Windows 11 and 10 no longer activate with Windows 7, 8 keys

Microsoft no longer allows users to activate Windows 11 and 10 installations with Windows 7 and 8 product keys.

Windows Update upgrade option to Windows 11
  • Microsoft closes a loophole to activate Windows 11 and 10 with 7 and 8 keys.
  • Windows 10 to Windows 11 upgrades will remain free.
  • You can no longer use Windows 7 and 8 keys to activate newer versions of Windows.

UPDATED 7/1/2024: Microsoft no longer activates new Windows 11 or 10 installations using product keys from older versions, such as Windows 7 and 8. According to the official announcement (via Windows Central), the company is closing the loophole that previously allowed new installations to activate the operating system with different product keys.

To provide context, in 2015, during the initial launch of Windows 10, Microsoft offered the operating system as a free upgrade for devices running Windows 8 and also for computers with Windows 7. However, this promotional offer expired precisely one year later, on July 29, 2016. Despite the expiration, users who upgraded during this period could continue activating their Windows 10 installations without purchasing a new product key.

Fast forward to 2021, when Windows 11 was introduced, users still had the ability to activate their Windows 11 installations using Windows 7 and 8 product keys.

Technically, the company never officially supported an upgrade path from Windows 7 to Windows 11, but users previously had the option to upgrade the operating system through the official setup while retaining their files. Following the upgrade, users were required to reconfigure their preferred settings and reinstall applications. For Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 users, the Windows 11 upgrade provided an option to retain files, some settings, and applications.

However, effective September 20, 2023, Microsoft has closed this loophole. Consequently, Windows 7 and 8 product keys will no longer activate new installations of Windows 11 or 10.

Despite this change, Microsoft has confirmed that upgrades from Windows 10 to Windows 11 will remain free. This means that a Windows 10 product key can still be used to activate a Windows 11 installation.

The company also says that devices previously activated using a product key from an older version of the operating system will continue to activate new installations on the same computer. This is because those activations have already been converted to digital licenses for the device.

Finally, it’s important to note that while it’s possible to upgrade a device with a non-genuine (pirate) version of the operating system to Windows 10, the upgrade process will not activate the installation. 

If Windows can’t be verified during the upgrade process, a watermark will appear in the bottom right corner of the screen, notifying the user. If you want to activate a new installation, you will have to purchase a new product key for Windows 10/11.

Update July 1, 2024: This content has been updated to ensure accurate information.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 15 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 21 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 Email him at [email protected].