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How to upgrade to Windows 10 for free after July 29

Yes, you can still grab Windows 10 for free after today, but you'll need to hurry to make sure you set things up just right.

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You can freely upgrade to Windows 10 beyond the July 29 deadline if you follow certain steps.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

The time is nigh. Friday is the last day you can score Windows 10 for free.

Or is it?

What if you don't want to upgrade to Windows 10 right now but may want to do so down the road? There is a way.

You will need to complete several steps before July 29 comes to a close. Once you do, you can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost whenever you like, instead of according to Microsoft's deadline.

Following Windows 8's failure to win over consumers, Microsoft has been trying hard to push people to jump to Windows 10. Since its official release a year ago, Windows 10 has been a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8.1 users. When that freebie ends today, you technically will be forced to shell out $119 for the regular edition of Windows 10 and $199 for the Pro flavor if you want to upgrade. Fortunately, though, Microsoft has built in a safeguard through which you can avoid that scenario.

Here's how to conjure up this bit of wizardry.

First, you'll need to upgrade your Windows 7 or 8.1 computer to Windows 10. (Don't worry this is only temporary.)

To do so, you can follow the steps in this CNET article appropriately named "Here's how to upgrade to Windows 10," or in this article dubbed "Windows 10 is only free for one more day. Here's how to get it."

You'll also want to snag a copy of Windows 10 that you can install on your own without having to grab it from Microsoft's website. Your best bet is to use Microsoft's media creation tool, available on the Get Windows 10 website. With the tool, you can place a copy of Windows 10 on a DVD or USB drive to install the OS as an upgrade or as a clean installation at any time.

OK, now Windows 10 is firmly in place on your PC. Your next step is to make sure the software is registered properly. To do this, click on the Start button and then click on the Settings command.

In the Settings screen, click on the category for Update & Security.

In the Update & Security screen, click on the setting for Activation. On the right pane, you should see a bit of text next to the Product Key entry that reads: "Windows 10 on this device is activated with a digital entitlement." Don't worry, I'll explain what this means.

But, you protest, you don't want Windows 10 right now. Well, that brings us to the next step. You can roll your PC back to Windows 7 or 8.1. Here's how...

In Windows 10, click on the Start button and then click on the Settings command.

In the Settings screen, click on the category for Update & Security.

In the Update & Security screen, click on the setting for Recovery. On the right pane, you'll see an option to go back to Windows 7 or 8.1. Click on the Get Started button for that option, and your PC will bounce back to your previous version of Windows.

Naturally, the rollback process will take some time, but it should proceed smoothly. So, will your previous version of Windows work without any problems? That depends. I've tried this process on some Windows 8.1 PCs, and it worked smoothly. I tried it on an old Windows 7 computer and did run into a couple of glitches where I had to reinstall certain drivers to get Windows back in gear.

So you'll definitely want to nose around the OS to make sure your applications and files are intact and working.

Now let's travel into the future, maybe six months from now. You've decided you want to upgrade to Windows 10 after all, and you don't want to pay for the privilege. You're in luck. Since you already installed Windows 10 once on your PC, the software has been given what Microsoft calls a "digital entitlement." Yep, that's the same piece of text that's listed next to the Product Key entry.

The digital entitlement ties your Windows 10 license to that specific computer. In a nutshell, this means you can freely reinstall Windows 10 on that PC even after reverting back to Windows 7 or 8.1, as long as you have already installed Windows 10 previously.

Now use the media creation tool you created six months prior to upgrade your current copy of Windows to Windows 10. Follow the steps to install Windows 10 as you had earlier, and the software will find its way onto your PC once again. If you want to be on the safe side, you can back up your PC at various steps in this entire process.

A spokeswoman from Microsoft confirmed that this method of upgrading to Windows 10 would work.

Yes, these steps take some time and you'll have to complete the first part of the process before today is over. But at least now you can keep your current version of Windows alive and jump to Windows 10 whenever you choose.

(Via ZDNet and HowtoGeek)