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.


Up to 55% off: Windows Anytime Upgrade

Expires: Never

Who's eligible: Anyone running Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, or Professional

If you custom-build a new PC, you can choose the exact Windows 7 edition you want on it. OEMs get the best pricing, so this is usually your best option. But if you purchase a preconfigured PC from an online or local retailer, you get whatever edition of Windows they chose to install on it, typically Windows 7 Home Premium for consumer PCs. Outside of the U.S., Western Europe, and other developed markets, you might get Home Basic, and on a netbook you can get the wimpy Starter edition.

Purchasing a full retail upgrade is one option, but the Anytime Upgrade option can be much cheaper. For instance, a retail upgrade of Windows 7 Professional costs $199.99. If you have a PC with Windows 7 Home Premium already installed on it, you can buy the Anytime Upgrade option for $89.95 direct from Microsoft. Likewise, you can go from Windows 7 Home Premium to Ultimate for $139.95, which is a considerable savings over the $219.99 retail upgrade price for Ultimate. (The full price list is here at the Microsoft Store.) Online retailers like offer the same deal for a discount of a few bucks, although you have to wait for a physical box to be shipped.

Up to 58% Off: Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade Family Pack

Expires: "Limited time offer" with no specific expiration date [Update: as of December 4, 2009, the Family Pack appears to be sold out in the United States] [Update 2: Microsoft repeated this "limited time" offer in Fall 2010; it could expire as soon as December 31, 2010. See this post for details.]

Who's eligible: Any multi-PC household (international)

If you have two or more PCs in your home and you want to upgrade them to Windows 7, this deal is for you. This package is only available in a physical box and (according to Microsoft) only for a limited time. It includes two DVDs: one copy each of the 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium upgrade installation media. You get a single product key that can be activated on up to three different PCs.

In the United States, I found the Family Pack at the Microsoft Store for $150, but you should be able to pick it up elsewhere for a discount of at least $10.  Even if you only use two of the licenses and thus pay an average of $75 apiece, this is a big savings over two single upgrade copies at $120 each. If you use all three upgrades, the cost per machine is $50 or less.

According to Microsoft, this offer is also available in Japan, Canada, Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Sweden.

The license says you can install Family Pack upgrades on up to three PCs in the same household, for use by residents of that household. When I asked Microsoft whether it was OK to use this license in a home business, I was told, officially, "There is no restriction around use of a license for business purposes conducted within the home," although naturally they recommended Windows 7 Professional for those situations.

Nothing in the license prevents you from mixing and matching the 32-bit and 64-bit versions on up to three PCs in your household. But no, you can't share licenses with your neighbor or your cousin in Peoria.

Up to 50% Off: Buy a new PC, upgrade your old PC for half off

Expires: [Update: This offer expired on January 2, 2010]

Who's eligible: Anyone who buys a new PC with Windows 7 from a participating retailer

Microsoft has publicized this deal on its website, but retailers seem a little shy about promoting it. When you buy a new desktop PC or laptop with Windows 7 included, you can buy a second upgrade copy of Windows 7 for use with another PC at a discount. The estimated price for a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium is $49.99, Windows 7 Professional is $99.99, and Windows 7 Ultimate is $119.99.

According to Microsoft, the following merchants in the United States are participating: Fry's,, Staples, Office Depot, Costco, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Amazon, Tiger Direct, Walmart,, and The Microsoft Store.

If you go to Newegg, you'll find the offer available as a Combo Deal with individual PCs. So, for example, if you buy a Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q830 you can pick up a second boxed retail upgrade of Windows 7 for $70-100 off. I didn't see any mention of the offer in this week's local ad for Best Buy. Maybe a salesman would offer me this deal if I shopped at a local store. offered the deal on this page, but I didn't get any clue or pointer to this offer when I added a new PC to my shopping cart, and the promotional discount wasn't applied to my order until I was ready to check out.

If you're planning to buy a new PC anyway, this deal is worth it, but you might have to be persistent to get it.

Next page: Special deals for students -->

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.