windows 10 in place, leaving your files and programs. All necessary data will transfer from the ISO to your computer, which will eventually restart your PC to complete the installation.

If you’re running Windows 7 or earlier, you can’t mount ISOs — instead, you can download Virtual Clone Drive and use that to install ISO files. Once you’ve got the drive mounted, the Windows 10 installation will work the same as outlined above. You also can try the Windows 10 Upgrade Assistant to upgrade from Windows 10. We have a guide for that here.

Alternative: Create a bootable USB drive


Otherwise, if you want to create a USB Flash Drive, select the USB Flash Drive option. Doing so will allow you to create a bootable USB drive that you can use to erase everything from your computer and go for a “clean install.” This USB drive can be used on other computers to install Windows. With this option, choose your USB drive and have Windows 10 downloaded to it. Be warned: Everything on the drive will delete before installation, so make sure no crucial files become lost.

Alternative: Burn the Windows 10 ISO to a DVD


If your computer has a DVD burner and you’ve got a writable DVD on hand, you can burn the Windows 10 ISO to a DVD and install Windows 10 by booting from it. Right-click the Windows ISO file, and navigate to Properties>under the General tab, select Change> select Windows Explorer> click Apply. Then, right-click on the Windows ISO file again and click Burn Disc Image. The Windows Disc Image Burner will open, asking you which drive you’d like to use.

When ready, click Burn to start the process. When it’s complete, you’ll have a bootable DVD that you can use to install Microsoft Windows. You can use other software to burn your ISO, but the built-in software is simple enough to use.

There are plenty of other uses for a Windows 10 ISO file. For example, you may want to install Windows 10 on your Mac or set up Windows 10 in a virtual machine application. In either case, the ISO file is the preferred tool for installing Windows 10.

You will need a valid Windows 10 product key to install Windows 10. On computers currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1, this isn’t a problem. You can upgrade in place, and Windows 10 will detect your previous license. Failing that, you can use the product key on your device — look for a sticker.

The free ISO file isn’t a free Windows license. It’s just a more convenient way to install Windows 10. Mac users, custom PC builders, and anyone installing on a virtual machine will need a product key to install Windows 10 legally. They can buy Windows 10 Home for $139.

Downloading the Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft on Mac or Linux


The Windows 10 Download Tool only works on computers running Windows 7, 8, or 10. If you’re not running one of those operating systems, you can still download the Windows 10 ISO from Microsoft. Just head to the Windows 10 download page, on Microsoft’s website, and it will detect that you’re not running a compatible OS.

From this page, you can pick which Windows 10 version to download — either 32-bit or 64-bit ISO — in your language of choice. You can then copy the ISO file to a USB stick and bring it over to a Windows laptop or desktop to proceed with the Windows installation.

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