Microsoft will be offering its next PC operating system, Windows 10, as a free upgrade to users who are currently using Windows 7 or 8.1 OS. The official date for the launch of Windows 10 is 25 July, and the free upgrade offer is valid for exactly one year from the release date—it means you can download the next Windows without paying extra, till 24 July 2016. But which exact edition of Windows 10 you receive as a free upgrade will depend on the current Windows edition.

Windows 7: If your PC is currently running any one of Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic or Windows 7 Home Premium versions, your computer will be eligible for an upgrade to Windows 10 Home edition. If your computer is running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate, the upgrade will be to Windows 10 Pro.

The only condition is that your Windows 7 PC should have the Service Pack 1 installed, for the free upgrade to happen. Windows 7 Service Pack 1, also known as SP1, was rolled out in 2011 as a free security update, and chances are that your PC already has it.

Windows 8.1: If your PC is running Windows 8, you will first have to do an upgrade to Windows 8.1—this update is free to download. Those who are running Windows 8.1 will receive Windows 10 Home. And those of you running Windows 8.1 Pro will receive Windows 10 Pro.

On the mobile phone side, if you’re running Windows Phone 8.1, you’ll get Windows 10 Mobile as your free upgrade.

Some Windows editions are not eligible for the free Windows 10 upgrade. These include the Windows RT/RT 8.1 versions, Windows 7 Enterprise and Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise. The Enterprise editions specifically are meant for large organizations, which usually have multiple device license agreements with Microsoft. The organization will have to strike a fresh deal for the new OS with Microsoft.

The big changes in the new OS

With Windows 10, Microsoft is switching towards a unified ecosystem which will include Windows 10 for PCs, Windows 10 for smartphones, Windows 10 for convertibles and hybrids as well as the software for their gaming and entertainment console, the Xbox. The biggest advantage of this will the seamless availability of apps across all devices—the same app will be available on the phone as well as the PC. Apart from this, there will be multiple usability, performance and functionality improvements. In fact, when we had experienced Windows 10 in a very early test mode last year, we had observed that Windows 10 is actually the last major release of Windows, because the software will become a “live, constantly innovated platform". This means that any new features, updates and security patches will be rolled out and automatically get downloaded on the machine the OS is installed on. Basically, you will get to version 10.1, 10.2 and beyond via the automatic online update method, without any need for separate installation, which can be extremely time consuming. (Read here)

What are the key differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro?

Windows 10 Home is designed for PCs, tablets and hybrid devices, for home and small business users. Windows 10 Pro will also run on the same set of devices, but offers extra features that allow organizations’ IT administrators to manage users’ devices on the company network and use the remote desktop tool.

Pricing after the one-year free upgrade offer

If you are not eligible for the update, a Windows 10 Home version will cost $119, while Windows 10 Pro will cost $199.

Close