Seven perfectly legal ways to get Windows 7 cheap (or even free)

Seven perfectly legal ways to get Windows 7 cheap (or even free)

Summary: You don't have to pay full price for Windows 7. I've researched the best deals out there, and can help you save 58%, 70%, 85%, or even get Windows 7 free. Keep reading.


Update, September 2, 2010: Several of the deals listed in this post are no longer available. For the latest on the Family Pack, be sure to read this post: Windows 7 Family Pack discounts return. And be sure to read this follow-up post: Windows 7 deals: Harder to find, but still there if you look.

Only suckers pay retail.

If you've read any reviews of Windows 7, you've seen references to its price list, which ranges from $120 for a Home Premium upgrade to $320 for a fully licensed copy of Windows 7 Ultimate.

Well, guess what? You don't have to pay that much. Most people have much better options available, if you know where to look. As I've detailed here, the best deals go to PC manufacturers, which you benefit from if you buy a new PC.

But there are plenty of other discounts available as well. In this post, I've researched deals in three separate categories: upgrade offers available to anyone, special deals just for students, and subscriptions intended for technical professionals and developers.

Most of the details I include here apply to Windows customers in the United States, but some offers are also available in other countries. Where possible, I have tried to track down those details and include the names of countries where equivalent offers exist. If you live outside the U.S., follow these links to find prices and terms for your country.

My goal in this post is to point you to deals that customers legitimately qualify for. I am not trying to encourage attempts by anyone to get away with something you're not entitled to. If there are restrictions for a specific offer, I've noted them here.

[Update 6-Nov 1:00PM PST: Several people in the comments have asked why I didn't iunclude the Microsoft Action Pack in this post. Two reasons: First, it is available only to bona fide system builders, and that's a fairly small group of people. Second, and more importantly, the licenses it includes expire and must be decommissioned if you fail to renew your MAP agreement each year. Every other example I have here includes Windows licenses that are good in perpetuity.]

Ready to get started? Pick a category and go.

Page 2: Upgrade offers You can save as much as 58% off the regular cost of a Windows 7 upgrade if you know how to buy smart. I've found three options.

Page 3: Special deals for students If you're enrolled in a college or university, even taking a single course at your local community college, you can get Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional for $30. Students in technical or design majors can get Windows 7 (and many other Microsoft programs) for free if their university or college is signed up for the right programs.

Page 4: Windows (and much more) by subscriptions Are you an IT pro, a Windows enthusiast, or a professional developer? For a surprisingly low annual fee, you can get access to a staggering amount of Microsoft software, including every version of Windows or Office. There are some restrictions, so be sure to read the details carefully.

Next page: Easy (and cheap) upgrades -->


Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Legal, Microsoft, Software, Software Development, Windows

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  • Always a laugh when MS license conditions attached

    TechNet Plus
    "Keep in mind that you may use the evaluation software
    only to evaluate it. You may not use it in a live operating

    Wow a demo subscription.

    "Using the software in any other way, such as for doing
    email, playing games, or editing a document is another use
    and is not covered by the MSDN Subscription license."

    For users that don't edit documents or email.

    Highlights the licensing hoops one is confronted with as a
    MS user. Enjoy;-)
    Richard Flude
    • The license is vague.

      Let's say, for example if you want to evaluate windows 7 for play a game, then it is allowed and disallowed at once. -><-

      So, for a small office you can buy the technet plus and to use for such purpose, just the admin must have present to "evaluate" the performance of windows regularly (may be documenting it). And, in the case of caught, MS, at most, can ask you for upgrade your license. Since piracy is still a ambiguous term, then to overuse a license is even more ambiguous and hard to prosecute.

      The technet plus give WINDOWS 7 ULTIMATE + OFFICE , so it is a BIG discount.

      Other thing is that you can obtain a free technet plus.. but it is a bit hard to obtain the way. Also is the option to be a MS MVP (free zealots of microsoft), they obtain the MSDN (msdn is a superset of technet) for free.

      • A bag of chips at one pound is a big discount

        compared to a bag of chips at one hundred pounds.

        What a saving. How clever am I. Thanks Mr friendly chip shop owner, you're the best.
      • At most?

        Ummm... the penalties for being caught using software illegally are often considerably higher than just being required to pay for the license. One local example was a small company that was using about 10 copies of Vista and Microsoft Office plus two copies of Server 2003. Total fine was $51,000. Just slightly above the standard Microsoft licensing fees.

        You also seem to miss or willfully misunderstand the part about operating and/or production environment.
    • What does Apple's license state?

      Talk about having their users jump thru hoops:

      [i]2. Permitted License Uses and Restrictions.

      A. This License allows you to install and use one copy of the Apple Software on a single <b><font color="#FF0000">Apple-labeled </font></b>computer at a time. This License does not allow the Apple Software to exist on more than one computer at a time, and you may not make the Apple Software available over a network where it could be used by multiple computers at the same time. You may make one copy of the Apple Software (excluding the Boot ROM code) in machine-readable form for backup purposes only[/i]

      Now [i]that[/i] is funny
      • I Cannot Confirm Seeing NetCraft and Beastie Together

        If you buy a family license, that increases to 5 computers.

        There is no OEM variant of the OS X license, if you uninstall from one
        (for instance, perhaps a G4 running Tiger from purchase that will be
        switched over to YDL) you can then install on another, a right
        Microsoft grants only to licenses bought via retail.

        Upgrades are allowed as long as it's Apple hardware (of proper speed
        or architecture) and there is no entering or referring to a prior
        version's activation key. No activation key on client versions. No
        genuine advantage stuff either, so far.

        OS X doesn't license virtual use and Microsoft does, but again retail
        versions only and, well this is interesting, there must be some
        restriction to the same license being used more than once, but
        whether that's per-image or per-processor or per moment, I don't

        But let's take a moment and indulge our inner adult.

        Software companies restrict use for the things they sell because they
        want their money.

        The maximum rights, minimum cost license point on the quadrant
        belongs to FreeBSD. You may have to wrestle a tad to get the pretty
        pretty, you can't run Office, and you may have to compile some
        source code. But you can't beat the price or license. Give me an hour
        to do some updates and then I'll get out of the way as all you pure
        license mavens stampede over to Oh, one more
        bonus, they are prepping 8.0 (btw, congrats on getting up to OS X 6.1
        and Win 6.1 everyone!)
    • MSDN

      It stands for Microsoft DEVELOPER Network for a reason.

      I assure you, 99.9% of the people on here wouldn't have a clue about software development, therefore wouldn't even qualify for the subscription, therefore wouldn't have any problem with that kind of license.

      You obviously don't understand the purposes of those subscriptions, so do yourself a favour, move to another topic. You're just embarassing yourself in front of those who do.
      • Who cares

        That fact that those clauses [b]exist[/b] speaks volumes and shows how ridiculous their restrictions are.
        Wintel BSOD
    • What's even more fun...

      Is seeing how long it takes for your worthless posts to be flagged as Spam.
      Hallowed are the Ori
      • Yours already has been


        Wintel BSOD
        • See, stoopit, the thing is...

          I didn't flag his post as Spam.

          If I had, what would be the point of "seeing how long it took for someone to flag it"?

          Sometimes you trolls aren't all that sharp.
          Hallowed are the Ori
          • Hey it's ok to lie after the fact

            No problemo, shill...

            Touche' again!
            Wintel BSOD
          • @UAC nanny screen

            I trust you mean 'touche', not 'touch'!
            'touch' could lead to misunderstandings!
          • You trust right

            Learn some French, k?

            Wintel BSOD
          • Wow.. you really are stupid...

            I haven't flagged anyone's comments.

            I don't give three squirts of hot yellow liquid if you believe me or not.
            Hallowed are the Ori
          • Sure ya do, pal

            Otherwise you wouldn't keep responding with more stupid comments.

            Touche' again!
            Wintel BSOD
    • Or you could..

      ..visit a Microsoft Reseller such as
      Katie Tio
  • Thanks for the advice.

    $30 is about all W7 is worth, so I may be able to pick up a copy in order to learn how to use it to help others. That's the downside of being tech support.

    If I wasn't helping others, I'd be purely Linux based, and tell MS where they can port their products.

    - Kc
    • A career-shift perhaps?

      So you wouldn't have to help others with the thing you so loathe?
    • Well if your only willing to invest $30 towards your

      professional maybe your in the wrong professional. Maybe try some Linux tech support for free.