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.

Windows 10 upgrade nag screen (from 2016)

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.

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  1. I’d love to be able to run Windows 7 (the original version, not the updated version with telemetry you can download from Microsoft) on my Zen 2 laptop. People have done it with some fiddling and hacking of drivers. Really, Windows 7 was the last decent Microsoft OS in my opinion, and I’d rather use that than any other latest version.

    Debian 11 runs extremely well out of box though on that system. Nice and fast, and only 540MB RAM usage upon bootup.

    To be honest, I’ve always been very fond of Windows 2000. I think that was the best OS ever to come out of Redmond. I miss it terribly. I actually bought Server 2019 just for that system cause it was the closest to an LTSC I could legally buy, and it was good but not without its own problems.

    As with Microsoft ending the “free” upgrades, I couldn’t care less… Microsoft has lost its way.

  2. Windows 11 immediately obsoleted all my perfectly functional computer hardware. Now I am slowly migrating them all to Linux or xBSD – forever. It is going well. I should have done this years ago. Software as a Service (SaaS) is just too tempting for the greedy MBAs at Microsoft – it was inevitable.

  3. The big question that still has no answer is, will computers that upgraded from 7 to 10 be considered 10 or still 7 when trying to upgrade to 11 in the future….

    1. If the computer is already activated on windows 10 regardless of if it shipped or was built with 7, it’ll probably stay activated on windows 11.
      I don’t think Microsoft cares about that as much as they do CPU models and TPM 2.0 for what is blatantly an attempt at both planned obsolescence and pushing device level identification and bans onto the internet.

      1. Could a W7-shipped machine meet the W11 TPM 2.0 requirement? Coffee Lake was 2018, W10 released 2015. Perhaps Enterprises were able to get it, but that would have been custom installed…

        1. Skylake added a TPM 2.0 on the CPU, so most Skylake or newer platforms can meet that requirement.

          The CPU requirement is a bigger problem, though – Skylake (6th-gen) was the last generation that Windows 7 was allowed to run on, and while 200-series (Kaby Lake-era, 7th-gen) platforms could use Skylake processors (and many 200-series business machines were sold with Skylakes specifically for Windows 7 compatibility), those platforms don’t support 8th-gen (Coffee Lake or Cannonlake) processors, and therefore fail the CPU requirement.

          1. Interesting, I thought it was the TPM 2.0 which was the requirement limiting W11 to Cannon Lake up. TIL it is actually the “Virtualization-Based Security (VBS) and Hypervisor-Protected Code Integrity (HVCI)” requirements. Interesting.

            I guess it is still remains that no standard W7-shipped computer would be eligible for W11, just not due to TPM.

      2. I tend to agree for normal upgrades, but the question is what would happen if you clean install your machine to 11 using your W7 license, with which you moved to W10… Nobody knows…