The year long free upgrade offer to Windows 10 for Windows 7/8.1 users is coming to an end on 29 July.
While I expect there will be a big push of upgrades leading up to the offers expiration in a little more than three weeks, most individuals who were likely to take advantage of the free offer have already done so.
Others may be using the tactic of upgrading their current system to Windows 10 to get their Digital Entitlement/License and then reverting back to Windows 7 or 8.1 until they are ready to make the move up to Windows 10.
However, there will be plenty of users who never heard about the free offer or simply opted to not change anything on their systems. For them it appears the upgrade process to Windows 10 after 29 July from their existing system will be different than Windows upgrades from eligible systems were in the past.
The retail packaging for each of those versions are labeled as full versions and not upgrades. That means they can be used to upgrade existing Windows 7/8.1 systems or to clean install on Windows XP and Vista machines.
In the past, when new versions of Windows were being released, there was always an upgrade version available for eligible systems at a reduced cost compared to the full version. In addition, there was also the actual full retail versions of the new operating system available for those who wanted to install it on a system that was not eligible for that less expensive upgrade version.
After 29 July, when a user decides they want to upgrade to Windows 10 and they have not previously taken advantage of the free upgrade options to Windows 10, it looks like there will be just one path to that migration to Windows 10 and that is the full versions that are being offered for sale through retail channels.
Since the full retail versions of Windows 10 will have their own product keys included in the package any hardware that meets the minimum specifications will be able to run the new OS and it will not matter what version of Windows was previously installed. You won't even need your old Windows product key to validate your upgrade eligibility.
Of course, one less expensive upgrade offer that will remain in place is the option to upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Professional through the Windows Store for $99.
If you upgraded from Windows 7/8.1 Home versions for free during this past year then this $99 offer is a great way to move up to the Pro version of Windows 10 at a savings of $100.
Of course, the vast majority of new users on Windows 10 after 29 July will get the operating system when they purchase their next computer off a store shelf or from an OEMs website.
However, the looming question after 29 July is whether or not Microsoft can reach their ambitious goal of Windows 10 being on one billion devices by July 2018. At this point, with over 350 million active devices now running the year old operating system, they only have 650 million to go.
I have reached out to Microsoft to confirm the absence of the less expensive upgrade options so I will update this article once I hear back from them.