Windows 11 upgrades could be free for Windows 7 and 8 users

Windows 10
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 7 and 8 users might just be able to upgrade for free to Microsoft’s revamped Windows 11 – the rumored next step for Windows 10 – when the latter emerges later this year.

That’s the theory according to Windows Latest, which has been digging around in the leaked build of Windows 11 which recently surfaced, and found references to these older Windows operating systems in the product key configuration reader.

The material uncovered there suggests there will be an upgrade path for both Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 to make the leap to Windows 11 for free.

This kind of makes sense, because as you’re doubtless aware, it’s still possible for those on Windows 7 or 8 to upgrade to Windows 10, even though the official free upgrade was only supposed to last for the first year of the latter’s existence.

That free upgrade never went away in fact – we discuss how you can avail yourself of it right here – and as Windows 11 is still fundamentally Windows 10, just with a lot of interface changes and a big facelift (from what we can see in the leaked build), it’s not surprising that the scheme of things might remain in place when it comes to upgrades.

Then again, arguably the launch of the revamped OS, which is a visible step on from Windows 10, would make the perfect moment for Microsoft to finally kill off free upgrades for those on older Windows versions – just because it’s drawing a clear line in the sand.

Also, we should remember that we’re going off what’s just a leaked preview of Windows 11, and the finished product may differ, with these configuration bits and pieces potentially being tidied away closer to release.

Upgrade door ajar

As always in these situations, we’ll just have to wait and see, but given that Microsoft has held the door open – or perhaps that should be the window open – for older versions for some six years now, it’d be no surprise to see the software giant continue to do so.

Five years is a long time to let upgrade loopholes slide, after all, and it’d seem that Microsoft perhaps made a decision that it’s more important to get user numbers and drive adoption of Windows than it is to make money off selling licenses to upgrading punters. And of course it’s not like sales aren’t still coming in from new PCs with Windows on board.

If the free upgrade theory does turn out to be true for Windows 11 when it purportedly hits later this year, another question is whether Microsoft might make this an ‘official’ offer again – presumably with a time-limit, and perhaps a final one this time – or will it just continue to be an unofficial upgrade path, as with Windows 10 right now?

Another point to bear in mind here is that Microsoft will obviously want Windows 11 to be seen to have a successful launch, and to be a popular move, so driving up adoption numbers with the freebie upgrade might help in framing that perception. Indeed, this could be another argument for a fanfare – and big push – around an official upgrade offer being implemented once again, however unlikely that may seem on the face of it.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).