How To Upgrade Windows 8.1 to Windows 10

Windows 10 rolled out in 2016 with a free upgrade period. Users who had the GWX app installed received priority status for free and automatic upgrades. But Microsoft officially discontinued free upgrades in early 2018.

However, as of this moment you can still upgrade your Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 free of charge.

Can You Upgrade for Free

Officially, the free upgrade program for Windows 10 hasn’t been available for quite some time. Microsoft stopped the program on July 29, 2016. However, Windows 10 remained available free of charge for more than a year after that to those who rely on assistive technologies to use Windows.

Win 10 Logo

During the extension period, which lasted until January 16, 2018, all other Windows 8.1 users could also get the free upgrade. That’s because Microsoft didn’t actually verify if a user needed assistive technologies. It was based on an honor system, and some claimed that this was only Microsoft’s workaround in the face of complaints from its various OEM partners that were against the long free upgrade periods.

At the end of the extension period, the page simply informed users that the offer was no longer available. Those who upgraded during the initial and extension periods needed a digital license to unlock their copy of Windows 10.

The license was available for free and there doesn’t appear to be an expiration date. Users could obtain their license on Windows activation servers. Those who decide to upgrade now will also automatically get their digital licenses.

Therefore, it is still possible to upgrade to Windows 10 for free despite the expiration of the free upgrade period. There are two ways to go about it, which are as follows.

Method 1

You can upgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 through the Windows Update feature in Control Panel. Let’s see how it’s done.

  1. Press the Windows and X keys together or right-click on the Windows Start icon at the bottom-left corner of the screen.
  2. Select the Control Panel option from the pop-up menu.
  3. Next, click on the Windows Update link. It is located at the bottom of the list.
    Control Panel Windows Update
  4. In the Windows Update window, click on Get Started to initiate the upgrade.
  5. Windows will present you with the License Agreement. Click Accept to agree to it.
  6. Next, you’ll be given the option to postpone the upgrade; you have 72 hours at your disposal. If you don’t want to wait, you can dismiss the schedule and proceed with the upgrade process.
  7. When the upgrade process will proceed automatically, which might take a while, so arm yourself with patience. During the process, your computer will restart several times.
  8. When it’s done, a Welcome Back screen will greet you. To finish the Windows 10 setup, follow the onscreen instructions.
  9. Next, you’ll get to choose your Windows settings. If you opt for the Use Express settings option, setup will load Windows 10’s default settings. You can also click on the Customize settings option and adjust the settings to your liking.
  10. It will also guide you through the rest of the setup including calibrating Cortana.
  11. When setup is complete, you’ll be able to log in with the same credentials as on Windows 8.1.
  12. Give Windows a moment or two to set up all the apps. Once it’s done, you’ll see the Home screen.

By default, auto updates will be turned on. However, if you’d like to update your Windows 10 right away, open Settings, select Update & Security and click on Check for Updates.

Method 2

There’s another way to get a free upgrade to Windows 10. This will require you to download the setup tool from Microsoft’s official site manually.

  1. Launch your favorite browser and go to the Windows 10 download page.
  2. Find the Download Tool Now button and click on it.
  3. Once it’s downloaded, run it.
  4. The app will ask you about how to proceed. If you want to upgrade the present computer, select the Upgrade this PC now radio button and click Next. The app will take you through the same setup process as described in method 1. Start from step 6.
    Media Creation Tool
  5. If you’d like to upgrade another computer, select the second option and click Next. You can create an image file or save Windows 10 files to a bootable USB flash drive.
  6. If you’ve chosen to upgrade the computer you’re on, the app will automatically install Windows 10 and guide you through the setup process.

Note that Windows will not ask you to provide a product key. Instead, you will automatically get a digital license. To confirm it, launch Settings, select Update & Security, and click on Activation.

Windows Activation

The license is tied to the computer, meaning that you can uninstall and reinstall that same copy of Windows on that computer for as many times as you want.

Is the License Valid

There’s much confusion about the validity of the digital license. Microsoft has always been a bit vague on the whole free upgrade thing, leaving many users unsure of what’s really going on and whether the license will expire at some point.

From the looks of it, the digital licenses dispensed by Windows Activation servers do not expire. After all, when Windows 10 came out, the industry had yet to fully adopt the subscription model and many licenses were permanent. Most importantly, the free version of Windows 10 works well for all intents and purposes.

Enjoy Windows 10

With the methods covered in this write-up, you’ll be able to get a copy of Windows 10 on your computer for free even though the official free upgrade periods had long expired. Judging by the way things are going, this doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.

Have you upgraded to Windows 10 after the expiration of the free upgrade period? If so, the community would like to know what’s your first impression of the OS and if you have encountered any problems since.

One thought on “How To Upgrade Windows 8.1 to Windows 10”

Avatar Marie says:
PLEASE HELP! I have a Surface RT that began with win 8 but uploaded 8.1 years ago without asking! I have taken it back to factory a number of time but everytime I start again in starts in 8.1 WHICH I HATE Everytime I try to do anything like this it tells me “This app can’t run on your PC” no matter what I am trying to do or open. I cannot create a disk or even just download and open. I have a legitimate copy of Win 10 that came on my new desktop that I am trying to get on my Surface. Any ideas? thanks

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