Is Windows 10 Still Free and Can You Upgrade from Windows 7 or 8? We Explain

Windows 10 is two and half years old now and is marching steadily in increasing its market share. Back in 2015, during its launch, Microsoft made everyone happy by offering Windows 7 and 8 users a free upgrade to Windows 10. But, it was not simple as that, with Microsoft, as usual, being vague about who would qualify as a genuine upgrader. To make things more confusing, Microsoft then announced that insiders were also entitled to the same.

Windows10 Free Or Not

But today, all the confusion and deadlines for these free upgrade paths are over and the only way to get genuine Windows 10 is through a retail license or from Microsoft’s online store. Or is it?

Windows As a Service

With Windows 10, Microsoft is not treating Windows as a one-off release like it did with Windows 7 and previous versions, but, more like a service. While there is no monthly subscription model, Microsoft’s aim for the future is on similar lines. There are rumors which point that there will be no Windows 11, but, Microsoft will charge a small amount for major upgrades.

Windows As A Service
You can read more about Windows As a Service here

So the whole free upgrade for everyone was a plan to build a base for the future WaaS(Windows as a Service) policy. Okay, enough of Microsoft’s boardroom plans. Till recently, the only way left to upgrade to Windows 10, for free, was for users requiring Assistive Technologies. Microsoft did not validate who used the method and seemingly allowed everyone to upgrade. But, that stopped on Dec 31st of last year. Fret not, there’s one more way.

Get Your Windows 7 Ready

The original deadline for Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10 was July 2016. And officially too, Microsoft has confirmed the same. But in reality, that path is still active and working. If you have a genuine copy of either of the two OS, you can still use the Media Creation Tool to upgrade to Windows 10, and it will get activated automatically.

Windows10 Activated Win7 Key
I activated Windows 10 Pro using a Windows 7 Pro key. Unfortunately can’t show the key in the screenshot as it can be misused.

And it get’s better. If you don’t have a running Windows 7 or 8 installation, you can also directly use your key to activate Windows 10, provided both the version and language are same.

What If I Don’t Have Windows 7?

If you don’t have a Windows 7 key, you can get it for as cheap as $5 from certain websites, which shall remain nameless. These are OEM keys keys that device makers buy in bulk from Microsoft. But, these keys fall in the grey area as they are only meant for OEMs and not individual users. So before proceeding further, please go through the warning note below:


While you can still activate Windows 10 directly using such a key, we recommend going through the official way as Microsoft intended. This means first you will need to install Windows 7 on the device you want to upgrade, activate it using the key and then upgrade to Windows 10 using Media Creation tool.

Going through this way, converts your Windows 7 or 8 key, irrespective of the source, to a digital license.

This digital license will remain active even if the original key is revoked*

*There are no official sources from Microsoft stating this, but many users on Reddit and other forums have reported it. Of course, take this with a huge grain of salt.

Activation Methods Win10
Microsoft’s FAQ clearly explains the Activation Methods

Further to make your entitlement ironclad, convert your local account to a Microsoft account. This will link this digital license to your Microsoft account. While I know many would not like doing so due to privacy issues, you will have to compromise for getting a free upgrade or a Retail Windows 10 copy is waiting for you for just $119.

What If I Want to be a Rebel?

If by being a rebel you mean not activating Windows 10, you can do that too. Surprisingly, almost all the features of Windows 10, except personalization options are available on a non-activated Windows 10. What you don’t get though are any other updates other than the critical ones. So by all means, using a non-activated copy of Windows 10 is fine unless you are distracted by the Activate Windows 10 watermark in the bottom right of the screen.

Will Windows 10 Always Remain Free?

Probably, no. This current upgrade path from Windows 7/8 is obviously an intentional overlook by Microsoft in order to increase Windows 10 market share as they are still trying to achieving their ambitious target of 1 Billion devices running Windows 10 . So it’s only till the time when Microsoft decides to end this loophole too, just like it did with Assistive Technologies.

Surface Home 6 Feature Pivot Panel 1 Sp4 V1
Windows is no longer the focus of all things with Microsoft diversifying into Hardware, AI and Cloud Computing

So one should better hurry because this window can close anytime as Microsoft has now put Windows on backpedal. If you do have any doubts, views or would like to share anything with us, please leave a comment.

Last updated on 13 July, 2021

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