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Books Video icon An illustration of two cells of a film strip. Video Audio icon An illustration of an audio speaker. The vast majority of Windows PCs sold in the past five years included Windows 10 licenses, and businesses who have stuck with Windows 7 have typically done so by exercising downgrade rights.

They’re free to install Windows 10 anytime, without having to jump through any hoops. On PC’s that were originally sold with older versions of Windows, Microsoft’s calculus is pretty straightforward: It’s in the company’s best interests to see those old Windows versions replaced, both for support purposes and to improve the security of the Windows ecosystem.

There’s little or no profit in trying to sell upgrades to that market, and there’s plenty of goodwill to reap by making those upgrades easy.

The second question is a little tougher. Is there a catch? In technical terms, no. A PC that is upgraded from Windows 7 or Windows 8. Is that license legal? As I’ve said many times, I am not a lawyer, so I can’t offer legal advice. But I have a lot of experience with Windows licensing, and it’s literally inconceivable and yes, that word means exactly what you think it means that Microsoft would choose to enforce an ambiguous license agreement against its retail customers.

They are, after all, prospects to subscribe to Microsoft , buy Xbox hardware and games, play Minecraft, and eventually buy a new Windows 10 PC from one of those aforementioned partners. Also: 7 ways you can maybe get Microsoft Office for free. And whatever pittance Microsoft’s bean counters might be able to squeeze out of those upgrades wouldn’t come close to balancing the very, very bad publicity that would come from sending threatening letters to retirees and mom-and-pop businesses that are trying to squeeze a few extra years of life out of their old hardware.

If you’re running a business, of course, the calculation is different. Do you really want to be unsure about whether your business software assets are properly licensed? Your accountant will tell you no. But here too I’m convinced that there’s roughly zero likelihood that the software police are going to haul any consumers or small business owners away because they decided to upgrade an old PC.

Ultimately, this all ties into the new Windows retail licensing model Microsoft introduced with Windows 10 in You only have to buy the license once, usually with a new PC, and after that all the upgrades are free, as long as the hardware allows it.

That’s the official policy with Windows 10, and it’s clear that the unofficial policy includes older Windows versions too. It has been updated significantly and republished several times since then. The most recent update was on September 28, More Microsoft Is your Windows license legal?

Should you even care? Microsoft: Here are all the new features Teams got in May These are Windows users’ favorite apps in the revamped Microsoft Store How to move the Windows 11 Start button back to where it belongs. Keep in mind that this workaround won’t necessarily work all the time. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to pay the Windows 10 Home license fee or, if your system is older than 4 years, you might want to buy a new one all new PCs run on some version of Windows You will certainly need to upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8 if you are still running those legacy operating systems as Microsoft no longer supports them.

Ensure you’re using a genuine copy of Windows 7 or later. Anything older will not work please, if possible, buy a new system if you’re using Window XP or Vista. If you’re using Windows 7, write down the activation key you may need this later. Follow our Windows 10 backup instructions on how to do so.



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