Ever since Microsoft launched Windows 10, it’s made the OS officially or unofficially available. Officially, you stopped being able to download or upgrade your system to Windows 10 on July 29, 2016. Unofficially, you can still download an upgrade license for the OS. And despite statements from Microsoft that it would absolutely-no-fooling-really-truly kill the Windows 10 free upgrade offer on December 31, 2017, that offer is still good even in 2021.
Microsoft’s first giant push to convince customers to use Windows 10 was marred by an increasingly heavy hand as the campaign went on, to the point that it was both accused of malware tactics and later admitted to the same. We’ll never know exactly how many people avoided the upgrade for this reason alone, but at the time some readers had indicated they were disgusted by the company’s behavior and refused to update.
Most end users have upgraded to Windows 10 already over the years, but if you haven’t, you’ve got a few legal options. Any valid legal copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8 that you’ve previously purchased can still be upgraded to Windows 10. You can visit this Microsoft page to download Windows 10 on any machine with a legal copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8. Choose to upgrade the PC, and Microsoft will handle the license update for you, no problem.
If you don’t already have a legal copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8, a free option still exists. You can download Windows 10 from Microsoft and install it on any PC you like. You’ll always get updates and gaming features and the OS is identical to the activated, paid version. There are two limits on a copy of Windows 10 that hasn’t been activated properly:
1). An “Activate Windows” watermark in the lower right-hand corner.
2). You can’t personalize the desktop. You can set your wallpaper by directly clicking on an image, and you can still access desktop magnification settings.
We don’t bother to activate Windows 10 on testbeds — it’s self-defeating — and those are the only two limits not activating Windows places on the end user.
Windows 10 Home licenses are available on various websites for as little as $25, but times have been tight for a lot of folks this past year. Sometimes, when you’re building a PC, you really need to save on every last penny. If you can’t stand the idea of a watermark on your desktop and/or you need those personalization options, you can still purchase a legal license for Windows 7 for as little as $13.50. That license will upgrade to Windows 10 through the same process outlined above, and you can pocket the $10 to $12 difference.