Windows 10 Is No Longer Free—So What Now?

Microsoft® has officially ended its offer to upgrade Windows® users to Windows 10 for free. So what happens now?

Windows 10 users are good to go
If you’ve already upgraded your Windows OS to version 10, you are locked in for the life of your computer. There is no expiration date on these upgrades. Your free Windows 10 upgrade will remain valid for as long as your PC (or other Windows device) lasts.

No free offer extensions
However, if you have yet to upgrade to Windows 10, you are now past the July 29, 2016 expiration of the free offer. If you want to upgrade to Windows 10, you’ll have to buy it. The current price is $119.99 for Windows 10 Home. Windows 10 Pro goes for $199.99.

What about Windows 10 Pro?
Now that you have to pay for an upgrade to Windows 10 anyway, should you consider going Pro? The following table summarizes the main differences between Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro:

Windows 10 Home vs Windows 10 Pro: What You Get

Feature Windows 10 Home Windows 10 Pro
Create and join a domain
(work network)
Bitlocker -
Group policy management -
Remote Desktop -
Hyper-V (virtualization) -
Assigned Access -
Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer -
Windows Store for Business -
Trusted Boot -
Windows Update for Business -
Maximum supported RAM 128 GB 2 TB

As you can see, it is far from obvious that Windows 10 Pro is worth the extra cash. Most if not all of the above Pro-only features probably do not mean a lot to most Windows users.

What about support for my beloved Windows 7?
There are important upcoming changes to the ways in which Microsoft will support older operating systems going forward. If you do not plan to upgrade to Windows 10 in the very near future, you should be aware of them.

First off, it’s important to understand the difference between Windows mainstream support and extended support.

Mainstream vs. extended support
When an OS loses mainstream support it simply means that it will no longer receive new product features or software tweaks. You also won’t be able to call Microsoft for free help.

The OS enters the extended support phase at this point. For example, during the “XPocalypse” of 2014, Windows XP moved out of the extended support phase it had been in since 2009. Windows XP still received security patches and critical hotfixes until April 2014; the software just wasn’t in active development after 2009.

Mainstream support lasts five years from the date of each operating system’s general availability. Though they do not guarantee it, usually Microsoft will provide extended support for a decade past the general availability date. For example, extended support for Windows 7 lasts until January 14, 2020. This support phase began in January 2015, when Windows 7 mainstream support ended.

End of OS support—key dates
The following table shows when the different types of support end for each Windows OS, as well as the latest service pack or update you should have to maximize PC stability and security.

Windows OS Latest Update Mainstream Support End Extended Support End
Windows XP SP3 4/14/09 4/08/14
Windows Vista SP2 4/10/12 4/11/17
Windows 7 SP1 1/13/15 1/14/20
Windows 8 Windows 8.1 1/09/18 1/10/23
Windows 10 Anniversary Update 10/13/20 10/13/20

Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries.

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UpToSpeed™ is iolo's ongoing article series written by PC experts for everyday computer users. Each article is packed with easy tips and practical advice on the latest issues affecting computers to help you get the most out of your PC.

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Windows 10 Is No Longer Free—So What Now?