Bargain Hunter How to get Windows for less
WE TRACK DOWN THE BEST BANG-FOR-BUCK OPTIONS FOR BUYING A NEW COPY OF WINDOWS.
BUILDING A NEW PC (or upgrading and old one) can be very rewarding, but while it is easy to shell out for more RAM, buying a new OS always feels oh-so pricy. It shouldn’t, of course, considering it’s a key part of a new build and worth every dollar. But with the mess that Windows 10 upgrades became, it’s easy to be frustrated by not being able to move your existing copy to a new machine. Not to mention, any savings are a good thing, and there are loads of ways to spend less on software, and more on hardware. It gets a little trickier once you discover that many of the more affordable ways to get Windows 10 are not always the most legitimate. To help out, we put together a guide to getting the best deal on your next OS. Of course, Windows is not the only OS out there, but Linux and MacOS deserve a separate guide.
KEEPING YOUR EXISTING LICENCE
While it copped some flak, Windows 10 is an excellent operating system, especially for gamers. Microsoft also made it very easy for everyone to upgrade their existing Windows 7 or 8 PCs to Windows 10 for free, so it’s hard to complain about the price. Of course, that freebie has a few caveats, compared to the full paid version. The issues arise around what your previous version of Windows was, and if you upgraded or not. During the upgrade process, rather than giving a Windows key, Microsoft creates a digital licence based on the hardware in the PC at the time. Once activated, even if you format the machine, it will activate again automatically once connected to Microsoft’s servers. Swap out the motherboard, though, and Microsoft sees it as a new machine, and the old digital licence is not valid. Other hardware changes such as GPU and HDD are not an issue though. For major upgrades, this means your existing copy of the Windows 10 may have to stay with your old PC. Microsoft does allow replacements for failed hardware, and some users report that going through the phone activation process can get it working again, but your results may vary.
The simplest option is to simply buy Windows — but how to find the best price, and what version should you buy? Generally, the best bet is to compare prices from retailers on services such as getprice.com.au and staticice.com.au — at the time of writing, prices start from about $130. We cover it in more detail below, but avoid OEM versions, which are often sold very cheaply, as they may not be legitimate. Students and educators should check with their school — there are potentially free or discounted software licences available. Windows 10 Home is the cheapest, and for normal use, it’s the best choice. Compared to Pro, it lacks a few features, but even the more useful, such as Remote Desktop, are not really needed. Unless your PC specifically needs it 32-bit, you will be installing the 64-bit version, but both are included in the licence.
FREE UPGRADES ARE STILL OPEN
While the original free upgrade offer for Windows 10 is technically expired, it’s actually still possible do to. You’ll still need a copy of Windows 7 or 8, but you might already have one lying around. It’s also possible to buy the latter, and while they’re cheaper than Windows 10, the update process can be frustrating, so be prepared for some hassles. One method is via Microsoft itself, which still provides the upgrade for those using assistive technologies. There is no restriction on what counts as an assistive technology, so anyone can use the upgrade. Of course, this falls into a grey area, but is an option. Another option that worked for us on an old laptop running Windows 8 was to just do the upgrade manually. Download the Windows 10 Media Creation tool ( www.microsoft.com/ software-download) and run it on your PC of choice. Select ‘Upgrade this PC now’, and follow the prompts to upgrade. We have not
THE SIMPLEST OPTION IS TO SIMPLY BUY WINDOWS — BUT HOW TO FIND THE BEST PRICE, AND WHAT VERSION SHOULD YOU BUY?
tried it (and don’t condone it), but many users report that even non-legitimate copies of Windows 7 can be upgraded successfully to Windows 10 for free.
THE OEM DANCE
Jumping onto websites such as eBay.com.au, there are loads of sellers with ‘legitimate’ copies of Windows 10 for sale for as little as a few dollars. These are OEM licences, and to get around the regulations, claim to ship with the ‘broken’ computer they are from (but don’t really). In reality, they are likely keys meant to be used in the computer refurb business, or on an OEM machine, and not meant to be sold individually. We tried one and it worked just fine but there is no guarantee it won’t be disabled in the future. It is also locked to the motherboard it is first installed on, but with keys costing under $5, it’s not a big deal to buy another next time you upgrade. Once again, the legitimacy is a grey area and probably best avoided.
Those who use assistive technologies in Windows 10 can still upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 for free.
The Windows 10 Trial never stops working, but has some minor restrictions and a watermark after 30 days.
Marketplaces such as eBay offer cheap copies of Windows 10, but these are repurposed OEM licences that are best avoided.
Avoid the Microsoft Store, as its prices are significantly more than full versions through other retailers.
Using Microsoft’s Media Creation Tool, you can still manually upgrade Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 without restrictions.