It seems like ancient history now, but during the first year following the launch of Windows 10, users running a Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 PC could upgrade for free—all they needed was a valid license and the desire to leave their legacy OS behind. In theory, that offer should have expired three years ago. In practice, you can still upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 PC to Windows 10 without forking over a penny (or several pennies).
Whether you want to is another topic, and one we are not going to discuss in length. The short version is, some people have clung on to older OSes because of privacy concerns with Windows 10, due to the telemetry that is tied to it. However, if the reason you have not upgraded is because you missed the boat on the freebie offer, you may want to give it a whirl.
We have not tried this ourselves, but here's the deal—Ed Bott at ZDNet posted an article in January 2017 on Windows 10 still being a free upgrade, and he had been updating it for several months following its publication. However, he eventually ran out of older Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 test machines, and so he asked readers to contact him if they tried to upgrade, and report their experience.
Lots of people did, and the vast majority say it worked like a charm for them. The relatively few that ran into issues experienced a problem that was not tied to licensing. The takeaway is that it still works. Bott basically surmises the one-year promotion was an arbitrary time length to begin with, one that was meant to appease OEMs who were more interested in selling new PCs than supporting old ones.
We don't know if that's true or not, but it's at least plausible. From Microsoft's vantage point, the real money is in selling subscriptions to services like Office 365, and getting people into its ever-expanding ecosystem of software and hardware.
So, how can you upgrade an older PC with a valid, genuine license of Window 7 or Windows 8/8.1? Follow these steps...
- Go to the Download Windows 10 page and click the Download tool now button.
- Once the download finishes, run the Media Creation Tool.
- If the tool is already on the PC you're wanting to upgrade, choose the Upgrade this PC now option and enjoy your free upgrade to Windows 10. If not, go to the next step.
- If the tool is not on the PC you're wanting to upgrade, choose the Create installation media for another PC option.
- Follow the prompts and then choose whether you want to put the installation files on a USB flash drive or ISO file. Transfer whichever option you chose to the PC you want to upgrade.
That is all there is to it. Users report they are not being asked for a product key, assuming this is performed on a valid Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 PC. Once the upgrade is complete, you can head to Settings > Update & Security > Activation to confirm it worked without a hitch.
Technically you are going out of bounds here since the free offer officially ended on July 29, 2016. However, since it apparently still works, we think it is worth the effort if you have an older PC that you want to upgrade.