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You can't upgrade to Windows 10 for free anymore

Windows 7 mockupImage: IDG

Microsoft has closed one of the loopholes allowing those with older PCs from freely upgrading to Windows 10 and Windows 11. If you own a Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC, you’ll need to buy a new license to upgrade to either of Microsoft’s most recent operating systems.

“Microsoft’s free upgrade offer for Windows 10 / 11 ended July 29, 2016,” a Microsoft blog post now states, dating back to Sept. 20, and unearthed by Windows Central. “The installation path to obtain the Windows 7 / 8 free upgrade is now removed as well. Upgrades to Windows 11 from Windows 10 are still free.”

At one time, Microsoft offered a whole year — until July 31, 2016, one year after Windows 10 launched — for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users to tap their existing Windows licenses as a free entry ticket to Windows 10. Then Microsoft allowed those using assistive technologies as an additional loophole; if you used a screen reader, for example, you had until the end of 2017. Then that loophole was shut down, too.

What Microsoft never said was that the Windows 7/8 transition was never actually closed. Users, if they chose, could still upgrade their older PCs to Windows 10. That’s the loophole that has now officially shut.

In a way, this makes sense. At one time, the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 8 to Windows 10 was relatively seamless. But Microsoft now places hardware restrictions on Windows 11, so the number of people that would be able to successfully navigate that upgrade path would probably be close to zero.

Let’s face it: As our original review of Windows 7 shows, it was a superior operating system. But it debuted fourteen years ago, too, and fell out of support ages ago. Microsoft’s right: it’s time to upgrade to a modern PC. Our guide to the best laptops can help if you’re looking.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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