Microsoft kills loophole that let Windows 7 keys activate Windows 11 and 10

Windows 7 wallpaper
(Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft is closing the loophole that allowed older Windows product keys to activate Windows 10 and Windows 11.
  • This loophole has existed since Windows 10 first launched as a "free" upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.
  • That free upgrade was supposed only last a year, but remained open and worked with both Windows 10 and Windows 11 until now.
  • Windows 10 keys will continue to work on Windows 11.

When Windows 10 first launched back in 2015, Microsoft also made the OS a free upgrade for all Windows 7 and Windows 8 users who did so within the first year of its release. After July 29, 2016, that offer expired, and Windows 10 was no longer a free upgrade... except, it was.

Even though Microsoft said the upgrade offer had expired, users found that they could still upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8 to Windows 10 without needing to buy a new product key. In fact, Windows 10 would accept Windows 7 and 8 keys with no question asked.

When Windows 11 rolled around in 2021, those older Windows 7 and Windows 8 keys continued to work, likely because under the hood, Windows 11 was just Windows 10 with a fresh coat of paint. But now, as we move into the next era of Windows, Microsoft is closing that loophole.

Announced today, older Windows 7 and Windows 8 keys will no longer activate Windows 10 or Windows 11. This change is already in effect with the latest Windows Canary preview builds, which are testing the next major version of the Windows client due out next year.

The announcement said:

"Microsoft's free upgrade offer for Windows 10 / 11 ended July 29, 2016. The installation path to obtain the Windows 7 / 8 free upgrade is now removed as well. Upgrades to Windows 11 from Windows 10 are still free."

As of right now, these older keys still activate the production builds of Windows 11, but it's unclear how long that will remain. Microsoft says Windows 10 product keys will still be able to activate Windows 11, as long as you're using Windows 11 on an eligible PC that officially supports the newer OS.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads