About the Free Upgrade to Microsoft Windows 10
Who is eligible, time deadlines, and more
In 2015, Microsoft, the developer and publisher of the ubiquitous Microsoft Windows operating system for desktop computers, laptops, and tablets, offered a free version upgrade directly to users for the first time, through Windows Update. This was available for one year following its initial release, and the offer expired on July 28, 2016.
Then, with the Anniversary Update (Windows 10 Version 1607, released in August 2016), Microsoft touted new features supporting those with physical or cognitive disabilities who rely on assistive technologies to use a computer. Along with this, they offered free upgrades to Windows 10 for such users. This offer expired January 16, 2018. Please read more here.
There are a few options still available to upgrade without an outright purchase:
- While the free upgrade offer through Windows Update is no longer available, some users have reported successfully upgrading and activating Windows 10 on their computers by manually downloading the Windows 10 installation disc image, installing it, and then activating Windows 10 by entering the product key from a Windows 7 or Windows 8 edition that qualified for the upgrade. Since Microsoft has made no announcement that this is supported, there is no guarantee this will work. So if you're going to attempt this, of course, you should certainly first make a system image backup of your computer, to enable roll back if the product key doesn't activate. Also, if your old product key does successfully activate Windows 10, there is no guarantee the product key used won't be deactivated by Microsoft (preventing downgrade back to your prior version of Windows).
- In early 2017, Microsoft began offering free upgrades from Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8 Pro to Windows 10 Pro for small businesses that didn't upgrade by the deadline—but with strings attached. In this offer, you have to purchase a subscription to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 for each computer. But, even if you don't maintain the Enterprise subscription, your Windows 10 Pro license remains valid perpetually.
If you don't qualify for any of these, you can only acquire Windows 10 the same way you got earlier versions: Either pre-installed on a new computer or tablet, or by purchasing a license to upgrade an existing device through the retail channel or your company's volume license contract.
This page was originally posted in 2015, and contained many details on the original free upgrade offer. Much of that content, and quite a bit more intriguing information, has been moved to the page linked below. Read on for some historical information on the original offer, some of the controversy that arose, and insights into the industry these events revealed, here: The Windows 10 Free Upgrade of 2015.