Windows 10 upgrade after a year

How to upgrade to Windows 10 free even after July 29, 2016

Nifty trick to upgrade to Windows 10 after the year free promotional offer expires on July 29, 2016, while remaining fully activated.

UPDATE 10/30/2017: Microsoft released Windows 10 on July 29, 2015, as a free upgrade for computers running genuine copies of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. However, there is one caveat, you only have a year to take advantage of the offer. This means that after July 29, 2016, you’ll have to pay the regular price if you want to upgrade.

While it’s obvious that Microsoft want you to upgrade, many people have been reporting issues during and post the installation, compatibility, and various other problems.

Although Windows 10 is aiming to be one of the best releases, there are a number of reasons why not to upgrade. The issues we know will be worked out eventually, and it shouldn’t be a reason to lose the opportunity to get a free upgrade.

Now if you want to get the operating system for free, but you’re not ready to jump to Windows 10, here’s a trick. You can activate your copy of Windows 10 before the offer ends, and delay the actual upgrade until you feel the operating system is ready.

The trick is a three-step process that involves creating a full backup of your computer, upgrading to Windows 10 while the free upgrade offer still available, and then downgrading to the previous version of the operating system.

Create a backup

Make sure to create a full backup of your current installation as you will need it to restore your computer and continue using your current version of the operating system. Luckily Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 come bundled with the System Image backup tool that allows you to create a backup of your entire system.

If you don’t know how to use the tool, refer to my previous tutorial on how to create a System Image backup. The guide is a good reference for Windows 8.1 as well as for Windows 7.

Upgrade to Windows 10

Here is where the magic happens. Microsoft is only offering you Windows 10 as a free upgrade for a year, as such you want to get the offer right away. The upgrade process will authorize your computer to run Windows 10 fully activated for the lifetime of the device.

Upgrading to Windows 10 should be as easy as installing a Windows Update, but if you still need some help, you can refer to these previous tutorials:

During the upgrade, the setup will check if your computer was running a genuine copy of Windows, if the check passed, the Microsoft’s activation servers will generate a Windows 10 license certificate (digital entitlement) and it will store your unique identification and the edition you’re trying to activate.

Once you have successfully upgraded to Windows 10, your computer should be fully activated, and you can now go back to your previous version of the operating system or even perform a clean install of Windows 10 without even having to enter a product key.

Rollback to the previous version of Windows

After the upgrade, Microsoft knows your machine is entitled to run Windows 10, and you simply go back to your previous version of the operating system, and upgrade back to Windows 10 whenever you’re ready.

Here you have three choices, you can use the rollback feature in Windows 10 to go back to your previous version of Windows found in Settings > Update & security > Recovery, you can perform a clean install of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, or you can use the backup you have created previously to roll back.

I would recommend you to use the system image backup you have created, as the backup will bring you back exactly to the point right before you started making changes.

To restore the system image backup will be slightly different if you’re running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, but the process is virtually identical.

How to roll back from Windows 10 to Windows 7

  1. Connect the external drive with the system image backup to your computer and reboot.

  2. In the Setup wizard and click Next.

  3. Click Repair your computer.

  4. Select “Restore your computer using a system image that you create earlier”, and click Next.

  5. Select the backup to restore and click Next.

  6. Select the image you want to use and click Next.

  7. Click Next one more time.

  8. Click Finish to begin with the recovery process.

How to roll back from Windows 10 to Windows 8.1

  1. Connect the external drive with the system image backup to your computer and reboot.

  2. In the Setup wizard and click Next.

  3. Click Repair your computer.

  4. Click Troubleshoot.

  5. Click Advanced options.

  6. Select System Image Recovery.

  7. Select the operating system you want to recover and click Next.

  8. Click Finish to begin with the recovery process.

Now, whenever you are ready, after a year or later, download the installation files to install Windows 10, and because you have previously activated your free upgrade, your new installation should remain fully activated, because a license certificate has already been issued for your device.

Are you already running Windows 10 or are you planning to upgrade on a later date? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Update August 1, 2016: A new trick allows you to upgrade to Windows 10 for free.

Update October 30, 2017: It’s still possible to use a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 product key to active Windows 10.