Get Your Free Windows 10 Upgrade and Keep Using Your Current Windows Version


Windows 10 logo, The words Windows 10 in blue letters on white background

Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer expires on July, 29 2016. Here's what to do if you don't want to run Windows 10 right now, but want to take advantage of the the free upgrade before it runs out and still keep the version of Windows you're using now. (The free upgrade offer is available to anyone who is running a genuine version of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.)

This article by Ed Bott outlines how to keep your existing Windows installation and still have access to the free Windows 10 upgrade, all free and legal. At its core, Ed says the process involves "claiming your entitlement under the free upgrade offer and then rolling back to your prior operating system. With that entitlement in place, you can schedule the final upgrade for when you're ready, even if that's after July 29."
This involves an upgrade to Windows 10, and then rolling back your system to it's current operating system (system roll backs need to be done within 30 days of the upgrade, when the roll back option disappears). The Windows 10 upgrade is tied to the specific computer hardware you use for the upgrade and is stored on Microsoft's servers, but if you're considering upgrading to Windows 10 in the future, grabbing a free copy of Windows 10 now might be well worth it.
Full details and directions are in Ed's article.
For more information on rolling back a Windows 10 upgrade, check out this article:
How to roll back your Windows 10 upgrade
(Thanks to our readers for their comments on rolling back the upgrade)

Since snafus have been known to happen even with mundane changes to Windows systems, making an image of your hard disk or backing up your files before making changes (in particular an operating system upgrade) is always a good idea.

How to lock in your free Windows 10 upgrade and keep using your old Windows version

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This is the safest way to do this -
I will call the old OS W7
Image your current W7, and Verify it.
Remove the hard drive.
Place another hard drive into PC, and restore the W7 into it
Do the upgrade to W10.
Ensure it runs (and get all the updates whilst you are at it).
If you are 'an old woman' like me (ultra cautious), create an image of W10 and verify it.
Remove the W10 drive, and place some where safe
Put back your W7 drive.

Sounds good. According to this post below...
Wollongong_Geoff on 30. May 2016 - 21:43 (126782) may not need to remove the W10 drive at the end, if you fancy a dual-boot setup while learning W10.

2 related questions:

1) Is there a way to run a Windows 10 upgrade alongside the original Windows 7 as a dual boot arrangement? My best guess so far would be to create a disk image of Windows 7, upgrade to Windows 10 and then, reinstal the Window 7 image to a different partition. Alternatively, upgrade to Windows 10, rollback to Windows 7, download an ISO of Windows 10 and instal to a separate partition. I am guessing it would not be as simple as just downloading a Windows 10 ISO and installing it using the security key from the original Windows 7?

2) Also, once upgraded to Windows 10, how would one do a fresh clean instal of Windows 10 once the July 29th free upgrade deadline has passed? For example, onto a new HDD. The answer to this may actually provide an answer to my first question too.

From the article: "How and when you choose to reinstall Windows 10 on that hardware doesn't matter: You can use a USB flash drive or a DVD, a mounted ISO file, or even run Setup from a shared folder on your local network."

You can use the Windows Media Creation tool to do a clean re-install, it has 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Home and Pro editions, but not the Enterprise edition.

More details here:

1) A system image is a clone of the entire disk so cannot be restored to a disk/partition smaller that the one it was copied from. Your alternative should be workable as the point of the exercise is to establish a digital entitlement for Windows 10 on your device, regardless of whether it is part of a dual-boot set-up.

2) See above - the digital entitlement is for the device itself not its individual components, although I doubt if it would carry over after a change of motherboard.

Thanks Nodrog. Yes you are right about a full disk clone. I actually meant was a partition clone. I have restored partition clones to identical sized partitions but it can be a bit hit and miss that's for sure. I guess with a lot of these things it is a matter if just trying and seeing what works.

My situation is that I have 2 identically configured (apart from the CPU) computers in separate locations that I work between for a period of months at a time. As primitive as it may seem I have found that the easiest way for me to work between the 2 is to actually swap out the system HDD each time I change locations. Perhaps surprisingly, Windows 7 just reboots beautifully on each machine without having to be reactivated. It will be interesting to see how the Windows 10 upgrade handles being moved between the 2, or if it handles it at all. Only 1 way to find out! :)

UPDATE: As an experiment I installed Windows 10 from USB onto a new clean partition using my Windows 7 product key. Surprisingly (to me anyway) it all worked. It accepted my Windows 7 product key, completed the instal, and registered my entitlement to Windows 10. It also took care of the dual booting. So I now have Windows 7 and Windows 10 running happily alongside each other. No need for any risky rollback and I can take my time easing into Windows 10. :)

Outstanding! The dual boot is a good solution, I'm glad to hear it worked.

Neat solution as it stands, but the only way I could see that working with W10 is if you first upgrade both computers individually in order to establish the digital entitlement for each. The key thing is that it is the unique ID of each computer that is stored on MS servers which is used to activate the copy of the OS in use on that device.

Great idea! And both machines actually have full Windows 7 licenses too so it is all above board. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

The rollback didn't work for me. I lost all my disk C: data, and had to reinstall Win7 from scratch.
Backup restore of Win7 didn't succeed either.

Sorry to hear about that. I've had enough of that type of thing happen to me over the years (actually, even something as seemingly innocuous as a Windows update has caused major issues) that I make a disk image before I do anything, and make regular backups of Documents, bookmarks, and other data that changes often. Here's a link to our Best Free Drive Cloning Software category if anyone should need it:

I guess you guys know XP (embedded) is supported thru 2019 just as se7en will be when it reaches the old folks home in 2020, Embedded se7en will be supported thru 2025. What does it take to tell the mothership you are an embedded system, nothing but a simple little script. Although a Technet subscription "ain't what it used to be", it's amazing what knowledge MS will impart on you if you appear attentive. Really.

Maybe I'm old school, but I believe, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

I have Win 7 Premium on my laptop and it works great! When I have to get a new one it'll likely have Win 10 on it......otherwise, forget it!

Simplest probably is
- either upgrade before July 29th
- or wait till you absolutely need a new computer (or 2020 when support for Windows 7 ends
- if they don't extend the support - as they did with XP)
- and then you automatically will get Windows 10
- if you don't choose Linux instead ;-)

Unless you build your own computers - if you want to run Windows, you have to buy the operating system, which would mean purchasing Windows 10 if that's what you wanted to use. :)

Yes - I didn't mean you get Win10 freely but only that you probably have to change to Win10 if you buy a new computer (and still want Windows).

I understood that. :) I was chiming in with the idea that new computers don't always come with operating systems. I know that some computer manufacturers offered the option of buying a new computer with Windows 7 installed long after Windows 8 was released. Maybe something similar will happen with new computers, with Windows 8.1 being offered as an alternative to Windows 10?

"I know that some computer manufacturers offered the option of buying a new computer with Windows 7 installed long after Windows 8 was released."

That's still available, but Microsoft has said new computers will not be allowed to ship with Win7 after sometime in October 2016.

There are better downgrade and upgrade options on Windows Pro/Professional and any higher edition like Enterprise. Lesser editions, i.e. Windows Home, have more limited options. For example:

Windows 8 downgrade options

Microsoft's licensing determines the options for OEMs. What each OEM/vendor decides to do can vary a lot. Some don't offer downgrade options. Others do. They can also offer different pre-installs, e.g. both Windows 7 and Windows 8 or 10 images can be loaded onto the computer. See this article for some examples:

Microsoft, OEMs Put Downgrade Restrictions On Windows 10


Thanks Remah!

It's surprising how many people still use XP. I think if a poll were taken it would easily be voted the best OS Microsoft released. For now I'm sticking with Windows 7 which retained many of the best aspects of XP but Linux is becoming a more attractive option with each passing month.

XP is still popular for sure. I recently read (in a Woody Leonhard column I think) that Windows 7 accounts accounts for 50% of the Windows operating systems in use right now.
I hope you reconsider. I like windows 10 and am currently recommending that all my clients update. What I do not recommend is using the rollback which is causing more problems then the update.
Don't do it. Rolling back Windows 10 is not a good idea, what happens is that your drivers often get replaced with genetic drivers and your personal settings are often changed
I read about drivers being replaced with generic drivers after Windows 10 was installed, along with it removing some software early on, but hadn't heard of those issues remaining after a roll back. Is that what happened to you? I haven't read anything about the driver issue in some months. There were a lot of issues when Windows 10 was first released, as has been the case with every new version of Windows. Microsoft has traditionally used the feedback to correct many of them. Since Windows 10 is coming up on being a year old, this would be the time I would be more comfortable upgrading. I wouldn't be surprised if a Service Pack was being prepared to be pushed out the door soon...............

"I wouldn't be surprised if a Service Pack was being prepared to be pushed out the door soon"

There's an "Anniversary Update" supposed to come out around July 29, presumably similar in impact to the other major update which came out around 6 months ago.

The simplest (and safest) way to do this is to create a system image first, then go ahead with the update. After checking that it is properly activated with a digital entitlement for the device you can then restore your old set-up from the system image avoiding any of the potential issues with using the roll-back feature.

Exactly my thought. :) Outstanding suggestion.

- and, I suppose, also make a system image of the new Win10 before restoring your old Win7 image?