Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest operating system, has been praised for its speed, efficiency, and features.
Publications like PC Magazine have lauded it as a “delightful” interface that offers the same performance and security benefits as versions Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 (both favorites among the PC community).
Before 2017, it was easy to get this free Windows upgrade offer from an older version.
But, Microsoft did away with that deal a little while ago.
Therefore, if you’ve recently purchased or built a computer and you’re looking to add this operating system, the latest version is going to cost you some money.
Currently, the Windows 10 Pro version costs around $200 and Windows 10 Home, the consumer version, runs around $119.
So, you’re probably wondering:
How can I get Windows 10 for free?
Is there any way I can get all the benefits of the latest Windows update without spending 200 bucks?
Well, yeah, there is.
There are a few different ways you can use the software for free. And, if those don’t work, we can help you get it for a lot less than the retail price.
Read on to find out how.
- Use A Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Product Key
- Skip the Activation Key
- Free Windows 10 Trial
- Student Discounts
- Check Google
- Avoid Scams
- Buy a New Laptop
Use A Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Product Key
If you want to upgrade your current version to Windows 10, you’ll have to enter an activation key. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use the software.
But, you don’t technically have to buy the program to get an activation key.
If you have an old copy of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, you can use the product key from that software to activate this version.
For this to work though, the key has to be unused. In other words, it can’t be the same key that you or someone else used to upgrade a previous version of the software.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself: Why would I have an old copy of Windows 8 just laying around?
Who in the world buys a software program and doesn’t use their activation key?
We get it. It’s highly unlikely that you happen to have an old, unused Microsoft box stored in your office.
But there’s always a chance, and this is how you would be able to get a “free” upgrade.
Maybe you never installed your copy on your old computer. Perhaps you misplaced the software and recently found it.
Whatever the case may be, those codes will work. All you have to do is install Windows and enter the code into the bar on the activation screen.
Skip the Activation Key (And Deal with the Warnings)
One weird aspect about Microsoft’s activation process is that you’re not required to enter an activation key at all if you don’t have one.
In other words, you can opt not to provide a key if you don’t have one.
It’s easy, too.
All you have to do is click “I don’t have a product key” or “Skip,” depending on which version you’re currently using, when it asks for one.
Then, you’re free to move forward.
Of course, nothing is free.
So, if you take this route, you won’t have access to all the benefits of Windows 10.
For example, you won’t be able to personalize any features including your desktop or screensaver.
And, your screen will have a Microsoft watermark visible during all of your computer activity, which may be annoying to some.
Plus, you’ll have to put up with constant warnings from the company, urging you to activate your software.
But, as long as you’re able to deal with those things, you’re free to use the software for as long as you’d like.
If Microsoft changes this policy, you’ll have to fork over some cash if you still want to keep using it.
The nice thing about this is that you can use the software while you scrape together enough money for an upgrade.
Download a Free Windows 10 Trial
You can get a free, 90-day trial of Windows 10 Enterprise.
Although this version is intended for large corporations to implement throughout their company, you can download Windows to use for three months.
- Start by clicking this link to head over the official Windows Enterprise site portal.
- Click the button that says “Get the Free Trial”
- The interface will take you to a screen that asks you to “select an evaluation file type”. Here, you’ll have the option to choose between the Enterprise version or the LTSC version. It doesn’t matter which one you choose (unless you’re testing this out for an enterprise company. Essentially, the LTSC version is for companies that can’t have automatic updates because they’ll mess with their software (i.e., hospitals, airports, etc.). The Windows 10 Enterprise version will regularly update to provide new features, which you won’t have to worry about if you’re only using it for 90 days.
- Select the version you’d like and click “Continue”.
- Before you can download the trial, you’ll have to enter some basic information like your name, your company name, email address, and a phone number. Enter your information and click “Continue.”
- You’ll also have to let Microsoft know what type of platform you’re working with. So, select either 32 bit or 64 bit and click “Download.” Don’t know what type of platform you have? Click here to learn how to figure it out.
Then, you have the next 90 days to enjoy the software for free.
The one downside, however, is that you can be sure a Microsoft representative will reach out to you regularly to see if you want to subscribe to their software. Don’t forget — they have your email and phone number now.
Of course, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to convert into a customer after the trial is over because this version is intended to be used by large teams, so it’s on the more expensive side.
But, if nothing else, it should get you through the next few months until you figure something else out.
Use Your Student ID to Get a Discount
Microsoft has always been pretty good at taking care of students. They’re constantly offering promos and discounts that can help students save money on laptops and other technology.
At the moment, they give out free copies of W10 Education to students who are currently enrolled at participating colleges and universities.
So, if you’re a college student looking to get Windows 10 for free, it should be pretty easy to do so.
Here’s how to get it:
- Head over to Microsoft’s OnTheHub website by clicking this link.
- Scroll down until you see the purple and white section that reads “Upgrade to Windows 10 Education Now.”
- Enter your the country and state that your school is in.
- Then, enter the name of your institution in the “School” box.
- If your school is a participating institution, it will appear in the drop-down box. Unfortunately, if it doesn’t appear, you’re ineligible to receive the Microsoft student discount.
- In some cases, you may find that only specific departments within a college or university are eligible. The medical department at UCLA may participate in the student discount program, for example, while their history department may not.
- If you’re eligible for the student discount through your school and department, then you can move forward. Microsoft will ask you for some basic information including your name, school email address, and student ID number before you’re able to download the upgrade.
Check Google for Discounts
From time to time, you’ll find that software retailers offer discounts on Windows 10. But, many of these sales only last a day or so.
If you want to get a deal, you’ll have to search around on Google for a store that’s selling it on the cheap.
Occasionally, you’ll find retailers selling it for as low as $50.
Now, if you choose to buy the software at a discount, make sure that you purchase it from a Genuine Microsoft Dealer.
These dealers should be able to provide you with a Certificate of Authenticity stating your product is Genuine Microsoft Software.
According to the company, there are very few stores online that are authorized to distribute the software legally, so be wary.
The company also offers a few tips on how to tell whether a product is authentic or not:
When Buying Physical Software
- Check for an orange or white product key label with a 25-digit code on the outside of the box. Never purchase a product key separately.
- Look for a holographic security label on all Windows 10 USB drives.
- Make sure that there is a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker on the package. If you hold the label at eye level, an arm’s length away from you, a zig-zag pattern should appear on the sticker.
When Buying a Digital Download
- Never purchase it from a P2P file-sharing service or auction website, as there is no insurance or warranty.
- Don’t buy a product key by itself, as it could be a pre-used code (or even just a made up number).
You Could Always Buy a New Laptop
If you’ve already exhausted your free trial and you have no other options, you could always buy a new PC or refurbished laptop with the software already on it.
If you need a computer for surfing the web and typing up documents, it might not make sense for you to invest in $200 software.
PC laptops are pretty inexpensive these days, and you can usually find one for around the same price as the Windows 10 upgrade.
Currently, Best Buy carries more than 100 computers that come preloaded with the latest Windows software.
And many of them go for less than or are right around $200.
There’s an 11.6” ASUS, for example, that runs between $170 and $200 and has Windows 10 S already on it.
And while this isn’t the fastest or most powerful laptop in the world, it can handle most basic tasks with ease.
If you’re a gamer, you’re going to need something a little bit stronger, so we wouldn’t recommend this for you.
But, if you’re just a run-of-the-mill internet user, this could be your best bet.
Be Careful Out There
Remember, don’t go buying fake product keys just because you want Microsoft 10.
There are a handful of people out there selling phony codes to make a buck, and you could end up wasting your money. For people who use Windows, this is a tricky thing.
If you’re desperate to get the software right now, your best bet is probably to skip the activation process and deal with the watermarks.
Or, you could sign up for that Windows 10 Enterprise trial and screen your calls to avoid those reps (unless you want to subscribe).
Ultimately, the trouble could be worth it. After all, this may be the best version of Windows yet. The best way to ensure a clean installation is by making sure you cross your T’s and dot your I’s.
So, even if there’s an opaque watermark plastered across your screen, you’ll still be able to enjoy the convenience and flexibility of this operating system.
Finding a legitimate Windows 10 free upgrade can be hard to come by, but with some research and creative thinking, the installation process can be done.