Microsoft has quietly continued the free upgrade offer for the last few years. You can still upgrade any PC with a genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8 license to Windows 10. Assuming you’re using a Windows PC with a genuine and activated Windows 7 (or Windows 8) key, you can upgrade to Windows 10 in just a few clicks.
You can also upgrade a PC by doing a fresh install of Windows 10, even if it doesn’t have any operating system installed. You just have to provide a valid Windows 7 (or Windows 8) key. There’s no guarantee this will work forever, but it still worked on January 14, 2020. Microsoft may one day pull the plug and cut off new upgrades.
But, for now, you can still upgrade. And, after you do upgrade, your PC gets a valid Windows 10 key that will keep working—even if Microsoft stops allowing new upgrades in the future.
Update: Note that we can’t speak to the business licensing side of things here. If you have Windows 7 PCs in your business, Microsoft may not consider you compliant with the terms of its licensing agreement after using this method to upgrade your business PCs. We wouldn’t worry about it for home PCs, but organizations should likely contact their Microsoft licensing partner for more details.
RELATED:You Can Still Get Windows 10 for Free With a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Key. Before you get started, we recommend you back up your files. The upgrade process shouldn’t erase your files unless you choose to erase them, but it’s always a good idea to have a current backup—especially when you’re performing a major operating system upgrade.
We also encourage you to find your Windows 7 (or Windows 8) key, just in case you need it. This key may be printed on a sticker on your PC’s case or on your laptop.
If you installed Windows 7 or Windows 8 yourself, you’ll want to find the license key you purchased. If your PC doesn’t have a sticker, you can always use a tool like NirSoft’s ProduKey to find the license key currently in use on your PC. RELATED:What's the Best Way to Back Up My Computer?
To get your free upgrade, head to Microsoft’s Download Windows 10 website.
Click the “Download tool now” button and download the .exe file. Run it, click through the tool, and select “Upgrade this PC now” when prompted. Yes, it’s that simple. We’re not doing anything sneaky here—Microsoft is choosing to let people upgrade via the tool.
If you prefer a clean install, you can select “Create installation media” and then provide a valid Windows 7 or 8 key while installing Windows 10. During the upgrade process, you can choose whether you want to keep all the files on your system or start fresh. Once it’s installed, you can head to the Settings > Update & Security > Activation screen.
You’ll see that your system is “activated with a digital license.”. If you sign in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, that license will be linked to your Microsoft account, making it even easier to reactivate Windows 10 on your PC if you ever need to install it.
People can still update previous Windows versions to Windows 10 for free in 2021
If you have a Windows 7 system, it really is a good idea to upgrade. If you don’t want to use Windows 10, consider installing Linux, getting a Chromebook, or switching to Mac. You don’t have to use Windows 10, but we think you should move on from Windows 7.
We’ve been testing this out for years, and other sites like PCWorld, ZDNet, The Verge, and Bleeping Computer have recently verified this method as well.
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- › How to Upgrade From Windows 7 to Linux. › How to Secure Your Windows 7 PC in 2020.
- › JBL Clip 4 Review: The Bluetooth Speaker You’ll Want to Take Everywhere. › Joby Wavo Air Review: A Content Creator’s Ideal Wireless Mic. › Is Charging Your Phone All Night Bad For the Battery?
- › How Long Will My Android Phone Be Supported With Updates? › Every Microsoft Company Logo From 1975-2022. › Why Is My Wi-Fi Not as Fast as Advertised? You can now reserve your free upgrade to Windows 10!Here are some basic questions and answers regarding the free upgrade offer:.
- Q: Is the upgrade really free? Do I need to purchase Windows 10 after 1 year? A: With Windows 10, we will offer a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year.
- This upgrade offer is for the full version of Windows 10, not a trial or temporary version of Windows 10. You will not be required to purchase Windows 10 on devices that take advantage of the free upgrade offer after this offer lapses.
Features such as Windows Update will not be blocked on upgraded Windows 10 devices after free upgrade offer expires. Windows 10 will automatically activate online on devices that take advantage of the free upgrade offer.
You can check the activation status of your Windows 10 device in Settings (click on Settings, Update & Security and select Activation). Q: How do I reserve the free upgrade? A: You can reserve your free upgrade by visiting www.windows.com/windows10upgrade. Q: What happens when I make a reservation?
A: When you make a reservation, you’ll be able to confirm if your device is compatible with Windows 10. Sometime between when you make your reservation and when your upgrade is ready, the files you need for the upgrade will be downloaded to your PC to make the final installation go more quickly. Then, when your upgrade is ready after July 29th, you’ll get a notification that lets you start your upgrade. Q: Where can I find more information about upgrading to Windows 10?
- A: Check out the Windows 10 Q&A page, or if you can’t find the answer to your question, try posting your question in this forum. Q: Can I use Windows 10 media to upgrade to Windows 10 and still take advantage of the free upgrade offer? You will be able to download Windows 10 installation media to upgrade qualified Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 devices to Windows 10 and still take advantage of the free upgrade offer.
- Your device will automatically activate online after upgrading to Windows 10 while the free upgrade offer is valid. Q: Can I clean install (i.e. boot from media and install) Windows 10 on my Windows 7 or Windows 8.x device and still take advantage of the free upgrade offer? Clean installs of Windows 10 on a Windows 7 or Windows 8.x device via booting from media are not considered “upgrades”, so the free upgrade offer will not apply.
For your Windows 10 installation to be considered an upgrade, you must start installation of Windows 10 while booted in Windows 7 or Windows 8.x. If you attempt to clean install Windows 10 on a device that hasn’t taken advantage of the free upgrade offer and successfully activated Windows 10 online before, you will be prompted to enter a Windows 10 product key to continue installing Windows 10.
Editors Note: Windows 11 arrived in 2021. See our Windows 11 system requirements guide to see if your laptop or desktop is compatible. Windows 11 is a free upgrade, much like Windows 10. Microsoft shut down its free Windows 10 upgrade program in November 2017. If you didn’t get your free version of its best operating system to date, you were pretty much out of luck. Or, so we thought. It turns out, you can still upgrade to Windows 10 without spending a dime.
Is your license valid?
And now the big question: If you avail yourself of this upgrade to Windows 10, is the resulting license valid?
The entire "free upgrade" offer was always accompanied by language that was, to put it politely, a bit squishy. And the language around the end of that offer was similarly vague. For example, see the answers I've highlighted here on Microsoft's Windows 10 Upgrade FAQ:
That's very odd language. The free upgrade through the Get Windows 10 app ended on July 29, 2016. Likewise, the discussion of product keys says a key will be necessary "for this tool to work" (not true) but doesn't say a word about licensing.
And unlike the weaselly "Genuine Windows" label on older upgrades, the activation screens for a Windows 10 upgrade specifically confirm the existence of a "digital license."
Back Up Before UpgradingThe best laptops: Our recommended models for every use case and platform New year, new laptop? These are the devices that should be at or near the top of your shortlist.
Anyway, the free upgrade offer was extended briefly, at least for people who use assistive technologies. The FAQ on a separate page even called it a "free upgrade offer extension" and pointedly noted that it was not limited to specific assistive technologies. (I regularly use the Magnifier utility in Windows, which is indisputably an assistive technology.)
Of course, I'm not a lawyer, and this column isn't legal advice. But I will say that I am personally confident in the activation status of any PC upgraded using the tool on that page during the eligibility period.
This extension was, I think, a very large nod and a wink, designed to make it easy for those who wanted a Windows 10 upgrade to still get it while placating the OEM partners who were none too happy about the year-long emphasis on upgrades rather than new PC sales.
Alas, I say "was," because the extension (which was itself extended) officially ended on Jan. 16, 2018. The page that formerly ran an Upgrade Assistant now returns an error message.
The big question now is whether Microsoft will ever turn off the code on its activation servers that dispenses digital licenses after an upgrade from an earlier Windows version. I've continued to test that scenario, and I can confirm, long after the end of support for Windows 7, that it still works.
I continue to hear from readers sharing their experiences. If you've used this technique on a PC, click my name at the top of this post and use the contact form to let me know how it went for you.
Note: This article was originally published in January 2017. It has been updated multiple times since then to reflect the most current information.