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How to Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free Before Windows 7 Dies

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Microsoft is ending support for Windows 7 Jan. 14, 2020. Here’s how to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.

The old Windows 10 free upgrade splash screen.

You won’t see this old free upgrade screen during the upgrade process, but the end result is the same. 

Microsoft’s long-lived Windows 7 operating system is reaching the end of its working life, and will receive its last update Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. 

We’ve got a guide to what you need to do to continue using Windows 7 safely, but here’s a tip: If your Windows 7 license key is valid, you can upgrade your Windows 7 (or Windows 8.1) machine to Windows 10 for free using Microsoft’s own Windows 10 installation tool.  

(Here’s how to find the Windows license key – write it down, because you may need to type it in at the end of this process.)

Microsoft’s user forums have instructions on how to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, and Bleeping Computer has more detailed instructions. We ran into problems with an incompatible application when we tried this, but CNET staffers got the free upgrade to work.

One caveat: You can upgrade only to the Windows 10 version that corresponds to your build of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. So if you have Windows 7 Home Premium, you’ll be getting Windows 10 Home. Likewise, Windows 7 Professional maps to Windows 10 Pro.

1. Download Microsoft’s Windows 10 Media Creation tool.

As mentioned above, you need to download and install Microsoft’s own installation tool from this page. Ignore the “Update now” button — that’s for machines that already have Windows 10 — and instead click “Download tool now.”

1.5 (optional): You may want to update your BIOS and deactivate antivirus software.

Ed Bott over at ZDNet, who has been tracking this stealth upgrade process for years, recommends updating the PC’s BIOS/UEFI firmware if the PC was built before 2015, and also uninstalling the antivirus software, just to be safe. 

Most people won’t know how to update the BIOS, and we’re not sure you need to uninstall the AV (especially if it’s on our list of the best antivirus software), so do this only if you run into problems in the following steps.

2. Launch the Media Creation Tool and select ‘Upgrade this PC now’.

The other option is to create installation media on a burnable DVD or a bootable USB drive, which may be useful in the future but won’t help you now.

3. Select ‘Keep all apps and files’ when prompted.

Bleeping Computer says you need to opt to keep all files and applications to get the free upgrade. The Microsoft user forums say you just need the existing Windows 7 license key. We’d advise erring on the side of caution and taking Bleeping Computer’s advice.

4. Uninstall incompatible applications.

The upgrade tool will scan your PC for applications that don’t work in Windows 10. Uninstall them by going to Control Panel –> Programs and Features. Right-click on the offending application and select “Uninstall.” In most cases, you’ll need administrative privileges to do this. 

To be safe, reboot the machine after uninstalling all the incompatible applications and go back to Step 2 above.

5. Sit back and let the magic happen.

Your PC will reboot several times during the upgrade process, which could take as long as an hour.

6. Check that the license key works.

The Media Creation Tool should grab the license key from the machine during the upgrade. But just in case it didn’t, check it by going to Settings –> Update & Security –> Activation and see if it says that the license is active.

If not, then type your valid Windows 7 (or Windows 8/8.1) product key manually.

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Total 15 comments
  • Black Humor

    When Windows 7 dies, I swap to Linux based operating system. There are already many options for private citizens to vote against corporate infiltration to our daily lives by opting out of their ”solutions”. Contemporary Linux based operating systems are easy to use and do not require user to be computer savant like the earlier ones. Windows 10 is an insult to peoples privacy. :cool:

    • westgate

      I’ve been using W7 since it’s inception on 2 laptops.
      One, 7Home and one 7Pro.
      Updates have been turned off since day one.
      The secret to keeping your W7 OS clean is to NEVER ALLOW ANY UPDATES EVER.
      Yes, the drivers need to be updated. Do this using a program called SnailDriver.
      An IT friend told me once, that he completely re-installs the OS every 6 months to keep it clean, but that’s a bit extreme.
      As long as you have all the Windows updates turned off, your W7 PC should be fine.
      I may bail to Mac soon if need be, but I do have an Ubuntu clone called Fedora installed onto a thumb drive I can host on my Win PC’s in an emergency.

      • Black Humor

        Linux Mint is very similar to use than Windows and Mac. Easiest ”transformation” to Linux if you are old Mac or Windows user.

      • Zeropointenergy

        nice post ! 10 is a pos!

      • TheRealBatman

        Fedora is based on Red Hat, not Ubuntu.

    • Zeropointenergy

      gates and his windows 10 are the same both are a pos!

    • TheRealBatman

      When the CIA and NSA probably have backdoors at the hardware level, it amazes me that people like you think they will be safe by not using Windows. Just a few years ago a 0-day exploit was exposed in all Linux distros that existed for a long time. How long do you think NSA and CIA were using that exploit before it was exposed? How many other exploits exist in Linux that the spooks are covering up to their own advantage?

  • Howard West

    Bought a computer that said it had windows 7 it had 10 yuck complained they said send it back if I didn’t like 10. It cost me almost $100 to get a Windows 7 disk but for Off Line it is much better.

  • Zeropointenergy

    window 10 stinks we need more competition :arrow: asap!

  • raburgeson

    I have 2 computers, came with Windows 8.1 and 10. Both are worthless bloatware that run slow and waste resources. I got a copy of Windows 7 trial and ordered 7. My order got hung up in Tennessee. I still had some time left so, while waiting for my copies of ultimate I ordered 2 copies of 7 professional from Walmart. As soon as I received them in 2 days my order was released in TN. I do not believe this was a coincidence. So, I have 2 unopened copies of 7 pro. Despite having received and installed it I would have installed XP if I would have been quicker and downloaded the drivers from Dell. I got all their 7 drivers and half the XP drivers when they jerked them. The only problem I have with 7 is it opens disks so slow it is amazing, again bloatware. If Windows 7 disappears I move to Novell. I have had it with government spyware. Most of these updates install this spyware, new back doors and addresses and all the crap you do not want on your computer. Is your hard drive running for no reason as your computer sits idle? I rest my case on this fact alone. If you have not noticed the fact ignorance is bliss.

    • DK

      Windows 7 has microsoft onedrive(tm) where it sends the contents of your drive to redmond unless you switch it off as an administrator initially in processes, you need to disable it in gpedit.msc/ windows settings/Administrative Templates/Windows components/onedrive and set:
      Windows 8
      save documents to onedrive by default to disabled
      Prevent the usage of onedrive for storage to enabled
      prevent onedrive files from syncing over metered connections to enabled
      Its spyware but since you have not had 1/3rd the worlds population with the police knocking at their doors over copyright, your daughters bathing pics at age 3 or unlike the amazon kindle stuff was erased on your pc remotely, its not looked at unless you add spyware yourself.

  • 2QIK4U

    If you use Windows or any Microsoft product. YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

    • Zeropointenergy

      so true windows is a pos!

  • Zeropointenergy

    keep windows 7 it will still works 10 is a pos like Gates is for not opening the codes up for competition!

  • Zeropointenergy

    windows 10 is a pos!

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