When Microsoft launched Windows 10 in 2015, the company promised that users running Windows 7 or Windows 8 would be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free until July 29, 2016.
And after that date came and went, many folks noticed that they could still upgrade without paying a penny. And when Windows 11 launched five years later, users could upgrade to that operating system for free too. Until now. Microsoft has officially ended free upgrades for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.
In its announcement, the company acknowledges that the “free upgrade offer” was supposed to have ended more than seven years ago, but notes that “the installation path to obtain the Windows 7 / 8 free upgrade is now removed as well.”
What? Basically the promotional period expired years ago, but Microsoft never actually stopped letting people upgrade for free… or use Windows 7 or Windows 8 licenses to activate a clean install of Windows 10 or Windows 11 for that matter.
Now Microsoft is shutting the door on all of those upgrade paths. Paul Thurott put Microsoft’s claims to the test and found that you can actually still use a Windows 7 or 8 license to activate the latest stable version of Windows 11. But it won’t activate Windows 11 Insider Preview Canary builds, which means that sometime in the coming months (after those Canary build features move to the Dev, Beta, and then eventually stable channel), you won’t be able to use a 7+ year old Windows license to activate Windows 11 anymore.
That said, you can still upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 for free. So there’s that.