Windows 10 Free Upgrade After Deadline

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How to Upgrade to Windows 10 for free

How to upgrade an old PC to Windows 10 - free.

  • Microsoft's free upgrade offer for Windows 10 ended more than five years ago, but no one told the people who run the Windows activation servers.

As a result, you can still upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and claim a free digital license for the latest Windows 10 version, without being forced to jump through any hoops. ZDNet Recommends The best Windows laptops Here are ZDNet's top picks for a variety of use cases. That upgrade became more important than ever when support for Windows 7 officially ended in January 2020.

And it turned out to be a great relief to household budgets when the pandemic made working from home (or going to school via remote sessions) suddenly popular. In the past two years, millions of people have taken old PCs out of storage and gotten up to speed quickly, thanks to these free upgrades. Also: Windows 11 FAQ: Here's everything you need to know. You can also still upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro by using a product key from a previous business edition of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 (Pro/Ultimate).

That can save you as much as $100 in OEM upgrade charges if you buy a new PC with Windows 10 Home preinstalled. (For details, see "How to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Pro without hassles." Every technique I describe in this article works the same for Windows 11 as well, although most older PCs will be blocked from upgrading to Microsoft's newest operating system by the stringent Windows 11 hardware compatibility requirements.

For those PCs, Windows 10 remains a viable option until at least October 2025. In this post, I'll cover the basics of how to install Windows 10 as an upgrade on older hardware. I'll also talk about the licensing issues involved, which are (as always) confusing. I wrote and published the first version of this post in early 2017, several months after Microsoft's initial free upgrade offer ended.

How to upgrade an old PC to Windows 10

The free upgrade offer had just ended, and when I downloaded the Windows 10 upgrade tool and ran it on an old Windows 7 PC, I fully expected that the upgrade would fail activation and I'd be asked for a product key. Imagine my surprise when, instead, I was greeted with this screen. Over the next four-plus years, I repeated those steps on test PCs at regular intervals and confirmed that the free upgrade tool still works.

I continue to receive email messages regularly from readers offering firsthand reports that their free upgrades were successful, with no purchase or product key required. A small number of readers have reported that the upgrade fails because of a Setup error or a compatibility block.

For details on how to troubleshoot these errors, see "This free Windows 10 upgrade offer still works. Here's why - and how to get it." For help decoding setup errors, see "Windows 10: Use setup log files to troubleshoot installation problems." Want your own digital license to the latest Windows 10 version?


Follow these instructions. ZDNet Recommends The best tablets Whether you're looking for a tablet to stream videos or to replace your laptop, here are some compelling options. If you have a PC running a "genuine" copy of Windows 7/8/8.1 (Windows 7 Home, Pro, or Ultimate edition, or Windows 8.x Home or Business, properly licensed and activated), you can follow the same steps I did to install Windows 10 as an upgrade.

Before getting started, I recommend a few preliminary tasks that can head off potential problems: . Confirm that your copy of Windows is properly activated.

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This is especially important if you recently reinstalled Windows. Check for any recent driver updates, especially for network and storage hardware.

  1. Download and install any available BIOS updates for your hardware; this step is especially important for systems that were originally sold in 2017 or earlier, when hardware makers were still shaking out issues with Windows 10.
  2. Back up your data files to an external hard drive or cloud storage (or both).
  3. Consider doing a full system backup to an external hard drive using the Windows 7 backup program, which is also available in Windows 8.x and Windows 10.
  4. Just run the command Sdclt.exe, and then choose the Create A System Image option. Temporarily uninstall third-party security software and low-level system utilities that can interfere with the upgrade.
  5. You can reinstall those programs after the upgrade is complete.
  6. Finally, disconnect any unnecessary external devices, especially USB flash drives and external hard drives.
  7. (Several common installation errors can be traced to the Setup program being confused by these additional drives.) . With those preliminaries out of the way, go to the Download Windows 10 webpage and click the Download tool now button.
  8. After the download completes, double-click the executable file to run the Media Creation Tool. If you've downloaded the Media Creation Tool on the machine you plan to upgrade, and you plan to upgrade that PC and only that PC, you can choose the Upgrade This PC Now option.
  9. That option installs the most recent version of Windows 10. It typically takes about an hour, depending on your hardware.
  10. (Having an SSD as your system drive is the best way to speed up the process.) .
  11. If you know you'll want to upgrade to Windows 10 on more than one PC, or if you just want more flexibility in the event that the instant upgrade fails, choose the second option and save the installation files to a USB drive or as an ISO file.

The download takes a little time but when it's complete, you can run the Windows Setup program manually to install Windows 10 on any PC running any supported Windows version (sorry, this won't work with PCs running Windows Vista or Windows XP).

The exact steps depend on which download option you chose: . USB flash drive Insert the USB flash drive you just created into a free USB slot on the PC you want to upgrade. Then open File Explorer (Windows Explorer in Windows 7) and double-click Setup to install Windows 10. Note that you cannot boot from the newly created USB drive or DVD to perform an upgrade to Windows 10.