Q: Should I upgrade to Windows 10 before the free upgrade period expires or just stick with what I have?
A: The Windows 10 free upgrade period isn’t set to expire until July 29, so you have a little time to figure things out.
As long as you’re running an updated version of either Windows 7 or 8.1, you’re eligible for the free upgrade until then.
Microsoft has made it clear that they have a long-term strategy to get everyone on the Windows 10 platform, so it’s likely just a matter of time before your hand could be forced to use it.
The quick answer for anyone that simply wants to avoid paying $119 for the Home edition or $199 for the Pro edition later, is yes.
Windows 7 is still king
Based on the current market penetration numbers, only 15 percent of the world is using Windows 10 while nearly half of the world is still using Windows 7.
If you were waiting for millions of others to test the stability and compatibility before you took the plunge, then there’s no reason to wait any longer.
If you didn’t want to deal with learning a new operating system and everything is working the way you want it, you can wait to use Windows 10 when you buy your next computer.
Microsoft will continue to support Windows 7 until 2020, but they recently announced that Windows 7 and 8.1 won’t be supported on newer processors from Intel, AMD and Qualcomm, which means they’ll only support it on older hardware.
If you’re using really old software that won’t run on Windows 10, you’ll either need to update those programs or stick to your current version of Windows.
Windows 10 runs reasonably well on older computers, so if you plan on keeping your current system for a while, upgrading while it’s still free makes sense.
Reserving a free upgrade
There is a way that you can “reserve” a free copy of Windows 10 in case you want to upgrade after July 29, but it’s a bit of work.
The Windows 10 upgrade includes an option to rollback to your previous version of Windows, as long as you do so within 30 days.
During the upgrade process when you activate your copy of Windows 10, Microsoft generates a “digital entitlement” for your specific computer that they keep track of in case you ever need to reinstall in the future.
This only entitles your current computer hardware to the free upgrade, so if you get a new computer or replace the motherboard in your existing one, the free upgrade will no longer work.
If you decide to use the “upgrade and rollback” procedure, make sure you get a complete backup of your critical data first and have your existing Windows install disks handy just in case something goes awry.
Making an image backup of your existing system and data is an even better way to protect yourself in case something goes wrong, if you know how to use imaging programs.
This question can be a difficult one to answer because of all the variables, so think through your current and future computing plans before deciding.
Editor’s note: Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services.