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Tech Q&A: Upgrading a Windows 10 PC that's out of memory

Steve Alexander, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Science & Technology News

Q: I have a Dell Inspiron 3050 that uses Windows 10 and has an SSD (Solid State Drive, or computer chip memory) rather than a hard drive. Recently, I've been getting a message that says a Windows 10 update can't be installed because I don't have enough available memory. I transferred all the data I could to an external memory card in order to open up more storage space, but it hasn't been enough.

I've also tried to reboot the computer from a flash drive so that I could downgrade to Windows 7 or install the Linux operating system, but that hasn't worked. What can I do?

Larry Feth, Westerville, Ohio

A: Your SSD is too small for the space needed for the upgrade.

Fortunately, there's an alternative way to install upgrades on PCs like yours. Instead of relying on the computer's internal storage, you can use two USB flash drives, each with 16 gigabytes of storage space. One flash drive will hold the Windows 10 upgrade files, which you can download from a Microsoft website. The other flash drive will provide the storage space for the installation process. Once the installation is finished, the Windows 10 update will be installed on your SSD, so you can put the flash drives aside until the next operating system upgrade.

To make this work, you'll need to download the Windows 10 upgrade files using a different PC. Go to tinyurl.com/ydb58t4h, and under the heading "Create Windows 10 installation media" read the directions under "Using the tool to create installation media ... (for use) on a different PC." Once you've read that, follow the step-by-step directions at tinyurl.com/yc6w38rf (under the heading "How to create an installation drive for Windows 10 updates.")

After you have created the "installation drive," you will need to plug both it and the empty flash drive into your PC at the same time. Double-click the "setup.exe" file on the installation drive. When you receive the familiar "Windows needs more space" message, select the option to use the empty flash drive as temporary storage during the Windows 10 update process. (See the step-by-step directions and screen shots at the same website.)

If you don't want to bother with all of this, you could switch to an alternative operating system, such as Windows 7 or Linux. However, Windows 10 doesn't provide a downgrade path to Windows 7, so you would need to back up all your data before creating a fresh install of Windows 7 (which will erase the SSD.) You can use Windows 10 to install Linux, but you will need to replace most applications software once Windows is no longer the operating system.

Q: I'm using the Carbonite online backup service with my Windows 8.1 desktop PC. If I buy a new Windows 10 PC, how can I restore all my backed-up data to the new PC?

 

Gerald Milan, Orange Park, Fla.

A: Carbonite is a subscription-based online storage service that is designed to back up only the PC you have now. However, if you get a new PC or Mac you can transfer the subscription to that computer by following the instructions at tinyurl.com/y9a3q9r3. Note that you must download all of your backed-up files to the new computer. If you don't, they'll be erased by subsequent backups of the new machine.

About The Writer

Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: steve.j.alexander@gmail.com. Please include a full name, city and phone number.

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