The final countdown has started! In fact, Windows 7 will stop receiving any updates exactly one year from today, on January 14th, 2020. Each day after that, Windows 7 will become more and more insecure and prey to security threats. However die-hard a Windows 7 user you are, it’s time to start upgrade preparations.
If you are not familiar with Windows 10, you can clean install it on dual boot beside your Windows 7. For that you will naturally need a valid product key to get Windows 10 activated. However, because the free upgrade offer which was supposed to end in July 2016 is still working, there’s a way to get Windows 10 installed in dual boot for free.
In this post I will show how to get Windows 10 installed and activated as a secondary OS alongside Windows 7 (or Windows 8.1) for free. This should give you time to familiarize yourself with Windows 10 while continuing to use Windows 7 as your production OS during the last year it remains viable.
Microsoft has never even remotely commented on why the free upgrade still works. I am relatively sure that it will work until end of life of Windows 7, January 14th 2020, and in Windows 8.1 case until January 2023. Whatever reason lies behind this extremely extended free offer, I cannot recommend using it in organizations. Feel free to upgrade your personal devices to Windows 10 for free, though.
OK, let’s start. Backup Windows 7 first. I recommend using Macrium Reflect but whatever imaging solution you’d prefer, do not start this process before creating a full system image. In computing, anything can go wrong, so a good backup is really important. When the backup is done, download the Windows Media Creation Tool (MCT) from here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/software-download/windows10
Upgrade the current Windows 7 to Windows 10 using MCT by following the on-screen instructions. When that’s done, check that Windows 10 is activated in Settings > Update & Security > Activation:
Windows 10 changed the licensing and activation concept. A digital license means that once a certain edition of Windows 10 is activated on a device, activation status for that device is stored digitally on Microsoft activation servers. All further installations of the same edition can be done without a product key, Windows 10 being automatically activated as soon as it has Internet connection to check activation servers. Notice that hard disk is not included in hardware ID used to check digital license. Changing CPU, GPU or motherboard will void digital license because the ID will change, but user can replace a hard disk anytime for any reason and perform a clean install of same edition to get it automatically activated based on existing digital license because all storage devices are excluded from hardware ID used for digital licensing.
Next step is to go back to Windows 7. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and click Get Started:
Notice that you have 10 days after the upgrade to do this.
OK, you are now back in Windows 7. Prepare a partition for to install Windows 10 and boot the computer from the Windows 10 install media to install it for dual boot. See this excellent tutorial at TenForums.com for the details: https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/2108-dual-boot-windows-10-windows-7-windows-8-a.html
When Windows 10 installation asks for a product key, skip it. The key is no longer needed because your device now has a digital license:
That’s it. You have now your original, activated Windows 7 and a digitally licensed and activated Windows 10 in dual boot. Enjoy!
Author: Kari Finn
A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.