Windows 10 Continuum for Phones

Can you reinstall the free upgrade of Windows 10 after July 29th?

If you're running the free upgrade of Windows 10, here's what's going to happen after July 29th, if you need reinstall the operating system.

Microsoft plans to have Windows 10 running on one billion devices in the next three years. One approach the company is using to achieve this goal is by offering the new operating system as a free upgrade for customers running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

Unfortunately, the offer is only available for the first year of Windows 10. It’s started on July 29, 2015 and it ends on July 29, 2016.

After July 29, 2016, if you didn’t upgrade your computer to the new operating system, you’ll then have to pay $119 for the full version of Windows 10 Home, and even more for Windows 10 Pro.

Of course, you can always stay with your current version of the operating system, but you should understand that eventually Microsoft will stop supporting older versions of Windows.

While the promotional offer should be very simple, there are still some confusions on how the free upgrade process works, as lately, I’ve been receiving a lot of questions on what will happen to those computers upgraded to Windows 10 using the free offer after July 29th.

Here are some answers.

What happens with the PCs upgraded to Windows 10 after July 29th?

When you upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 device to Windows 10 using the free promotional offer during the activation process that product key will be converted into a Windows 10 “digital license” (formerly known as “digital entitlement”).

But you must make sure that your original copy of Windows is activated before upgrading. If it’s not, you won’t be able to activate Windows 10. Checking if your version of Windows is activated is simple:

  • Windows 7: Click the Start button, right click Computer, and click Properties. Then look under Windows activation.
  • Windows 8.1: Go to Control Panel, click System and Security, and click System. Then look under Windows activation.

Once you upgrade to Windows 10 that digital license won’t expire and it’s good for the lifetime of the device. This means that you can use your old product key to do a clean install of Windows 10 and it will activate after July 29, 2016. You can also install and activate the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, as well as future releases of the operating system as long as your device can handle the upgrade.

Will Windows 10 re-activate on hardware change after July 29th?

If your hard drive crashes, you replace it with a new Solid-State Drive, your system gets corrupted, or you make other significant changes like replacing the motherboard after July 29, 2016. Then you can use your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 product key to reinstall Windows 10 at any time. In fact, with the new digital license that has been created for your device, you don’t even need to enter a product key during the installation.

However, during a hardware change, Windows 10 may not re-activate automatically, in which case, you’ll need to go to Settings > Update & security > Activation and click Troubleshoot to use the new Activation Troubleshooter to re-activate.

If there is another problem and you can’t re-activate your free copy, you will need to contact Microsoft support for assistance, and then Windows 10 will activate again.

Wrapping things up

What you really need to know is that if you upgrade your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer before July 29, 2016, then you’re entitled to reinstall the operating system on the same device at any time for any reason and it’ll activate.

If you’re not ready for Windows 10, I have previously published the instructions to obtain a Windows 10 digital license now, so you can install the new operating system whenever you feel it’s appropriate after the free upgrade offer ends.

In the case, you still have any questions about how the free upgrade process works, I encourage you to ask in the comments below. If you have something else to add that may help others let us also know in the comments.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows expert and the Editor-in-Chief who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He is also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 12 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows, software, and related technologies, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me.