Everything To Know About Free Windows Upgrade Paths

Key Points

Microsoft had announced an exciting offer for eligible Windows 10 users to upgrade to Windows 11 for free! However, only Windows 10 PCs running the latest version and meeting the minimum hardware requirements will be eligible for the upgrade.

Not only that, but you can also upgrade your Windows edition while remaining on the same OS version. For example, if you are using Windows 10 Home edition, then you can switch to either Windows 10 Professional, or upgrade to Windows 11 Home, or another supported edition.

While the exact duration of the free upgrade period is unknown, Microsoft has provided guidelines for users who need to switch editions. For instance, if your current edition lacks certain required features, you can perform an edition upgrade to gain access to those advanced functionalities.

You can also perform in-place upgrades of the Windows Server operating systems.

In this article, we will provide you with all the information needed regarding the free upgrade period and valid upgrade paths.

What is Windows Edition

Windows edition refers to different variations of the Windows operating system. Microsoft offers various editions of Windows, each designed to meet specific needs and target different user groups. These editions may have different features, functionalities, and capabilities.

For example, there are editions designed for personal use, such as Windows 10 Home or Windows 11 Home, which provide essential features for individual users. On the other hand, there are editions focused on businesses, like Windows 10 Pro or Windows 11 Pro, which offer advanced features and management capabilities suitable for professional environments.

Windows editions may vary in terms of security features, networking capabilities, device management options, virtualization support, language availability, and more. Some editions may be more limited in terms of supported hardware or scalability compared to others.

It is worth noting that Microsoft often releases different editions of Windows to cater to specific markets or user segments. For instance, there may be specialized editions like Windows 10 Education for educational institutions or Windows 10 Enterprise for large organizations with volume licensing agreements.

Learn more about the different Windows editions in our separate guide post.

When upgrading or purchasing a Windows operating system, it is essential to consider the edition that best suits your needs and requirements, as each edition offers a different set of features and capabilities.

How to Check Windows Version, Edition

Although there are many methods to check which Windows version , edition, and build you are currently running on your PC, the simplest way is through the Run Command box. Here are the steps to check your current Windows details:

  1. Press the Windows Key + R to open the Run Command box.

  2. Type in “winver” and press Enter.

    This will open an “About Windows” box where OS information will be displayed.

Check Windows version edition and build
Check the Windows version, edition, and build

What is an Edition Upgrade

As the name suggests, an edition upgrade means moving from one Windows edition to another that offers more features and capabilities.

For example, let’s say you have Windows 10 Home, which is the most basic version of Windows with limited features. If you want more advanced features and tools that are available in Windows 10 Pro, you can perform an edition upgrade.

By doing an edition upgrade, you can gain access to features like enhanced security, advanced management tools, improved networking capabilities, and more.

Microsoft Free Upgrade Period

Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 11 for eligible systems. However, while the free upgrade period does not have a fixed expiration date, Microsoft reserves the right to discontinue support for the free offer in the future. It is crucial to stay informed about any updates or announcements from Microsoft regarding the status of the free upgrade offer.

Microsoft clarified that the discontinuation of the free upgrade offer will not happen before October 5, 2022. However, almost half of 2023 has already passed, and Microsoft has not yet discontinued the free upgrade offer. That said, it is uncertain when the offer ends. So, take advantage of the opportunity while it lasts and make an upgrade to Windows 11 if your system is eligible.

Note: This information was available on the “Get Windows 11” official page. However, it has now been removed. Moreover, Windows Server upgrades are not free since they require separate licenses.

What are Upgrade Paths

Windows upgrade paths are the various options available to upgrade your current version/edition of Windows to a better one with more options. It outlines the supported upgrade paths from one edition or version of Windows to another. These paths are designed to ensure a smooth transition from the older version to the newer version while preserving your data, settings, preferences, and applications.

The upgrade paths can vary based on several factors, including the current edition and version of Windows, the target edition and version, and any specific requirements or restrictions imposed by Microsoft. For example, if you are running Windows 10 Home, it may have different upgrade paths compared to someone running Windows 10 Pro or Windows 8.1.

In some cases, you may be able to upgrade to a higher edition with more features and capabilities, such as upgrading from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro. In other cases, you may upgrade to a newer version of Windows within the same edition, such as upgrading from Windows 10 version 2004 to Windows 10 version 22H2.

Windows 11 Upgrade Requirements

If you are planning to upgrade your device to Windows 11, make sure to check the following requirements to determine whether your device is eligible for the free upgrade or not.

RequirementSpecification
Release Date24 June 2021
Processor1 GHz or faster,
2 or more cores,
64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC)
Memory4 GB RAM
Storage64 GB
System FirmwareUEFI, Secure Boot capable
Trusted Platform Module (TPM)Version 2.0
Graphics CardDirectX 12 or later,
WDDM 2.0 driver
Minimum system requirements for Windows 11

Now that we understand what upgrade paths are, and how you can jump about the different Windows versions and editions, let us continue to show you which paths you can take, depending on your current Windows license.

Windows 10 Edition Upgrade Paths

The chart below reveals the current Windows 10 version that you have installed on your PC and the options to upgrade it for free while remaining on the Windows 10 OS .

Note: You must at least have a valid license/product key for the current OS version/edition to be able to get a free upgrade.

Current Windows 10 EditionPossible upgrade to Windows 10 Edition/Version
Windows 10 HomeWindows 10 Pro,
Windows 10 Education
Windows 10 ProWindows 10 Enterprise,
Windows 10 Education,
Windows 10 Home (Downgrade)
Windows 10 Pro N editionWindows 10 Enterprise N edition,
Windows 10 Education N edition
Windows 10 CloudWindows 10 Enterprise,
Windows 10 Pro,
Windows 10 Education
Windows 10 Cloud N editionWindows 10 Enterprise N edition,
Windows 10 Pro N edition,
Windows 10 Education N edition
Windows 10 EnterpriseWindows 10 Education
Windows 10 EducationWindows 10 Enterprise (Downgrade)
Windows 10 Enterprise N editionWindows 10 Education N edition
Windows 10 upgrade paths

Note: A downgrade will only maintain your personal data. Applications and setting preferences will be discarded. Also, make sure to consider the following instructions before changing your Windows 10 edition:

  • Windows 10 Home cannot be directly upgraded to Windows 10 Enterprise. To upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise, you must first upgrade to the Windows 10 Pro edition, and then proceed to upgrade from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise.
  • Upgrading from a Windows 10 edition to its corresponding ‘N’ edition is not possible. For example, you cannot upgrade from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Pro N edition.
  • Windows 10 Enterprise can only be upgraded to Windows 10 Education. There is no direct upgrade path from Windows 10 Enterprise to any other edition. However, you can downgrade Windows 10 Education to Windows 10 Enterprise.

Windows 11 Edition Upgrade Paths

The chart below shows the current Windows 11 version that you have installed in your system and the options to upgrade it for free while remaining on Windows 11.

Current Windows 11 EditionUpgrade to Windows 11 Edition/Version
Windows 11 HomeWindows 11 Pro,
Windows 11 Education
Windows 11 ProWindows 11 Enterprise,
Windows 11 Education,
Windows 11 Home (Downgrade)
Windows 11 Pro N editionWindows 11 Education N edition,
Windows 11 Enterprise N edition
Windows 11 CloudWindows 11 Pro,
Windows 11 Enterprise,
Windows 11 Education
Windows 11 Cloud N editionWindows 11 Pro N edition,
Windows 11 Enterprise N edition,
Windows 11 Education N edition
Windows 11 EnterpriseWindows 11 Education
Windows 11 Enterprise N editionWindows 11 Education N edition
Windows 11 EducationWindows 11 Enterprise (Downgrade)
Windows 11 upgrade paths

Note: A downgrade will only maintain your personal data. Applications and setting preferences will be discarded. Also, make sure to consider the following instructions before upgrading to Windows 11.

  • Windows 11 Home cannot be directly upgraded to Windows 11 Enterprise. To upgrade to Windows 11 Enterprise, you must first upgrade to the Windows 11 Pro edition, and then proceed to upgrade from Windows 11 Pro to Windows 11 Enterprise.
  • Upgrading from a Windows 11 edition to its corresponding ‘N’ edition is not possible. For example, you cannot upgrade from Windows 11 Pro to Windows 11 Pro N edition.
  • Windows 11 Enterprise can only be upgraded to Windows 11 Education. There is no direct upgrade path from Windows 11 Enterprise to any other edition. However, you can downgrade Windows 11 Education to Windows 11 Enterprise.

Windows 10 to Windows 11 Upgrade Paths

The chart below shows the current Windows 10 version that you have installed in your system and the options to upgrade it to Windows 11 for free.

Current EditionUpgrade to Windows 11 Version
Windows 10 HomeWindows 11 Home,
Windows 11 Pro,
Windows 11 Education
Windows 10 ProWindows 11 Pro,
Windows 11 Enterprise,
Windows 11 Education
Windows 10 Pro N editionWindows 11 Pro N edition,
Windows 11 Enterprise N edition,
Windows 11 Education N edition
Windows 10 CloudWindows 11 Enterprise,
Windows 11 Pro,
Windows 11 Education
Windows 10 Cloud N editionWindows 11 Pro N edition,
Windows 11 Enterprise N edition,
Windows 11 Education N edition
Windows 10 EnterpriseWindows 11 Enterprise,
Windows 11 Education
Windows 10 Enterprise N editionWindows 11 Enterprise N edition,
Windows 11 Education N edition
Windows 10 EducationWindows 11 education,
Windows 11 Enterprise (Downgrade)
Windows 10 to Windows 11 upgrade path

Windows Server Upgrade Paths

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, Windows Server operating systems can also be upgraded. When we say upgrade, we mean in-place upgrades. In-place upgrades are upgrading the OS without losing your personal data, settings preferences, and domain information.

Furthermore, even though Windows Server has different editions (Datacenter, Standard, and Essentials), when we talk about Server upgrades, we usually mean the versions and not the editions. For Example, you can upgrade Windows Server 2012 R2 to 2019 or 2022.

Note: Previously, some Windows Server versions offered more or different editions. However, the aforementioned editions are being offered by the latest Server version, i.e. Server 2022.

Note that Microsoft does not provide upgradation offers, which means that when you are upgrading your Server version, you will need to purchase a separate license for the version you intend to upgrade to.

Moreover, one of the conditions, apart from meeting the system requirements, is that you can only jump a maximum of 2 Server versions at a time. For example, if you want to upgrade to Windows Server 2022 from Server 2008 R2, you will first need to upgrade to Server 2016, and then to Server 2022.

That being said, you can also upgrade your editions on top of the versions.

Here are the upgrade paths for Windows Server operating systems based on the versions:

Current VersionUpgrade to Windows Server Version
Windows Server 2008Windows Server 2008 R2,
Windows Server 2012
Windows Server 2008 R2Windows Server 2012,
Windows Server 2012 R2
Windows Server 2012Windows Server 2012 R2,
Windows Server 2016
Windows Server 2012 R2Windows Server 2016,
Windows Server 2019
Windows Server 2016Windows Server 2019,
Windows Server 2022
Windows Server 2019Windows Server 2022
Windows Server version upgrade paths

As mentioned earlier, you can only jump a maximum of 2 Windows Server versions at a time, which is depicted by the table above.

If you are looking to upgrade the Windows Server Editions, then there are a few rules that apply:

  • A Windows Server Standard license can be upgraded to a Datacenter license, but a new license will be required.
  • An evaluation version can be upgraded to a retail version. Standard Evaluation can be upgraded to retail Standard or retail Datacenter, and the Datacenter Evaluation version can be upgraded to retail Datacenter.
  • A Windows Server Essentials Evaluation edition can be upgraded to a retail Essentials edition.
  • You can convert between a retail license, a volume-licensed license, or an OEM license. However, the edition (Standard, Datacenter, or Essentials) will remain the same

Here is our separate guide on Windows Server editions.

Final Thoughts

The free upgrade for Windows presents you with a valuable opportunity to enhance your computing experience and take advantage of exciting new features and improvements. Understand the valid upgrade paths and seamlessly transition from your current Windows 10 edition to the corresponding Windows 11 version, or simply upgrade your Windows edition only while staying on the same Windows operating system.

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Yamna is a highly skilled researcher with a specialization in Biotechnology. She draws on her extensive knowledge, experience and ability to research concepts in depth to produce writings that demystify complex technology-related topics.

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