Microsoft stuck to its plan of giving a free copy of Windows 10 to anyone who wanted to upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 for just one year. However, it’s still possible to make the transition without spending £120 on the Microsoft Store for Windows 10 Home.
How can I get Windows 10 for free?
1. Windows 7 or 8 product key
Amazingly, if you download the Windows 10 installation media from Microsoft, it will still accept a valid Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 product key when it prompts you to enter an activation key for Windows 10.
Windows will then show that it is activated with a digital license, so you're then free to re-install Windows 10 on that PC or laptop at a later date. It's helpful to link this with your Microsoft account because this enables you to re-activate Windows 10 if you make any major hardware changes, such as a new motherboard.
If you don't link it, you'll be unable to re-activate your digital license after serious upgrades. To link it, simply sign in with a Microsoft account in Settings > Update & security > Activation > Add a Microsoft account.
The original upgrade offer ended on July 29th 2016 and since then Microsoft has been directing people to pay the £119.99/US$119.99 from its website.
Savvy users found out that Microsoft quietly left one avenue open for upgrade: users of Assistive Technologies could still upgrade for free. With no means testing, anyone could use this until Microsoft shut this down on 31 December 2017.
2. Don't activate
Again, you can download Windows 10 from Microsoft's website and install it. It will prompt you for an activation key. But it's possible to skip this and ignore the nagging messages once you begin using Windows 10.
Aside from a few things that won't work, such as the personalisation options, Windows 10 remains completely usable.
3. Use the 90-day Enterprise trial
For the completely legal and above-board way to use Windows 10 for free, you can download the 90-day trial of the Enterprise version. Obviously it will expire after three months, but if you just want to test how Windows 10 runs on an older PC or laptop, this is a decent option.
Don't forget, too, that you can install the Home version of Windows 10 using method 2 here and then pay to buy a license key once you've decided you're happy with everything.
And if you do decide to buy a license key there are ways of getting it a lot cheaper than Miicrosoft's price. We explain everything in What's the difference between Windows 10 OEM and retail licence keys?
You might also like to read: Should I upgrade to Windows 10?