Windows 7 users can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Microsoft officially ended support for Windows 7 on Tuesday. The company will no longer push out security updates, with the exception of enterprise customers paying for extended support until 2023. To avoid becoming vulnerable to future exploits and weaknesses, users are advised to upgrade to Windows 10.

Going regular routes, Windows 10 Home will set users back about $140. The Pro version will cost them about $60 more. There is a loophole, however, to get the upgrade for free.

ZDNet notes that if you go to the Windows 10 ISO download page and grab the media creation tool, you can run the wizard, select "Upgrade this PC now," follow the prompts, and get a valid Windows 10 activation key. This works as long as you have a legit Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 installation. It even works for Pro and Ultimate versions.

No matter what you do, be sure to make a backup before starting and keep in mind that when upgrading from W7, it will wipe your settings and some apps. It's a good idea to note the apps you use most often so you can re-download the W10 versions later in the event they don't transfer over. Windows 8.1 rolls smoothly into W10, so this is not a concern.

In its push to get Windows 10 installed on "one billion" devices by 2018, Microsoft employed several tactics from overly aggressive nag popups to downright deceptive window modifications. The silver lining was that at least the upgrade was free for Windows 7 and 8.1 users. Microsoft officially ended its gratis offer in 2016 but continued it for Assistive Technology users through most of 2017.

It appears that while Microsoft removed its official free download pages, it left the media creation tool online and never changed it to exclude Windows 7 or 8.1 keys. This may have some wondering if this is even legal or if Microsoft will invalidate their install down the road.

This may indeed be something that slipped by Microsoft. In its FAQ, it states that to use the media creation tool, you will need a valid Windows 10 product key, but this is not true since valid W7 and 8.1 keys still work.

According to a Redditor who claims to be a Microsoft engineer, the company does not run license audits on individual PCs. It is more concerned with volume licensing. He adds that execs care more about upgrade stats than licensing revenue.

"That whole 'free' upgrade for a year was fully marketing fluff," the Redditor said. "Terry Meyerson cared more about his upgrade stats than license revenue as Windows isn't Microsoft's cash cow anymore."

At the time, Microsoft was aiming for a billion upgrades. As of last September, it was sitting at 900 million Windows 10 installs globally.

Of course, if taking the word of a basically anonymous Reddit user is not enough to clear your conscience, perhaps you should go ahead and pay for a copy of Windows 10.

Masthead credit: Anton Watman via Shutterstock

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psycros

TS Evangelist
M$ gives out windows 10 basically for free, I don't think they actively fight piracy. Mining data from you is far more profitable than actually selling you the OS.
I think OP is actually referring to the fact that the upgrade usually fails even when using a legit license code. Out of probably ten attempts using different Windows 7 installations and legal keys I've gotten the upgrade to actually seem like it worked once..and then it blackscreened at desktop load and I had to do a fresh install anyway. Repair never works, unlike on Windows 7 where about half the time you could save your broken install. Also, Windows 10 will install part of itself on every drive in your PC and is impossible to uninstall no matter what anyone tells you. You'll usually have to run partition repairs on all your drives as well. Seeing as how Windows 8.x/10 are less friendly, less compatible and offer no performance or security gains compared to Windows 7 there's still no compelling reason to migrate to a newer version. At this point there is practically nothing left to exploit in Windows 7 if its properly updated so if you're careful about what you install you're probably safer waiting for Windows 11.
 
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texasrattler

TS Evangelist
I think OP is actually referring to the fact that the upgrade usually fails even when using a legit license code. Out of probably ten attempts using different Windows 7 installations and legal keys I've gotten the upgrade to actually seem like it worked once..and then it blackscreened at desktop load and I had to do a fresh install anyway. Repair never works, unlike on Windows 7 where about half the time you could save your broken install. Also, Windows 10 will install part of itself on every drive in your PC and is impossible to uninstall no matter what anyone tells you. You'll usually have to run partition repairs on all your drives as well. Seeing as how Windows 8.x/10 are less friendly, less compatible and offer no performance or security gains compared to Windows 7 there's still no compelling reason to migrate to a newer version. At this point there is practically nothing left to exploit in Windows 7 if its properly updated so if you're careful about what you install you're probably safer waiting for Windows 11.
Win 10 offers better performance n security. Always has since day 1. Issues may occur but 7 also had plenty of its share of problems.
 

scavengerspc

TS Addict
TechSpot Elite
Oh, if there was an OS worth calling it "upgrade".
Half a year after moving to new platform, Win 10 is still giving Me headaches.
You could elaborate.

Anyway I cant see one good reason NOT to upgrade to 10. It is just as reliable, smoother, faster, better at gaming and productivity. And if you are still so paranoid, then you can take 15-20 minutes to shut down everything that makes you so frightened. Everything that so many whine about is an on\off switch away.

And if your answer to that is "how do we know it will really be shut off" then I will remind you that there are thousands....millions of people that are like minded in their fear, and if anything really didnt disable properly we would have heard about it long ago.

I wrote a guide in 2016 on making Windows 10 an equal to 7 in terms of privacy. The entire process took about 10-15 minutes and I cant imagine an updated guide would take much longer.

So let me make this clear. Microsoft is the most watched and bitched about company in software so anything they do that brings on the tears in you people will be public in no time. And, everything can be disabled.
 
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Bullwinkle M

TS Addict
"It's a good idea to note the apps you use most often so you can re-download the W10 versions later in the event they don't transfer over. Windows 8.1 rolls smoothly into W10, so this is not a concern."
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Completely Untrue!

Many apps that work fine on Windows 8.1 will not run on Spyware Platform 10

Even some Apps that run on Spyware Platform 10 can (and do) become unusable when a new version arrives every 6 months

Spyware Platform 10 is not compatible with any other version of Windows

Heck, It is not even compatible with itself!
 

yRaz

Nigerian Prince
You don't need to pirate when you can get win 10 for $3 off eBay.
I don't need to get windows 10 off of eBay if I use Linux. Linux Mint has a very low "barrier to entry" as it functions much like windows did. Getting windows programs to work on Linux Mint is so easy you don't need to open the command line. Nontech-savvy people can install games on mint no problem.

The best part is that Mint holds your hand every step of the way if you choose to actually learn the command line. Never once in using Mint had I needed to boot into windows because I couldn't get a program to work.

Linux Mint "just works" and that's more than I can say about the dumpster fire that windows 10 has become. I'm a hardware nerd/gamer, not a software guy so the fact that I'm saying I have no problem daily driving Mint for over 2 years carries some weight.
 

dragosmp

TS Rookie
If you are on Win7, you can download the media creation tool from Microsoft's website and do the upgrade that way. I haven't had one fail from it yet. Good luck with the upgrades.
Besides, if you have the Win 7 key on the computer you want to upgrade, you can clean install 10 with the 7 key. It never failed. Latest I did this about 3 months ago to upgrade a laptop. This was theother official way (aside from the upgrade) to install 10 that was supposed to be deactivated, but never was.

The difficulty is to find the old 7 key if it had been rubbed-off the sticker on the bottom of the computer. For that there are Key Finder programs, which TBH should be offered by MS to begin with. Performing an upgrade bypasses the key finding step, but a clean install is always better and worth the trouble.

As other said, if you concience isn't clear, just go buy the license, I've seen Home as low as 60$ and bought it for some elderly friends that wanted it just so. Just keep in mind, the laptops you'd do this on are probably worth less than 100$, they must have been released in 2014 or earlier. It is appreciated MS left this loophole open, otherwise who would invest the cash and double the laptop value with a new Windows key in the process...
 

bexwhitt

TS Evangelist
I think OP is actually referring to the fact that the upgrade usually fails even when using a legit license code. Out of probably ten attempts using different Windows 7 installations and legal keys I've gotten the upgrade to actually seem like it worked once..and then it blackscreened at desktop load and I had to do a fresh install anyway. Repair never works, unlike on Windows 7 where about half the time you could save your broken install. Also, Windows 10 will install part of itself on every drive in your PC and is impossible to uninstall no matter what anyone tells you. You'll usually have to run partition repairs on all your drives as well. Seeing as how Windows 8.x/10 are less friendly, less compatible and offer no performance or security gains compared to Windows 7 there's still no compelling reason to migrate to a newer version. At this point there is practically nothing left to exploit in Windows 7 if its properly updated so if you're careful about what you install you're probably safer waiting for Windows 11.
I've updated many windows 7 machines to 10 because I'm not a chump I've always done a fresh install and put the stuff back on. The only time it failed was on a shitty laptop for some reason.
 

noel24

TS Evangelist
You could elaborate.

Anyway ...
... And, everything can be disabled.
Funny or unreal it may seems, today morning after a reboot Search within file explorer doesn't work so I instantly know that the update wasn't small patch but something major. I go into settings to find out I had 1909 on My machine.
So I look online and what do I find? People reported this bug to Microsh*t 20th of November. Nearly two months ago. There's 18 page thread on microsoft.com.
The only viable solution? Revert to 1903. That's what I'm gonna do today evening.
Another time lost.
With 7 every Sunday I would just check online for updates that caused people trouble and block them from installing. With 10 You have to experience the pain Yourself and then remove them.

But most of my hassle with 10 is with poor file tranfers, and reverting of My settings after any major update.

So, yeah... nice that at least some people are satisfied with that turd.

Windows 7 just worked and You have to admit it, they could settle on making new Windows an update of 7 but then They just couldn't tap into this gold mine of personal data.
 
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BadThad

TS Addict
Funny or unreal it may seems, today morning after a reboot Search within file explorer doesn't work so I instantly know that the update wasn't small patch but something major. I go into settings to find out I had 1909 on My machine.
So I look online and what do I find? People reported this bug to Microsh*t 20th of November. Nearly two months ago. There's 18 page thread on microsoft.com.
The only viable solution? Revert to 1903. That's what I'm gonna do today evening.
Another time lost.
With 7 every Sunday I would just check online for updates that caused people trouble and block them from installing. With 10 You have to experience the pain Yourself and then remove them.

But most of my hassle with 10 is with poor file tranfers, and reverting of My settings after any major update.

So, yeah... nice that at least some people are satisfied with that turd.

Windows 7 just worked and You have to admit it, they could settle on making new Windows an update of 7 but then They just couldn't tap into this gold mine of personal data.
I had that problem on my work W10 machine just today. I re-indexed the drive and rebooted and now it's working again. I couldn't even click in the search box before I did that!
 

lipe123

TS Evangelist
That "upgrade this PC now" works like on 1 out of 10 windows 7 installations
Uh I worked at a computer shop and personally upgraded 100's of computers with no issue. There was an initial period in the first month where a "something happened" error would pop up but that was fixed years ago.

I get that people hate windows 10 and need a reason to complain etc. but apart from the stupid start menu and disjointed settings/control panel issues its fine. So many people just see "windows 10" on a forum/news article and can't wait to complain how it caused their cat to die or how it's the worst thing since the bubonic plague.
 
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yRaz

Nigerian Prince
I get that people hate windows 10 and need a reason to complain etc. but apart from the stupid start menu and disjointed settings/control panel issues its fine. So many people just see "windows 10" on a forum/news article and can't wait to complain how it caused their cat to die or how it's the worst thing since the bubonic plague.
So apart from the parts of an operating system that aid in the way it, uhh, operates, it's a good OS? Got it. Best spyware I ever uninstalled
 

veLa

TS Evangelist
You don't need to pirate when you can get win 10 for $3 off eBay.
This. There's no reason to pirate your OS when a few bucks will handle you. With an eBay discount code I snagged a license for $0.99 one time.

Of course, they are gray market keys, but they are completely legitimate Microsoft keys, they just aren't really intended for us to use. If you do get deactivated for some reason, just snag another one and you're good to go though.
 

pcnthuziast

TS Evangelist
Cleaned out my hall closet a little over a year ago and found something super cool that I somehow thought was a good idea to toss in the bin at the time. Namely a 1.44mb floppy containing Windows 3.1, still sealed in the plastic. smh As for Windows 7, I downloaded it in the first week of the beta and never looked back. So many installs on so many machines, watermark and all.
 
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yRaz

Nigerian Prince
This. There's no reason to pirate your OS when a few bucks will handle you. With an eBay discount code I snagged a license for $0.99 one time.

Of course, they are gray market keys, but they are completely legitimate Microsoft keys, they just aren't really intended for us to use. If you do get deactivated for some reason, just snag another one and you're good to go though.
I don't need to pirate, I use Linux.
 
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veLa

TS Evangelist
I don't need to pirate, I use Linux.
That's fine if it works for you. Kali is my go to distro for pen testing, but Windows is my go to for gaming and video editing. Because our needs are different, I'd rather keep Windows as my host OS and use various Linux distros on VMs.
 

Zorak

TS Member
That's fine if it works for you. Kali is my go to distro for pen testing, but Windows is my go to for gaming and video editing. Because our needs are different, I'd rather keep Windows as my host OS and use various Linux distros on VMs.
"Needs are different". How I wish I'd hear that more often instead of instant push in the "only valid direction"!
 

veLa

TS Evangelist
"Needs are different". How I wish I'd hear that more often instead of instant push in the "only valid direction"!
I think we as IT / computer people can be very stern about our preferences, but the fact of the matter is that an OS is just a tool to complete objectives. If I need to set up an active directory domain controller, I'm going to use Windows Server, not a Linux distro. Likewise, in a scenario I encountered about a year ago, a client's hard drive was shot, but they still needed to send emails and use Google Drive / Docs without purchasing a new hard drive. So you know what I did? I set them up with a cheap USB drive and a fresh installation of Ubuntu. Different tasks require different tools and approaches.
 
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bexwhitt

TS Evangelist
Uh I worked at a computer shop and personally upgraded 100's of computers with no issue. There was an initial period in the first month where a "something happened" error would pop up but that was fixed years ago.

I get that people hate windows 10 and need a reason to complain etc. but apart from the stupid start menu and disjointed settings/control panel issues its fine. So many people just see "windows 10" on a forum/news article and can't wait to complain how it caused their cat to die or how it's the worst thing since the bubonic plague.
I just put classic start on every pc I install windows 10, I agree apart for the controlpanel/settings nonsense (and the start menu) there is not much wrong with windows 10, it's super stable. People just like to moan.
 
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