How To: Repair Windows 10 with an in-place upgrade

Windows Setup Repair

Ever since the days of Windows 8, users that want to refresh their computers have a multitude of options to accomplish that. After all, Microsoft has included a reset/refresh utility in Windows 8.x and Windows 10 that can easily bring the operating system back to its original state with a couple of clicks. The Refresh and Reset options are both available in Windows 10 but there is also another way you can repair the OS and that is by performing an in-place upgrade.

What is an in-place upgrade?

Instead of installing Windows all over again, in-place upgrades allow you to take a Windows ISO or a bootable USB/DVD and repair the operating system without losing anything other than your installed Windows Updates. This process uses installation files that match your current build so it basically checks the standard healthy files versus the presumably corrupted ones in your system and replaces them as needed.

An in-place upgrade can only be performed via Windows. That means you will be unable to complete it if you cannot boot into the desktop. Furthermore, you will need to find an ISO file that is identical to your current build. You also need the same edition, the same language and the same architecture (32-bit or 64-bit).

Prepare your system

Microsoft’s TechBench is the best place to quickly acquire a working Windows 10 ISO of the latest build. After you open that link, scroll down the page, select “Windows 10” from the dropdown menu and click on the Confirm button. After a few seconds, a new dropdown menu will appear below, asking you to select the language of your Windows 10 installation. Choose the default language of your system and click on the Confirm button once again. After a brief period of time, TechBench will provide you with two links for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10. Click on the appropriate one and download the ISO to your computer.

Windows 10 ISO Download

If you already have a bootable USB drive with the same build you are currently running, you can use that instead of grabbing a new ISO file. Regardless of your choice, I highly recommend that you completely disable your antivirus protection before proceeding to the next steps as it might interfere with the in-place upgrade.

Repair your system

If you chose to download an ISO file, you will need to mount it, open its folder and run the setup.exe file manually. If you have a USB drive with Windows 10 in it, just connect it to your computer and run the setup.exe when Windows asks or by navigating to its folder. The rest of the steps are identical for both methods.

  1. Allow the Windows 10 Setup utility to prepare itself. Once it is ready, you will get two options. The first will allow the tool to automatically download and install update. Choosing the second option means you will have to do it manually later. Since we are looking to fix parts of the system, it is vital that you choose the first option.
    Windows Setup Updates
  2. Choose whether you want to “help make the installation of Windows better” by sending anonymous data to Microsoft. This is completely optional and can be skipped by unchecking the box.
  3. When you are ready, click on Next to continue.
  4. Allow the Windows 10 Setup tool to do its thing again and accept the license terms when the respective window pops up.
    Windows Setup License Terms
  5. The tool will confirm your choices one more time. Clicking on “Change what to keep” will enable you to keep your personal files, keep your files and your apps or keep nothing at all. When everything is ready, click on Install to start the process.
    Windows Setup Ready
  6. The “upgrade” will take a considerable amount of time during which you will be unable to use your PC. When it is over, you will be asked to set up Windows 10 again.
  7. Once you go through the setup process, log in your computer and start using it normally.