Home users of Windows 7 and 8.1 will get the Windows 10 upgrade for free, but there are a few conditions.

After revealing Windows 10 eight months ago, Microsoft has finally announced a release date for the free upgrade from Windows 7 and 8.1: July 29, just days from now. This is a little earlier than expected, and there are a few strings attached. First, this date is for the upgrade only. Microsoft has not announced availability of the retail version of Windows 10 or of a standalone download. So, if you prefer to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows, or if you want to download the update once to install on multiple devices, or if you want to obtain it on release day and install it later, you will have to wait a little longer. Second, the version for cell phones, dubbed Windows 10 Mobile, is not a part of this scheme; its release date has not been announced.

The process works like this: Starting last Windows Update, a Windows icon will pop up in your system tray if you are eligible for the upgrade. This icon comes courtesy of system update KB3035583, which installs an app called Get Windows 10. If you click the icon, the app window will open, and you can make a reservation for your download of Windows 10. Presumably this process enables Microsoft to gauge how many download servers it will need to handle the launch. You can also request an email confirmation, and you can cancel your reservation at any time. If you don’t make a reservation now, you can still schedule a download of Windows 10 later on (though the offer of a free upgrade expires after one year).

Windows 10

Microsoft estimates that it will take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour to process the Windows 10 upgrade. The time to actually download it will depend on your connection speed and how much infrastructure Microsoft has put in place to handle the launch. Microsoft says that making a reservation will also allow it to transmit some installation files ahead of time, in the background. This is designed to ease the burden on its servers on release day, and to reduce installation time for you. The total download size for the upgrade to Windows 10 will be around 3GB.

Microsoft says that if your PC can run Windows 7 or 8.1, it should be able to run Windows 10. This update won’t be like the jump from XP to Vista. The Get Windows 10 app that handles the upgrade process will also confirm that your PC is compatible. You can try Windows 10 in a virtual machine right now — consult our handy guide and decide if you want to take the plunge.

People who are currently using the Windows 10 Insider Preview will need Windows 7 or 8.1 on their PC to get this free upgrade. Otherwise, Microsoft will probably shut off access at some point, as it did with the preview version of Windows 7. And if Microsoft detects that your version of 7 or 8.1 has been pirated, it will not schedule a download of the Windows 10 upgrade for you.

First announced on September 30, 2014, Windows 10 will introduce a number of major changes, including:

  • The transition from Internet Explorer to Microsoft Edge, which will be able to run add-ons designed for Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome (finally!)
  • An update to DirectX 12
  • A unification of the platform to allow the same program to run on a desktop, tablet, and phone
  • The ability to run iOS and Android apps in Windows

Joseph Forbes (691)

Information Technology Consultant. For SMB, SOHO, and Online business. From Computers to Telecommunications this guy has been into it since hippies made it hip. Drone Pilot and Tech Aficionado I get to travel the State of Texas to help businesses succeed.