Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free

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As of this morning, Windows 10 is available to Windows 7 or 8.1 owners as a free upgrade! Which is exciting news because the new OS is receiving some high praise. Although the transition to 10 is, by most accounts, seamless and a clear upgrade from previous versions, there are still some things you'll want to know before clicking the "Begin Install" button.

What's New in Windows 10?

Windows 10 is basically a refined version of the Windows you know and love, but with a few notable additions.

  • Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Siri or Google Now, only it's ALWAYS listening for your voice commands, which makes it at once more efficient and eerie.
  • Microsoft Edge is the company's new Internet browser and it's a considerable upgrade from its predecessor, Internet Explorer (IE).  Edge is fast, stylish and has some compelling features like web page annotation. Although IE was leading the pack in browser market share, it lagged behind Firefox and Chrome when it came to functionality. With these new features, though, Edge might be a worthy lightweight alternative.
  • Through Windows Hello, users with the right hardware will be able to log into their PCs via fingerprint, iris, and face scan.
  • The virtual desktops feature essentially allows you to have multiple invisible monitors within your one desktop. Each "desktop" can have its own set of apps and shortcuts, allowing you to separate out tasks into their own custom spaces.

Windows 10 Virtual Desktops

Should You Upgrade?

The answer is a pretty resounding yes. Not only is it free, but you get all the cool features above along with everything you loved about Windows 7 and 8. Don't rush into anything, though. If you qualify for a free upgrade, you'll have a whole year to redeem it (after that, it'll be $120 for the Home version and $200 for Pro).

There are a few things you should always do before upgrading to a new OS.

There have yet to be any reports of applications not working in Windows 10, but that's definitely a possibility. You can test the new OS out through that last link, or just wait a bit to download until any bugs get worked out naturally.

Who Can Upgrade?

The upgrade is available for free to ALL nonprofits. The minimum requirements for Windows 10 are pretty much the same as Windows 7 and 8: A 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM (2GB for the 64-bit version) and around 20GB of free space. If you've purchased a new computer in the last decade, it should match those specs. The main thing you might have to worry about is clearing up disk space.

How do You Upgrade?

Once you've taken all the necessary steps to prepare for an OS change, the rest is pretty straightforward.

Right now, Microsoft is giving Windows Insider testers first dibs, so you might not be able to access it today, but you can sign up to get in the upgrade queue. If you're running a qualifying Windows 7 or Windows 8 system, you've likely seen a "Get Windows 10" app in your system tray. If not, run Windows Update until you do. You just need to click "Reserve Your Free Upgrade" in the app to join the queue.

Once you get access, just run the installer, follow the prompts, and sit back. Your computer will reboot a few times and then give you some customization options. The entire upgrade process should take around 30 to 45 minutes.

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