Microsoft to end secret free Windows 10 upgrade offer by end of year

More than a year after ending its free Windows 10 upgrade program, Microsoft is getting ready to shut down the last official free upgrade extension. The news wasn't exactly shouted from the rooftops.

Update 10/18/2017: The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is available, and you can download it now. Otherwise, Microsoft will automatically push the FCU to all PCs in a series of waves that should last for a few weeks.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is what every sequel shoots for: bigger, better, more ambitious than the original. As it rolls out in phases starting Tuesday (see Microsoft's blog post for details), our review focuses on Windows' big, risky bet on mixed reality, plus smarter investments in the pen, creative 3D apps, Edge, and even speech. A ton of practical, everyday additions won us over, including OneDrive placeholders and much longer battery life while watching movies.

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update launched on October 17, stuffed with all sorts of cool new features. That doesn’t mean you’ll get it immediately. Microsoft rolls out big updates in waves. But the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is available right now if you’re the impatient type.

And bold: Microsoft only pushes the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update to PCs if it knows your computer won’t run into technical issues or nasty bugs, like the broken webcams, Kindle-induced crashes, and system freezes that followed in the wake of Windows 10’s Anniversary Update in 2016. In fact, Microsoft actively discourages workarounds like the one below even though it makes them available.

Your PC will probably be fine if you download the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update ahead of schedule, all that said—but heed the warning and back up your PC’s data before you take the plunge. Better safe than sorry!

Microsoft obviously knew people were using the upgrade without any intention to use assistive technologies. Nevertheless, it kept the free upgrade offer going about 18 months longer than the general upgrade offer. During that time, Windows 10 adoption has advanced slowly but steadily. Some sources claim Microsoft is still struggling to increase Windows 10’s market share past that of Windows 7, but Microsoft itself says that hurdle has already been cleared. New PCs run Windows 10 out of the box, so that’s probably the bulk of future growth at this point. Anyone who’s going to upgrade probably already has.

Should you need a Windows 10 upgrade after the December 31st cutoff, you’ll probably have to pay for it. A license for the Home edition starts at about $75 for a system builder OEM copy that is tied to a specific PC. Retail copies with less restrictive licensing are a bit more expensive, as is the professional version of the operating system. However, Microsoft is reportedly planning to increase prices for Windows on some devices. That makes the decision to end the free upgrade just a little suspicious.

Before you force the issue, check to make sure that the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update isn’t actually available to you. Open the Start menu and head to Settings > Updates & Security > Windows Update. The status at the top tells you if your device is up to date, and when its status was last checked. Click the Check for updates button underneath and see if it offers up the Fall Creators Update.