Windows 7 users might finally decide to upgrade soon. Windows Latest today reported that a leaked build of Windows 11 suggests Microsoft plans to offer a free upgrade to the next significant update to the operating system when it debuts.
A caveat: This is based on a configuration package in a leaked build of an operating system that hasn't officially been announced yet. Microsoft's plans could have changed, or it may have planned for the upgrade to be paid all along.
Windows Latest said its claim was "based on the configuration keys found within Pkeyconfig (product key configuration package) in the leaked build of Windows 11." Those keys suggest Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users will be able to upgrade at no cost.
That upgrade path would make sense. Microsoft offers a free update to Windows 10, too, and that promotion is still valid even though it was supposed to end in 2016. Anyone with a valid key for Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 can take advantage of that offer.
Microsoft continues to sell licenses for Windows 10, of course, but the free upgrade from a prior version of Windows reinforces the platform's status as an operating-system-as-a-service on top of which the company's real money-makers are built.
Charging for Windows 11 when Windows 10 was a free update would come as a surprise. So would requiring systems running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 to install a free upgrade to Windows 10 before installing a free upgrade to Windows 11.
Windows 7 users have been on borrowed time—Microsoft officially dropped support for the operating system in January 2020. Windows 8.1 will follow suit in January 2023, and Microsoft plans to stop supporting Windows 10 in October 2025.
We should know more about how Windows users, from those relying on a version released over a decade ago to those running the most recent update, will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 after Microsoft's announcement on June 24.