It's official: You can no longer upgrade for free from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 or 11

The freebie upgrade path which remained a loophole for so long, allowing older operating systems to jump to Windows 10 or 11, is no more.

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Microsoft's offer to upgrade for free from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 (and from there to Windows 11, if you want, and your spec qualifies) has been one of the most long-standing freebies ever, surely - but not anymore.

The free upgrade path through to Windows 10, and subsequently Windows 11, has now been blocked (Image Credit: Microsoft)

The free upgrade path through to Windows 10, and subsequently Windows 11, has now been blocked (Image Credit: Microsoft)

The loophole has now been officially closed, as The Verge reports.

Free upgrades from Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 came in when the latter OS launched mid-2015, and were only supposed to be available for the first year. However, when the middle of 2016 rolled around, while Microsoft stopped advertising the upgrade - to the relief of many - it remained in place.

You could still go and upgrade using your Windows 7 or 8 serial key until, well, this week.

If you recall, Microsoft actually announced that those keys would no longer work for a Windows 10/11 upgrade at the close of September, but at the time, folks were still trying their keys and getting successfully upgraded.

But now, Microsoft has confirmed to The Verge that Windows 7 keys are 'fully blocked' from this upgrade path. So, if you didn't make the upgrade already - and you really should have done, given both operating systems are now well out of support - it's too late (frowny face).

The Verge has tried to perform some test upgrades, and it's interesting to note that the installation of Windows 10 does go ahead, but that you cannot then activate the OS with the old key. In the validation process an error is returned telling the user their serial key is no good.

At this point, then, your only option is to buy Windows 10 or 11. Well, it's not your only option, of course - you could install a Linux distro for free, instead. But that's a big switch, and if you want to stay on a supported Microsoft OS, paying is the only choice you have left now.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this episode is just how long Microsoft let these free but unofficial upgrades continue. Remember, it's seven years ago now that the upgrade offer officially expired, so the loophole has remained in place for the best part of a decade.

Why? Well, way back when, Microsoft wanted to get Windows 10 adoption up swiftly, but if that's a concern, what about Windows 11 market share?

Windows 11 is floundering much more than Windows 10 ever did, and really struggling to make inroads. At the two-year point of its life, Windows 10 had about a 36% market share, compared to 24% for Windows 11 (at least going by the most recent figures from one analyst firm, StatCounter).

Whatever the case, the freebie upgrade train is now at a halt, and won't be leaving the station going forward.

Darren has written for numerous magazines and websites in the technology world for almost 30 years, including TechRadar, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Computeractive, and many more. He worked on his first magazine (PC Home) long before Google and most of the rest of the web existed. In his spare time, he can be found gaming, going to the gym, and writing books (his debut novel – ‘I Know What You Did Last Supper’ – was published by Hachette UK in 2013).

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