Upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or 8.1 (for free)

Is it still possible to upgrade a PC to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (for free)?

Upgrade Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10

Yes it is, if you have a valid (licensed) Windows 7 or Windows 8 (8.1) - please read the notes down further on this page!

Notes: This updated content is based on the most recent public release of Windows 10, version 1709.

During the year 2017,  after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft offered free upgrades for many users on Windows 7 and 8. With the current end of the free upgrade period offer (it ended on the 31st December), d you can no longer upgrade from an older Windows version using this offer.

Some amazing (tested) news is that you can still upgrade to Windows 10 on a computer that has a license for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 (Home Premium or Pro). You  simply download the required installation files (as an ISO) and run the Setup program from within Windows or use the Upgrade Assistant available from Microsoft's accessibility page. See the Microsoft link here for the download section for Windows 10.

Desktops and Laptops that have a product key (license)  to run Windows XP or Windows Vista are not eligible for any type of free upgrade to Windows 10.In this case you must purchase a Windows 10 release.

Where can I get installation files for Windows 10?

You can purchase a license from various third-party sellers or from Microsoft itself, see the Microsoft Store. Windows 10 Home costs $199 (AUS), and Windows 10 Pro costs $399 (AUS). Depending on the method of your purchase, you will receive a full media installation as a DVD or USB key, or simply a valid product key and instructions for downloading installation media See the link here).

Windows 7 Product Key

If you already have a Windows 10 product key (very likely if you have a few older computer about the house - see image above) or you are planning to reinstall Windows 10 on a machine that already has a valid Windows 7, just visit the Get Windows 10 download page and download the ISO or use the Media Creation Tool. The free download will be a bootable USB flash drive or an bootable DVD (ISO).

If you are using the Media Creation Tool, choose Create installation media for another PC. By default, the options will choose the version that matches the current PC doing the browse and download. Clear the check box shown here if you want to choose a different version, such as downloading the x86 (32-bit) version on a 64-bit PC (x64).

Windows 10 Setup

Clear this box to download a specific Windows 10 version.

The ISO file for an x86 (32-bit) edition of Windows 10 is approximately 3 GB in size. The x64 (64-bit) edition is approximately 4 GB in size. The combined installer option  is approximately 6 GB in size.

So what is the most recent Windows 10 version (early 2018)?

Microsoft released Windows 10 version 1709 (known as the Fall Creators Update) to the public on October 17, 2017. The two previous versions were Version 1703 (the Creators Update, April 5, 2017) and version 1607 (the Anniversary Update, August 2, 2016).

Business and enterprise customers who have opted to defer new releases work typically get these updates approximately four months after the public release dates.

For Windows 10 update History see this link.

In the middle of 2017, Microsoft revised its terminology for Windows as a Service, dropping the Current Branch and Current Branch for Business monikers. Windows 10 version 1703 is the current Semi-Annual Channel release and was made ready for widespread adoption on the 11th July 2017.

For a full listing of release dates for major versions of windows 10, see the official Microsoft release information page.

Windows 10 release information current versions by servicing option

Notes: Each major Windows 10 release is associated with a build number. The July 2015 release is build 10240. The build number of the November 2015 release is 10586. Version 1607 is build 14393, version 1703 is build 15063, and version 1709 is build 16299.

To check which version of Windows 10 is installed on any computer, open Settings > System > About. Another alternative method, click in the search box, type winver, and view results in the compact "About Windows" dialog box showing.

As an example, the system shown below, is running the (older) Creators Update, version 1703, with the September 2017 updates applied.

Windows 10 - About show Version

This PC is running the Windows 10 Creators Update.

Will Microsoft automatically update my Windows 7 to Windows 10?

If you're currently running Windows 7 or 8.1, you will not be offered an upgrade to Windows 10. However, see the top of this page.

If you are running Windows 10, feature updates are made available through Windows Update (automatically). You can choose to delay the installation for a short period but you cannot postpone them indefinitely.

On systems running Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education, you may choose to delay the installation of a new feature update by moving to the Current Branch for Business (the name of this policy will change in a future update). That delays the installation of a feature update such as Version 1709 by a minimum of four months. Additionally, you can use the Group Policy tool to delay feature updates by an additional period of up to 365 days.

When a feature update is released, it may take several weeks or months to appear to the large worldwide installed base of Windows 10 users, a process Microsoft calls "throttling."

The (current as of October 2017) Microsoft Windows 10 "Fall Creators Update" (version 1709) uses roughly 3 GB of bandwidth and disk space. If your Computer is running an older version , you may use the Windows 10 Update Assistant to get the latest version. Simply use this link on the Windows 10 Download page and click Update Now to begin the process to upgrade (free).

Windows 10 Update Now - or Download Media

Use the Update Assistant to manually download and install the latest feature update.

This event downloads a small pre-installation file that runs a compatibility check and then, once the computer passes the  compatibility tests, begins the full upgrade. The Update Assistant is a simple wizard that does not require special technical knowledge to use or understand.

Do I need a Windows 7 (or Windows 8) product key to install or reinstall Windows 10?

If you upgrade over a activated copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you simply run Setup from within your current Windows installation and you will not be prompted to enter a product key (The windows 7 or 8 product key is required here). After the upgrade is complete, your new copy of Windows 10 will be activated with what Microsoft calls a valid "digital license."

If you choose to use the bootable installation Windows 10 media to perform a clean install on a PC that was previously upgraded to Windows 10, you are not required to enter a product key, so when you see the prompt to enter the a key, you may click the Skip this step option (thought enter the original Windows 7 key it if you wish).

Notes: On a Windows system that received a Windows 10 digital license as part of its earlier upgrade (during 2017), Windows 10 will be automatically activated after the installation is complete.

If you are using bootable installation media to perform a clean install on a PC that has never been upgraded to Windows 10 and activated, you will need to enter the Windows 7 or 8 product key. Beginning with the Windows 10 build 10586, you can enter a product key from a matching edition of Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1.

How do digital licenses work?

When you upgrade over an existing, activated copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, the Windows 10 Setup program checks the current system activation status. If it determines the installation is properly activated, it contacts a Microsoft activation server and generates a license certificate that is linked to that hardware. (A license is generated for the system, not for its owner.)

This automatic activation process is identical whether you use an ISO file to start the upgrade or downloaded the upgrade files.

After the activation is complete, you can continue to perform a clean install on that very same hardware using Windows 10 installation media. As long as the hardware "fingerprint" matches the previous installation ID, the installation is activated automatically.

To check the activation status of a Windows 10 PC, open Settings > Update & security > Activation.

An activated Windows 10

A digital license (as above) indicates that no product key is necessary.

So how long does a Windows 10 upgrade take?

The update can take as little as 30 minutes and as much as three hours. Anything more than that may indicate a problem or a slow internet connection.

Except for a few questions at the beginning, the remaining Windows 10 upgrade process runs completely unattended.

Note that a feature update such as Windows 10 version 1709 is a full upgrade and will require about 6 - 8 hours.

So can I upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro?

Yes you can. Apply the upgrade using a spare product key from an earlier edition of Windows, including Windows 7 Pro or Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro, or Windows 8.1 Pro. Follow the instructions given earlier (see here).

Upgrade Windows 10 Home to pro

This process is useful when restoring Windows 10 on a system that originally shipped with Home edition and was (later) manually upgraded to Pro. In this scenario, you might need to use a generic product key first to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. After the upgrade is complete, you can activate using the stored digital license or a product key.

Now my my upgrade is complete - so can I delete the setup files?

I recommend that you leave them for now, unless disk space is so precious that need to remove them.

Explain: The Windows.old folder contains files needed to roll back to your previous version if necessary. It will usually delete itself automatically in 10 days (but not always in my experience). You can remove this manually by running Disk Cleanup Manager in administrator mode and choosing the option to remove your old Windows version.

To open Disk Cleanup Manager, click in the search box (next to the Start button) and type Cleanmgr. Right-click the Disk Cleanup entry at the top of the list and choose Run As Administrator.

Windows 10 Disk Cleanup Manager

Using the Disk Cleanup Manager to remove unneeded files after the update.

The original setup files themselves are in a (normally) hidden folder called C:\$Windows.~BT. These files can also be deleted from Disk Cleanup Manager, but I recommend that you choose to leave them as is. They can be useful for repair or rollback tasks later (if needed).

Should I upgrade or do a clean install if Windows 10?

That is your choice. Windows 10 supports upgrades over Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or later as well as clean installs. To do a clean install, you will need the bootable media mentioned above.

Windows 10 will automatically add itself to the boot menu if you install it in a separate volume on a system that already has a previous version of Windows installed.

I changed my mind. Is it possible to uninstall Windows 10?

Yes you can (for a grace period). For 10 days after the Windows 10 upgrade, you can roll back to your previous Windows version. The option to roll back is in Settings > Update & security > Recovery.

Can I install Windows 10 in a virtual machine?

Yes, as long as the virtualization software is compatible. The desktop Hyper-V feature in Windows 8.1 Pro and Windows 10 Pro/Enterprise is ideal. Modern Apple computers can use Boot Camp (free), Parallels and VMware Fusion (commercial).

Virtual Machine Parallels running Windows 10 on a Mac

Windows 10 running, in a window, on a Apple Mac with OS X and Parallels virtual machine OS