Reserve Windows 10 without using it

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 25, 2016
Updated • Jul 5, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

Only a couple of days are left until Microsoft's "everyone, gather around and grab a free copy of Windows 10" offer expires.

Without getting into the "should you, or should not you" argument again when it comes to the upgrade offer to Windows 10, you may wonder if there is a way to grab the license of Windows 10 without actually using the operating system right away.

There are good reasons for upgrading to Windows 10, and there are reasons not to upgrade. Some users might want to grab the license while it is free, and continue to use another version of Windows for the time being.

The main idea behind the train of thought is that you could upgrade to Windows 10 at a later point in time without having to pay money for it.

While you may use Windows 7 SP1 until 2020 and Windows 8.1 until 2023, as security patches will be delivered until then by Microsoft, you may need to upgrade early depending on how you use the computer.

For instance, new hardware released in the coming years may not be compatible with Windows 7 or 8 as Microsoft does not need to provide feature updates to Windows 7 anymore already, and soon no longer for Windows 8.

Ultimately, when support is dropped, you will have to make a decision. Sure, you could continue using the operating system but without security patches, that is not really recommended. You could switch to Linux or another operating system, or, upgrade to Windows 10 at that point.

Reserve Windows 10 without using it

reserve windows 10

First thing you need to know is that you cannot reserve a license without installing the operating system on the device. That's unfortunate but there is no way around this that I know of.

Good news is that once you have installed Windows 10 on the device, that device is linked to the operating system using a Microsoft Account. Basically, Microsoft links the PC to the Windows 10 license, and will activate the operating system whenever it is installed on the machine.

You have a couple of options to get that digital entitlement. All require some work on your part:

Upgrade and Roll Back

Upgrade to Windows 10, then use the roll back functionality to go back to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1. This method requires little preparation, but is a bit of a hit and miss operation. Basically, what you do is download and use the Windows 10 Upgrade Tool to upgrade to Windows 10.

Once done, press Windows-I, and go to Update & Security > Recovery and select the "Go back to" option listed there for the first 30 days after installation.

The upgrade and downgrade may work well and if it does, is one of the fastest options that you have. You may run into issues however, for instance while downgrading, and that is why you should create a system backup before you perform the operation.

Back up, Upgrade, Restore Backup

veeam endpoint backup free 1.5

If you create a system backup anyway, you may as well restore it after you have upgraded to Windows 10 on the machine.

You may use quite a few programs to create the backup. I prefer Veeam Endpoint Backup but you may use backup programs like Macrium Reflect or one of these drive backup programs instead.

Please note that you need enough storage space for the backup. If the main drive that Windows is installed on occupies 80 or so Gigabytes, you need at least that amount of space on another hard drive preferably to back up the data.

Run the upgrade once you have created the backup (and verified it). Once done, run the backup software again (or use a standalone copy of it), and restore the backup that you have created.

The Hard Drive Swap Trick

The following method requires that you have at least one other hard drive with enough space at your disposal. Also, you need to original product key for this to work.

Instead of running Microsoft's Upgrade Tool on a running older version of Windows, you'd do the following instead:

  1. Download the latest Windows 10 ISO image from Microsoft. Create a bootable USB drive with the installation files.
  2. Power down the PC.
  3. Disconnect the main hard drive, connect the secondary hard drive you have lying around.
  4. Connect the USB drive to the PC as well.
  5. Boot the PC from the USB drive and follow the installation dialog to install Windows 10.
  6. You are asked to enter the product key at one point in time for activation.
  7. Once Windows 10 is activated, power down the machine, and connect the disconnected drive again.

The PC should boot into the old operating system as if nothing happened.


Once Windows 10 is installed, make sure the operating system is activated before you restore the previous version of Windows.

  1. Tap on Windows-I to open the Settings application.
  2. Go to Update & Security > Activation.

It should read "Windows is activated" and "Windows 10 on this device is activated with a digital entitlement".

Also, if you are not totally against Windows 10, you may want to use it for some time to find out whether you like it. Just note that the roll back option is only available for the first 30 days.

If you want step by step instructions check out How To Geek's guide.

Reserve Windows 10 without using it
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Reserve Windows 10 without using it
Find out how to reserve Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system on a machine running Windows 7 or Windows 8 without using it.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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