In brief: Anyone planning to use an old Windows 7 or 8 product key to activate Windows 11 should probably pull the trigger now if it isn’t too late. Microsoft has announced the end of a grace period that lasted several years. However, as of this writing, it remains open. Windows 10 users can still upgrade for free for the foreseeable future.
Microsoft no longer allows Windows 7 and 8 owners to transition to Windows 10 or 11 for free. Although the announcement came on September 20, testing shows that some paths through the loophole remain but could close soon. When Windows 10 launched in 2015, the company made the operating system free for Windows 7 and 8 users for one year. However, customers found they could still redeem the offer long after its official end in July 2016.
Furthermore, when Microsoft repeated its free upgrade bargain to drive upgrades from Windows 10 to 11, it unofficially extended to the two prior versions. As of September 2023, Windows 7 and 8 keys can still activate Windows 11 installations. Despite the company’s declaration, Ars Technica and Neowin successfully installed Windows 11 22H2 using old product codes this week. However, newer Insider builds refused the Windows 7 and 8 keys, suggesting that upcoming public versions will finally kill the incredibly long-lived loophole.
Microsoft began rolling out Windows 11’s next major update, 23H2, to certain enterprise preview users on September 26, with a full public release coming in the fourth quarter. Non-insiders wishing to upgrade sooner should navigate to Settings > Windows Update and toggle “Get the latest updates as soon as they’re available.”
Windows 11 23H2 integrates Windows Copilot – the company’s generative AI chatbot assistant – throughout the operating system and introduces AI features to Microsoft 365 apps. Microsoft’s image editing apps also receive AI capabilities, and significant upgrades come to File Explorer, Notepad, Narrator, and other programs.
Although the free upgrade path for Windows 7 and 8 owners is ending, the offer persists for Windows 10 users on systems that meet Windows 11’s notoriously high system requirements. The company hasn’t announced an end date for the current promotion.
Purchasing Windows 11 is relatively cheap, thanks to deals and bundles Microsoft has offered throughout the year. The latest bargain includes Windows 11 Pro and a lifetime license for Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2021 for $49. Windows 11 Pro is also available separately for $39.99, while the macOS edition of Office 2021 currently stands at $49.99.