Force upgrade Windows 10

Over the years and major Windows releases, we have many times had to force upgrade Windows. This is especially so on development machines that see a lot of programs installed in weird locations, external hard drives used, etc. Windows 10 1903 is just the latest in this saga of failed automatic Windows upgrades.

In general, the approach to force upgrade Windows version is:

  1. make an external backup of files–this could be to a cloud service like Google Drive or OneDrive as well as unpluggable storage like a USB drive. We usually don’t backup the entire PC, just manually drag over folders containing needed info, as it very well may be lost in this procedure.
  2. obtain a USB 3 flash drive and necessary adapters (e.g. USB-C to USB 3) for your PC. USB 2 flash drives will be painfully slow. At this time, 8 GB or larger is required.
  3. Download and run the Windows Media Creation Tool. Be sure the USB 3 drive is plugged in before running, and create a bootable flash drive using the tool.
  4. To help ensure you only have to do this once, and after ensuring you have backed up any data, consider the most powerful install option. That is “choose what to keep” → Nothing. That erase all files to help ensure there isn’t any bit of bad configuration left over. You don’t want to have to keep repeating the upgrade.

I didn’t include screenshots etc. as while the particulars change over the years, the process has been the same since nearly the Windows 9x or even DOS days. Generally the OS upgrades are a gamble that doesn’t always work, while hard reinstalls naturally virtually always work. This is the case for Linux including Ubuntu as well.