Microsoft has yet to announce full pricing details for the seven different editions of Windows 10 it will launch this summer, but there’s one thing that is confirmed.
The upgrade to “full versions of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Pro” will be free for “qualifying Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices” for the first year after the launch of Windows 10.
A Microsoft Australia blog then went into more detail about the upgrade options — although the information now appears to have been taken down, so take this with a pinch of salt.
In short, Windows 7 Home Basic and Home Premium users will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Home, as will Windows 8 and 8.1 users. Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate users, along with Windows 8 and 8.1 Pro users, will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.
The upgrades will be delivered online via Windows Update, but we don’t yet know if Microsoft will also offer physical media — i.e. discs in a box.
When should I upgrade?
So as long as you upgrade your qualifying computer or smartphone by summer 2016, you’ll be able to enjoy (hopefully) Windows 10 and all associated updates on that device forever.
There are two important points to note, though.
The first is that the Windows 10 upgrade will be tied to that device, which means if you ever replace it, the free upgrade goes with it. This shouldn’t be a problem in practice, since all new computers will be bundled with Windows 10 by that time, so buying a new copy shouldn’t be necessary.
That does mean, however, that you should consider all of your qualifying computers to Windows 10 within the 12-month free upgrade window.
So if you’re still using Windows XP or Vista on one PC and have access to a valid Windows 7 or 8 installation disc, for example, you should think about upgrading to that and then grab Windows 10 when it becomes available. Assuming that computer is capable of running Windows 10, of course.
Windows XP is already unsafe to use since Microsoft stopped issuing updates in April 2014 and while Vista won’t suffer the same fate until November 2017, it won’t receive any more major ‘service pack’ updates — just security and bug fixes.
Check out our article: Is it still safe to use Windows XP to find out more.
Both operating systems are also ancient in computer terms, so a free upgrade to Windows 10 is an opportunity that’s too good to miss.
Can I downgrade afterwards?
On a related note, the current Windows 10 Technical Preview (build 10074, an early version of the software released so Microsoft can get feedback) allows you to downgrade to a previous version Windows should you wish to.
This feature may not make it to the final release, but if it does, it may be possible to upgrade to Windows 10 and then return to your previous version of Windows until you’re ready to upgrade permanently — having already qualified for the freebie.
This may not actually work in practice, however, since we won’t know what Windows 10 will offer until the final version is released.
What version of Windows will I eventually be using?
The second point to note is that Windows 10 may well be the last true ‘version’ of Windows you’ll ever use. Microsoft has stated repeatedly that Windows 10 will be updated on a continual basis via Windows Update across all Windows-compatible devices — computers, smartphones, Xbox and anything else that runs the operating system.
Details are still scant, but this presumably means that major and minor updates will be issued on a drop-feed basis to your machine when they’re required, instead of with a new version of the OS. Nor do we know if these updates will be optional, as with current Windows Updates, or automatic and obligatory.
Forced automatic updates may help solve the problem of users sticking with older versions of Windows on their PCs, as will the free initial upgrade to Windows 10. Windows XP is still installed on 16% of PCs, for example, second only to Windows 7 at 59%.
The one-year old Apple OS X 10.10, on the other hand, is already installed on 60% of Macs after being available for just one year, with the previous OS X 10.9 in second place at 24% — a rapid uptake that’s helped by the fact that the operating system is free.
What about Windows 11?
So while we won’t know Microsoft’s actual plans for Windows 10 until it stops being so coy and tells us about them, we do know one thing for sure. Anyone who upgrades to Windows 10, whether free or paid for, will be able to use the most up-to-date ‘version’ of Windows on that device as long as it’s capable of running it, at no additional cost.
Whether that’s a situation that lasts for one year or 10 (or more!) remains to be seen — as does how we’ll be referring to ‘Windows’ in a few years’ time. The smart money says we’ll be back on Windows 11 before long, but perhaps not even Microsoft knows for sure.
Are you planning to take advantage of the free upgrade to switch to Windows 10, or will you be hanging onto your current version of Windows until the bitter end? Let us know in the Comments.