You can no longer activate Windows 11 with Windows 7 or 8 keys
Planning to use a Windows 7 or Windows 8 key to upgrade to Windows 11? Well, you are in tough luck, because Microsoft has patched the loophole.
When Microsoft released Windows 10 in 2015, it announced that users could upgrade to the new version of the operating system for free, with their Windows 7 and Windows 8 license. The company's original plan was to end this upgrade path a year later, i.e. in 2016.
But in reality, Microsoft never actually blocked Windows 7 and 8 users from activating Windows 10. This loophole continued to exist beyond the release of Windows 11 in 2021. So users with older computers were able to take advantage of the "offer" to upgrade to the latest version of Windows without paying a dime for it. That ends today. This is not an unplanned move, Microsoft made an announcement on its Device Partner Center portal last month, to say that it had removed the upgrade patch from Windows 7 or Windows 8 to Windows 11. But many users had reported that the option was still working. That was the case, until today.
Microsoft ends free upgrade path from Windows 7 / 8 to Windows 10 / 11
It appears that the Redmond company has finally pulled the plug on the free upgrade path from Windows 7 / 8 to 10 / 11. Microsoft has confirmed to The Verge that users will no longer be able to activate Windows 11 with a Windows 7 or 8 key. Tom Warren from The Verge put this to the test, he says that he had tried several Windows 7 keys on a clean installation of Windows 11 22H2, but none of them had worked. Attempts to activate a legacy key will throw the following error message, "We can’t activate Windows on this device because you don’t have a valid digital license or product key”.
The screenshot (courtesy Tom Warren), shows an option that will take users to the Microsoft Store, to buy a Windows 11 license.
Even though my laptop came with Windows 10 Home out of the box, I had used my Windows 8 Pro retail key to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro for free, and later to Windows 11 Pro. Users who had done the same, i.e. to use a Windows 7 or Windows 8 key to activate Windows 10 or Windows 11 are unaffected by the change. The upgrade path is blocked for new activations only. The only way to upgrade to Windows 11 from the legacy versions of the operating systems, is by buying a digital license. I think it is safe to assume that there are more users on Windows 10 than people who use Windows 7 or 8. The question is, are those numbers really high enough to affect Windows 11 sales? That could be the only reason why the company has patched the loophole, it's all about the business.
Microsoft says that the only free upgrade path for Windows 11 is to do so from Windows 10. Users may argue that Windows 11 and 10 are practically identical, and that the latter is the more optimized one, and has less bloat. But the thing is, you won't have much of a choice, as Microsoft will end support for Windows 10 on October 14, 2025, which is just 2 years from now. Windows 11 will become the norm in 2025, and there are hints that indicate that Microsoft is working on Windows 12.
There are a lot of gray market sites that claim to sell legitimate licenses of Windows for cheap, don't fall for these scams. Even if the key does activate successfully, these licenses are usually volume license keys that are sold to Enterprises. So, there is a good chance that Microsoft could revoke these unauthorized licenses.Advertisement