[German]Some users are aware that the free upgrade from Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8.1 for private users (in the home and professional versions) to Windows 10 still works. Now there is an unofficial explanation.
If you are still working on an older Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, you can download a new Windows 10 installation file via Media Creation Tool and then upgrade from the current Windows 7/8.1. Afterwards you simply reinstall Windows 10 and use the product key of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Windows 10 should be able to be activated with it. This is even described in the Microsoft Answers forum.
This tip has been passed around in various forums and websites since the end of the free upgrade offer in July 2016 (see my German blog post Windows 10: Gratis-Upgrade läuft am 31.12.2017 aus). Many observers speculated about what this was all about and when it would end.
Microsoft had already let the free upgrade for people with disabilities continue (see Doch noch gratis Windows 10-Upgrade nach dem 29.7.2016?). But still free Windows 10 upgrade after 29.7.2016?). In addition, corporate customers with volume license programs are out of this question anyway – they are allowed to upgrade and downgrade anyway, with corresponding contracts.
Unofficial truth released by a Microsoft Employee
It probably starts with ‘The cat is out of the bag’, and then a user who claims to be working at Microsoft on Reddit describes why the free upgrade still works.
I work at Microsoft and have been since before the Windows 10 launch. That whole “free” upgrade for a year was fully marketing fluff. After the cut off happened, the direction given was that it requires a paid license HOWEVER, this was brought up by the brick and mortar stores that they were doing simple clock changes on customer devices during the upgrade challenge to get around it and then ultimately it was clear two years later that anything Windows 7 and up would go to 10 fully activated and still to this day.
In short: After the expiry of the official free upgrade offer, the motto was officially issued that you now need a chargeable product key. But the whole thing was a marketing trick, which came up due to the pressure of the trade. They feared for sales of Windows 10 packages and devices and urged that the ‘free upgrade’ expire after one year. Internally, the then head of the Windows Developer Group (WDG), Terry Meyerson, had other ideas. He was particularly concerned about the 1 billion Windows 10 installations he had announced for 2018. The Microsoft employee writes on reddit:
WDG didn’t care pretty much at all because Terry Meyerson at the time cared more about his upgrade stats than license revenue as Windows isn’t Microsoft’s cash cow anymore. It’s the same stance back in the day where Microsoft would allow Windows Updates on pirated copies of Windows 7 as the bigger picture was to thwart security threats based from those copies.
You still can do this no problem, however careful, do an upgrade keeping everything as if you choose to yeet everything and start fresh, you lose your free upgrade. That old 7 license converts to a 10 digital license and from there you can clean install no problem. As for audits, this mainly is for volume licensing than anything. An SMB with 10-200 Windows 7 machines that were OEM licensed don’t really matter. If you try this with 1,000 computers, iffy. At the end of the day, Microsoft had four years to close that loophole and never did so if worse came to worse, you could technically go through legal avenues as the EULA for 10 literally doesn’t have a clause for this at all. You can’t shit on someone taking advantage of an activation workaround when you as the manufacturer never closed it.
In the last paragraph, he also discusses the topic of business customers and auditing – which have OEM licenses. Ok, this is not an official position of Microsoft and they would rather seed doubts, that you will never get a valid license for Windows. But it’s the best explanation for the free upgrade even after 4 years – Microsoft didn’t do anything to close this hole. There is a 2nd explanation, why Microsoft ended the official ‘free upgrade period’: Microsoft does not permanently give away a paid product because the lost turnover and lost profit must be communicated to the investors. The operational loss due to the free upgrade between 7.2015 and 7.2016 was 2 billion US dollars, Microsoft lost 1.4 billion profit. (via)
Last Minute Tip: How to save your free Windows 10 upgrade
Windows 10: Free upgrade offer for users with assistive technology ends at 12/31/2017
Windows 7: Free Extended Update Support and usage