You can still upgrade to Windows 10 for free
When Windows 10 first appeared, Microsoft made quite a fuss about that fact that while it was possible to upgrade for free, this was a time-limited offer. Many people rushed to upgrade because they felt the deadline was hanging over them like the sword of Damocles… but it seems that the deadline was not as pressing as Microsoft made out.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that more than five years after the launch of Windows 10, it is still possible to upgrade for free. So what's going on?
- Windows 10 November 2019 Update is breaking File Explorer
- Microsoft is blocking Windows 10 updates for some Avast and AVG Antivirus users
- Windows 10 November 2019 Update is seriously small, but Microsoft says not to get used to it
While there are people who have stuck with Window 7 or Windows 8.x because they're happy with their operating system and don't feel the need to upgrade, there are plenty that have been put off by the threat of a $100+ upgrade fee.
But grab yourself a copy of the Media Creation Tool on your Windows 7 machine, and you will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 without having to part with a penny. It seems that although we're well outside of the timeframe for free upgrades, Microsoft doesn't really care that this loophole still exists. With Windows 7 on the verge of reaching end of support, the company is probably of the mind that it makes sense to continue to allow people to upgrade to Windows 10 for free rather than leaving them with old, unsupported, insecure software.
Writing on Reddit, a self-proclaimed ex-Microsoft worker using the handle CokeRobot shed a little light on what (may) be going on:
Well, I guess the cat's out of the bag...
I work at Microsoft and have been since before the Windows 10 launch. That whole "free" upgrade for a year was fully marketing fluff. After the cut off happened, the direction given was that it requires a paid license HOWEVER, this was brought up by the brick and mortar stores that they were doing simple clock changes on customer devices during the upgrade challenge to get around it and then ultimately it was clear two years later that anything Windows 7 and up would go to 10 fully activated and still to this day.
WDG didn't care pretty much at all because Terry Meyerson at the time cared more about his upgrade stats than license revenue as Windows isn't Microsoft's cash cow anymore. It's the same stance back in the day where Microsoft would allow Windows Updates on pirated copies of Windows 7 as the bigger picture was to thwart security threats based from those copies.
You still can do this no problem, however careful, do an upgrade keeping everything as if you choose to yeet everything and start fresh, you lose your free upgrade. That old 7 license converts to a 10 digital license and from there you can clean install no problem. As for audits, this mainly is for volume licensing than anything. An SMB with 10-200 Windows 7 machines that were OEM licensed don't really matter. If you try this with 1,000 computers, iffy. At the end of the day, Microsoft had four years to close that loophole and never did so if worse came to worse, you could technically go through legal avenues as the EULA for 10 literally doesn't have a clause for this at all. You can't shit on someone taking advantage of an activation workaround when you as the manufacturer never closed it.
It is impossible to say when -- or if -- Microsoft will place roadblocks in the way of this upgrade route, but it's working for now. It's worth bearing in mind, as WindowsLatest notes, what another Redditor says in response to CokeRobot: "a successful activation is not the same as a legal license to use that activated copy of Windows 10". Still... it's probably worth upgrading in the meantime.