If you‘re wondering which version of Windows you can upgrade to or install for free, you‘ve come to the right place! In this detailed guide, we‘ll cover all the options to legally get the latest Windows 10 or Windows 11 at no cost.
Free Upgrade Options
The good news is that Windows 10 and Windows 11 upgrades are available for free from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Here‘s a quick look at who qualifies:
- If you are currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10. The upgrade path has been open since Windows 10 launched in 2015.
- Once on Windows 10, you can then also upgrade to Windows 11 for free when available.
So as long as you‘re upgrading from an older, supported version, you won‘t have to pay anything to get the latest Windows version. Let‘s look at how…
Step-by-Step Guide to Upgrade for Free
Upgrading from your existing Windows to the newest version is straightforward:
Check your current Windows version and PC system requirements. You need to be running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 to upgrade for free. If your PC meets the minimum hardware specifications for Windows 11, you can upgrade directly to it.
Go to the Microsoft Windows 10 download page and select "Download tool now" under the Update now button.
Run the Media Creation Tool once downloaded. Accept the terms and choose Upgrade this PC now. Let the tool walk you through the upgrade.
Enter your existing Windows 7 or 8 product key when prompted to activate Windows 10 for free. All your apps, files and settings will carry over.
Repeat the process later on to upgrade your Windows 10 to Windows 11 once available. As long as your PC is compatible, this upgrade will also be free.
And that‘s all there is to it! As long as you upgrade while the free offers are active, you get to move to Windows 10 and eventually Windows 11 at $0 cost.
Why Free Upgrades?
You may wonder why Microsoft is allowing free upgrades to their latest operating systems, when previous Windows versions have cost money to upgrade to.
There are a few strategic reasons:
To rapidly grow Windows 10 and 11‘s market share: More users means more app development for the Microsoft ecosystem.
To keep customers on supported versions: Windows 7 extended support ended in 2020, and Windows 8‘s ends in 2023. Free upgrades incentivize moving to supported versions.
To push commercial/subscription revenue: Microsoft makes money through cloud services like Office 365 and Azure, not Windows licenses.
So by making the upgrade process hassle-free and free, Microsoft aims to have as many users as possible on Windows 10 and 11. This benefits their broader business strategy beyond just OS licensing revenue.
Can I Upgrade Any Version of Windows for Free?
The free upgrade offers apply specifically when upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 and Windows 11.
If you‘re on another unsupported version like Windows XP or Vista, you will need to pay to upgrade to Windows 10 or buy a new Windows 11 license.
Here are the free upgrade paths currently available:
|Current Version||Can Upgrade to Free|
|Windows 7||Windows 10|
|Windows 8.1||Windows 10|
|Windows 10||Windows 11|
And as mentioned, you can upgrade from Windows 7/8 directly to Windows 11 as well since it builds on Windows 10.
What If I Don‘t Have a License?
If you‘re running Windows without an activation license, or want to install Windows 10/11 on a new PC from scratch, a product key is still required.
There are a couple options to get Windows 10 or 11 without paying full retail price:
Use the Windows 10 Generic Key during installation to activate temporarily.
Purchase a discounted OEM system builder license key from retailers like Amazon or Newegg. Much cheaper than full price.
Run unactivated Windows 10/11 with limited functionality until you can purchase a license. All features still work, but with a permanent watermark until activation.
But the bottom line is that if you aren‘t upgrading from an eligible older Windows version license, a new Windows 10 or 11 license must be purchased.
What Are the Limitations of Free Upgraded Windows?
The free upgrade path from Windows 7/8 to Windows 10/11 comes with all the same features and functionality as a paid license for that edition.
For example, upgrading from Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 10 Home is identical to purchasing Windows 10 Home as a fresh license.
The only limitation is that you can only upgrade to the same or lower edition as your existing license.
So if you have Windows 7 Professional, you can upgrade for free to Windows 10 Pro, but not to Windows 10 Enterprise. An edition upgrade would still require purchasing a higher license.
Can I Upgrade from Any Version of Windows 10?
If you‘re already on Windows 10, upgrading to Windows 11 is free regardless of which specific version you‘re currently running.
It does not matter if you have Windows 10 Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education, etc. As long as your device meets the Windows 11 system requirements, you qualify for the free upgrade to Windows 11 through Windows Update.
However, similar edition limitations apply:
|Current Version||Can Upgrade to Free|
|Windows 10 Home||Windows 11 Home|
|Windows 10 Pro||Windows 11 Pro|
|Windows 10 Enterprise||Windows 11 Enterprise|
So upgrading your edition still requires purchasing an additional license. But within the same edition, Windows 10 to 11 is free.
How Long Do I Have to Upgrade for Free?
Microsoft has not set an exact end date for the free Windows 10 and Windows 11 upgrade offers. The Windows 10 free upgrade path has been available since mid-2015 when it launched.
Most experts believe the Windows 10 upgrade offer will continue to be available until the end of 2022 at minimum. The same will apply to the Windows 11 upgrade after its release in late 2021.
Of course, Microsoft could always choose to end the promotions earlier. So if you are eligible, it‘s best to upgrade for free while you still can, before you miss out!
Should I Upgrade to Windows 10 or 11?
If you‘re still on Windows 7 or 8, you may be wondering whether to upgrade to Windows 10 or 11. Here‘s a quick rundown of the differences:
|Windows 10||Windows 11|
|Interface||Traditional desktop||Modernized with centered Start|
|Requirements||Works on older PCs||Needs newer CPU, TPM 2.0|
|Features||More mature and stable||Newer features and UI|
- For older systems, upgrade to Windows 10 – more compatible and reliable.
- For newer PCs, go straight to Windows 11 for the latest experience.
Unless you require specific Windows 11 features, Windows 10 is the best choice for systems more than a few years old. It‘s a robust OS that will be supported through 2025.
What About the Future?
Looking ahead, it‘s likely that Windows 12 and beyond will also be free upgrades for Windows 11 users, just as Windows 11 is from Windows 10.
Microsoft has established this pattern of providing free generational upgrades to encourage adoption of the latest platform. Major updates like Windows 12 will probably require updated hardware again though.
For those starting fresh with no prior Windows license, each new Windows version release will still need to be purchased at full retail pricing, similar to how Windows 11 licenses are now.
So existing Windows users get the generational upgrades free, while new users pay to start off on the latest version when it launches.
The Bottom Line
To recap the key points:
Windows 10 upgrades will remain free from Windows 7/8 until at least the end of 2022.
Windows 11 upgrades are free for all compatible Windows 10 systems.
Take advantage of upgrading your qualified older Windows versions while Microsoft continues offering them for free. This guide has all the details you need to get modern Windows 10 or Windows 11 running seamlessly.
Upgrading is quick, easy, preserves all your data, and saves you hundreds of dollars compared to buying a full new license. And you still get the full functionality of the latest and greatest Windows experience.
If you have any other questions on which versions of Windows you can upgrade to for free, let me know in the comments! I‘m always happy to help explain the details so you can get upgraded with zero hassle.