After six years of Windows 10, we finally have a whole new version of Windows upon us. Windows 11 is very exciting, and we already have our first hands-on with an early build. But with it also come a lot of questions. Will Windows 11 be a free upgrade just like Windows 10 was? While Microsoft hasn’t announced anything officially yet, the answer seems to be yes.
What is Windows 11?
Windows 11 is the next major version of Windows, and on paper, it’s the first one we’ve had in six years. That’s quite a long time, considering new Windows versions used to arrive every three years or so. The reason this happened though was because Windows 10 was a continuously updating operating system. Instead of only getting new features every two to three years, Windows 10 received feature updates about twice a year. These would add new features and sometimes make pretty big changes.
Seeing the name Windows 11 may make you think this is a clean break from all that, but that’s not exactly true. We’ve been hearing about a major visual refresh for Windows for a while under the codename Sun Valley. For a few months, we believed this would be just another feature update for Windows 10. However, Microsoft is apparently going with a whole new branding. But that doesn’t change the fact that, at its core, this is still Windows 10. It just has a very different look, with some inspiration from a defunct project called Windows 10X.
What does that mean for upgrading?
If you’re using Windows 10, installing Windows 11 will most likely feel just like installing a Windows 10 feature update. Based on the leaked build we have our hands on right now, the update process is completely seamless and all user data is kept. If you’re already using Windows 10 and you have a valid license, you can easily upgrade to Windows 11 for free and with no big challenges. In fact, you can probably perform a clean installation of Windows 11 on your PC and have it activated right out of the box.
If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, there’s good news for you too. Again, Microsoft hasn’t officially announced this, but Windows 11 contains configuration files meant for users upgrading from these versions of Windows. Windows 10 was also a free upgrade for these users, and it looks like Windows 11 will be the same.
The difference here will only be the way you install the update. Windows 11 likely won’t be served through Windows Update, so you’ll have to use the Media Creation Tool to update your PC. Windows 11 will take your registration key and convert it into a valid Windows 11 license. If you’re using the original release of Windows 8, you’ll need to install Windows 8.1 first before upgrading, because Windows 8 is no longer supported. This is also a free upgrade, though.
This is all because Microsoft wants Windows to be as unified a platform as possible. Since it released Windows 10, we’ve often heard the company talk about how many devices are running the OS. Last month at Build, CEO Satya Nadella said there are now 1.3 billion devices with Windows 10. It wouldn’t make sense for the company to split its userbase again.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean Windows 11 itself is free. You still need a valid license, but if you’re using a previous version of Windows, that license will still work. Also, most laptops you can buy do include a Windows license, so you won’t have to buy it again. If you don’t have a valid Windows license, you’ll need to buy Windows 11, just as with Windows 10.
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