Microsoft ended its free upgrade offer for Windows 10 on July 29, 2016, but it turns out you may still be able to legally upgrade to the latest version for free – no hacking required. Here’s all you need to know.
Microsoft’s free ‘Get Windows 10’ initiative has been and gone, much to the delight of many a user who was sick of seeing the GWX tool constantly popping up on their screens.
But if you snubbed Microsoft’s offer of a free upgrade and have since decided you want to switch to the latest version of Windows, all is not lost. Here are a couple of ways you can still nab a free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
Related: Windows 10 vs Windows 8.1 – should you upgrade?
How to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1
Over on ZDNet, Ed Bott explained how he was still able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free on the sly.
First, open the Download Windows 10 page, enter the version of Windows 10 you want to download and the language you need, then download either the 32-bit or 64-bit version using the links that appear. Once the download is done, run the Media Creation Tool.
Once the tool opens, choose the ‘Upgrade this PC now’ option, as long as you’re using the tool on the PC you want to upgrade. The other option, ‘Create installation media for another PC’, will allow you to save the installation files to a USB drive so you can then use them on another computer.
Next, mount the ISO file or simply open the flash drive in File Explorer and run Setup. It should then be a case of following the on-screen instructions to finish the upgrade. You shouldn’t be asked for a product key, according to Bott.
Note that as our Computing Editor was last seen face down on a blackjack table at Caesars Palace…sorry, reporting from CES 2017…we haven’t tried this method ourselves, but Bott seems like a reliable enough chap, so you may well get some mileage out of his workaround.
Checking your license
Once you’ve completed the above process, you can check on your digital license by going to Settings>Update & security>Activation.
If you’re concerned that this method might not be 100% on the level in terms of you owning a valid digital license, it should be noted that the free upgrade programme is officially over. But Microsoft uses some ambiguous language in its ‘Upgrade to Windows 10’ FAQ, which seems to suggest you won’t be hunted down and detained for upgrading in this way.
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Either way, be aware that Microsoft hasn’t issued any statement on the fact that the upgrade can still be downloaded for free, so it’s your call whether you take advantage or not.
Free upgrade for those who use assistive technologies
While the main free upgrade programme ended in July, Microsoft has extended it for those who use assistive technologies. You can learn more about this and get your free download by visiting this page.
If you’re not sure what an ‘assistive technology’ is, there’s a whole page dedicated to extolling Microsoft’s efforts to improve the Windows 10 experience here, where all the assistive wonders are listed. It includes things like Narrator, which turns text to speech, and various other features that make the OS easier to use for those who need assistance.
While we’re sure only those who really use such assistive technology have been using this method thus far (ahem), we’re sure there’s a few shameless, fully-abled individuals out there who would make use of such a method of obtaining a free upgrade.
We don’t condone exploiting this loophole, of course, but the fact that Microsoft has left it open, with no burden of proof required, means it’s as legal as it is borderline unethical – the caveat being that Microsoft only asks if you “use assistive technologies,” not whether you have to use them.
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Let us know how you get on trying to download Windows 10 for free in the comments below.