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Still running Windows 7? Time is running out to upgrade to Windows 10. What to know

Windows 10 is required to upgrade to Windows 11. Here's why you need to update today.

Time is running out to upgrade to Windows 10. Microsoft no longer offers support for Windows 7, and now the company has launched Windows 11. If you're still running an older version of Windows, keep in mind that Windows 11 will only be available as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users, not older versions. Anyone on older operating systems will have to pay to upgrade. (Here's how to download Windows 11 and how to check if your computer's compatible.) 

If you're still running Windows 7, you can buy Windows 10 Home on Microsoft's website for $139 (£120, AU$225). But you don't necessarily have to shell out the cash: Over the summer, there was a free Microsoft upgrade offer that worked (it still might). Updating to Windows 10 now will make future updates, like Windows 11, easier. But you can expect to update to Windows 11 soon because support for Windows 10 will end in 2025

Read more: Windows 11 review: Familiar but fresh

Windows 7 users who don't upgrade to Windows 10 are already missing out on Microsoft's security updates, bug fixes and technical support. So the best way to protect your computer from viruses is to update it now. We'll show you how to download Windows 10 for free and give you the latest on Windows 11 computer requirements and a common Windows 11 error that Microsoft users are running into. And here's what you can expect before upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11. This story was recently updated. 

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How to download Windows 10 for free

Here's how to get Windows 10 for free, if you're currently running a licensed and activated copy of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 Home or Pro: 

1. Go to the Download Windows 10 website

2. Under Create Windows 10 installation media, click Download tool now and Run

3. Choose Upgrade this PC now, assuming this is the only PC you're upgrading. (If you're upgrading a different machine, choose Create installation media for another PC, and save the installation files.)

4. Follow the prompts. 

5. When the upgrade is complete, go to Settings Update & Security > Activation, and you should see a digital license for Windows 10. 

Windows 10's wallpaper

Microsoft is encouraging Windows 7 users to upgrade to Windows 10 now support for the former has ended. 

Stephen Shankland/CNET

It should be noted that if you have a Windows 7 or 8 Home license, you can only update to Windows 10 Home, while Windows 7 or 8 Pro can only be updated to Windows 10 Pro. (The upgrade is not available for Windows Enterprise. Other users may experience blocks as well, depending on your machine.) This upgrade using the media creation tool isn't meant for the general consumer, but it works for many nonetheless. 

To get the best Windows 10 experience and take advantage of features like passwordless sign-on through Windows Hello, you'll want to buy a new Windows 10 PC (or one released after July 2015) with all the hardware upgrades. If you're a student or university faculty member, you may also be able to download Windows 10 for free. (Search for your school's software offerings here.)

For more, check out the best antivirus protection of 2021 for Windows 10six security changes all Windows 10 users need to makeall of the big differences between Windows 10 and Windows 11 and every Windows 10 setting you should disable. You can also get Microsoft Office online free, too.