When Windows 10 was first released in 2015, downloading and installing a free update was as simple as clicking the “Upgrade to Windows 10” notification prompt. Support for Windows 7 ends in January 2020, followed by the end of support for Windows 8.1 in January 2023.
Unfortunately, the free upgrade period from these previous versions of Windows "officially" ended in mid-2016, and a "workaround" to get Windows 10 for free with Assistive Technologies ended in December 2017.
There is no need to worry though. There are still a few ways to get the latest and greatest version of Windows 10 for free without having to pay for a license or break the law.
Step 1: Download the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool
Although Microsoft has officially ended free updates to Windows 10, technically it is still possible to install the operating system for free. If you are still running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you just need to download the Windows 10 installer.
Learn More: How to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10 without losing data
Going this route means you won't have to pay to get an update serial, and it also means keeping all your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 data.
First, we recommend that you visit Microsoft's website to download Windows 10 for free. To download Windows 10 for free, you must first download the installation tool. You can download the tool by clicking the blue Download Tool Now button on the webpage. It shouldn't take more than 2 minutes.
Step 2: Launch the installer
Once downloaded, you will want to launch the installer. You must therefore accept the terms and then choose to update this PC now. Then, follow the on-screen instructions. Windows 10 will download to your PC and check if it is compatible.
You may be presented with a list of programs or hardware that may or are causing problems with the Windows 10 upgrade. It is up to you to uninstall these programs to fix these problems.
Step 3: Finish the installation
As the installer progresses, your Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 PC will reboot a few times. As part of the process, it will extract the existing product key from the hardware during installation. If your version of Windows has been legally activated, you will not be prompted for an activation key.
Note, however, that it won't work for Windows XP or Windows Vista, as these versions of Windows never qualified for the free upgrade to Windows 10.
While this is the easiest way to install Windows 10 for free, there are a few others you should consider.
Other methods to download Windows 10
The above method is the best way to get Windows 10 for free. However, there are other ways to get Windows 10. For example, if your school or employer is eligible or already uses Microsoft 365, you should be able to install Windows 10 for free.
You can always pay full price and get a Windows 10 license from the Microsoft Store. Alternatively, you can buy Windows 10 from Amazon. Or you can just download Windows 10 and use it without activating it.
Read also: How to remove the word Activate Windows from the screen
You will be blocked from using some customizations and other features, but the operating system will continue to work. Of course, we recommend that you use a fully activated version of Windows, as this is the safest way to proceed.
Once Windows 10 is installed with one of these methods, the device will activate the new Windows 10 license as a “digital license” or entitlement. This is linked to your Microsoft account on our device when you log in. Again, these specific methods will only work if you're doing in-place or clean updates of Windows 10.
If you use the installation tool to create an ISO or installation media, then a clean installation of Windows 10 on another PC with Vista or Windows XP activation may fail.
What about reusing a previous product key?
If you've ditched Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 and decided to install on Windows 10, you can use your old product key to install and activate clean Windows 10 on your PC. As a prerequisite before moving on with this option, we have a separate guide on how to download and install Windows 10 cleanly, but be careful first.
Microsoft product keys typically only work once. Unless covered by volume licensing, it is against Microsoft's terms to use the same product key on multiple PCs.
Give it a go: Serial Windows 10 [Product Key]
However, if you have purchased correctly and are no longer using these older versions of Windows, Microsoft's Windows 10 activation servers accept Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 keys on your PC.
This loophole allows you to avoid paying up to $ 200 for a new Windows 10 license. It could be blocked by Microsoft at any time. Please note that you will violate license agreements and proceed from here on at your own risk.
Usually, the Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 product key might be found on a sticker on your PC or laptop, or in the documentation that came with your PC. If you've already bought Windows from Microsoft or a reseller, you might find it in a box or in an email.
With Windows 8,1, product keys can also be linked to your specific hardware or your Microsoft account. This means that if you are installing Windows 10 on a PC running Windows 8.1, the installation will run on it. You may not need to enter the activation key.
After installing Windows, you can now activate it, if it was not done automatically during installation. You can do this by going to the Start menu and searching for Activation. You can then choose the Activation settings option in the results list.
A settings page will then appear, where you can choose the Change Product Key option and enter or use your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 key for activation.