If you have an OEM computer, the product key for your version of Windows is also often on the back or side of the computer.
If you have an OEM computer (e.g., Acer, Dell, HP, etc.), the computer will not have a genuine Windows CD, DVD, or USB thumb drive.
First, you will need a genuine copy of the Microsoft Windows operating system installation CD, DVD, or USB thumb drive.
A genuine Windows product key is included with the installation disc, which is required to activate Windows after installation.
You can also borrow a Windows disc from a friend as long as you're installing the same version of Windows that came with the computer and you have the product key for that version of Windows.
With early versions of Windows, you cannot download a copy of Windows to install on a computer. If you are installing Windows 10, you can download the Windows 10 creation tool to create a bootable disc or USB thumb drive.
After Windows is installed on the computer, you will need to install the drivers and related software for the hardware in the computer.
You can use the installation discs that came with the hardware, or you can download the drivers from the hardware manufacturer's website.
If you find that one or more pieces of hardware in your computer are not compatible with the chosen Windows version, we recommend replacing that hardware with compatible hardware.
Having compatible hardware in your computer will help ensure the Windows install or upgrade process is successful.
The upgrade process will install the newer Windows operating system files over top the old ones and preserve your files.
The steps below are for all recent versions of Windows, including Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.
If you cannot download drivers because your network card is not working after installing Windows, you can download the drivers on another computer.