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I have a copy of Windows 7 that was upgrade from Windows Vista and now I'm interested in accepting the free update to Windows 10. However, there are a few concerns I have related to how this works for my use case.

Basically, I would like to know: does the windows 10 upgrade allow for a fresh install in order to avoid the bloat that exists from having to go up the update chain (From Vista -> 7 -> 10) and does it permanently give me a key that I can use whenever I want to install windows 10 again on future hardware?

I've read in a few places that it merely remembers your specific hardware configuration, but no details were given nor does it explain how it deals with cases where your hardware configuration has changed. It's also hard to find information about a fresh install when upgrading from windows 7 to 10, and even rarer to find that same information when talking about Vista -> 7 -> 10.

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  • You first have to upgrade from a previous version and be sure Windows 10 activates, if activated you can at any time do a clean re-install of W10, and it will activate with no key needed. – Moab Jan 6 '16 at 4:29
  • What happens if my hardware changes? Say I replace a graphics card or swap motherboard / cpu. – TheYokai Jan 6 '16 at 5:31
  • @Moab Yeah, I have yet to see that actually work... Upgraded dozens of computers to Windows 10 from 7, had a few HDD failures and replaced and reloaded with Win10 and not one would activate, had to reload 7 and upgrade again. – acejavelin Jan 6 '16 at 8:02
  • @acejavelin - You can manually copy the digital entitlement file. I also presume you did these tests before Version 1511 was released. It does indeed work, I have done it countless times for virtual machines, every single time I create a new virtual machine it automatically activates.. – Ramhound Jan 6 '16 at 15:29
  • @Ramhound hard drive dead... Didn't/couldn't copy anything. – acejavelin Jan 6 '16 at 15:31
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Basically, I would like to know, does the windows 10 upgrade allow for a fresh install in order to avoid the bloat that exists from having to go up the update chain (From Vista -> 7 -> 10) and does it permanently give me a key that I can use whenever I want to install windows 10 again on future hardware?

Windows 10 Version 1511 can be installed with the key of any eligible installation of Windows. This means Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 can be used to installed Windows 10 Version 1511. Windows Vista keys are cannot be used. Once Windows 10 is installed once on a given machine you don't have to supply a license key.

What happens if my hardware changes? Say I replace a graphics card or swap motherboard / cpu?

Microsoft considers a new motherboard to be a new machine. A user which accepts the free upgrade to Windows 10, is entitled to that upgrade, on a machine with an eligible installation of Windows installed on it for the life of the machine.

If that machine fails before July 29th 2016 and the previous version of Windows is a retail license, that previous version can be installed on the new machine, and that new machine can be upgraded to Windows 10.

If you want to be able to migrated the Windows 10 license itself to multiple machines purchase a retail license. In other words you are only entitled to a single Windows 10 installation (at a time) per eligible Windows license you own. This small limitation with the "free" license is due to the fact you are not given a Windows 10 license, and your activation rights, are handled with a digital entitlement. This specific limitation is unique to the digital upgrade of Windows 10, which applies to anyone who does not physically purchase, a retail license of Windows 10.

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  • Will it accept the key found the bios? – Moab Jan 6 '16 at 17:23
  • @Moab - Windows 10 will install the version it detects in BIOS. If somebody upgrades from say Windows 8.1 to Windows 8.1 Professional it should install Windows 10 Professional but if it doesn't you should be able to upgrade to Windows 10 Professional with the Windows 8.1 Professional key – Ramhound Jan 6 '16 at 18:16
  • > "This means Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 can be used to installed Windows 10 Version 1511. Windows Vista keys are cannot be used." @Ramhound Does this mean that Windows 10 upgrade is not actually available in my specific case? Or is it available, but only after I go through the upgrade process via the digital promotion? – TheYokai Jan 7 '16 at 1:29
  • All the requirements to receive the free upgrade to Windows 10 is on Microsoft's Windows 10 website. If you don't have a Windows 7 or Windows 8.x license then you cannot upgrade to Windows 10 for free. You can upgrade just not for free until July 29th 2016 – Ramhound Jan 7 '16 at 1:45

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