Microsoft ends Windows 11 activation with older Windows 7 & 8 product keys

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Microsoft has quietly announced it will no longer support the activation of older Windows 7 & 8 keys or their upgrade to Windows 10 or 11.

Back in 2015, Microsoft made the decision to release Windows 10 as a free OS upgrade to entice existing users to the newly re-imagined platform. Like any new introduction of Windows, many users were quite hesitant to upgrade their machines to a nascent, untested platform, especially those who were simply comfortable with Windows 7.

Not forgetting to mention that users and developers were hesitant to test out or work on any new Windows after the poorly received Windows 8 “Metro” UI. This took away the traditional start button and introduced an all-encompassing tile menu, a design meant to incorporate all Windows products, including laptops, smartphones, tablets and desktop PCs, into one unified mess. The UI was geared towards touchscreen devices, though navigating with a mouse and keyboard was mildly infuriating, which most of us just happened to use. Great idea, poor execution. 

But I digress; the offer to upgrade officially ended on July 29, 2016. However, as we all know, Microsoft’s activation servers continued to accept Windows 10 & 11 upgrades from older, existing Windows 7 & 8 activation keys until now.  

As of September 20, Microsoft released a statement explaining that while the free upgrade window ended in 2016, “The installation path to obtain the Windows 7 / 8 free upgrade is now removed as well.” Thankfully, users are still eligible to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 for free, at least for now, which kind of makes it a contradictory statement if you think about it. 

Case in point, according to many publications, including NeoWin and Windows Central, older Windows 7 / 8 keys are still able to activate production builds of Windows 11. That said, both arrived at the conclusion that this does not apply to the latest Insider Preview build of Windows, suggesting that the change will most likely take effect when the next major Windows upgrade arrives. Could this mean Windows 12 is imminent? Only Microsoft knows.