Mac users: Don't forget to claim your free Windows 10 upgrade

The Windows 10 free upgrade offer isn't just for PC users. Mac users who run Windows can also upgrade their operating system for free. But hurry, because time is running out.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

If you're a Mac user that also runs Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 on your desktop or laptop, and you've not yet grabbed your free upgrade to Windows 10, then time is running out for you.

The deadline for the free Windows 10 upgrade offer is July 29, so if you want the upgrade, you need to be quick about it. After that date, the price is going to increase to at least $119.

If you've been actively using your Windows installation on your Mac, and you've been keeping up with the updates, then chances are high that you've been reminded, then reminded again, then pestered, cajoled, and then hassled to upgrade already. In fact, if you've come this far and not yet upgraded, then I congratulate you on your grit and determination.

If you've not yet pulled the trigger on the Windows 10 upgrade, here are a few things to bear in mind.

First things first. To qualify for the free upgrade you need to be running a genuine, activated copy of one of the following Windows editions:

  • Windows 7 - Starter/Home Basic/Home Premium/Professional/Ultimate
  • Windows 8.1 - Standard/Pro/Pro for Students

Now, if you're running Windows through Apple's Boot Camp program then you need to make sure that your Mac can run Windows 10. According to Apple, you need a 64-bit Mac running OS X Yosemite or later. Apple has put together a list of compatible hardware here.

Before upgrading the Windows installation, I recommend that you download and install all Mac updates before carrying out the Windows upgrade.

Now you should be ready to upgrade Windows. As long as you have a good amount of free space -- 25 gigabytes or so -- you should be good to go.

If, after upgrading to Windows 10 in Boot Camp you find that some things -- such as the track pad, audio, or such -- aren't working properly, then you might need to update the Windows drivers for Boot Camp.

See also: Trackpad++: Must-have Mac productivity-boosting utility for Boot Camp users

But Boot Camp isn't the only way to run Windows on a Mac. Another way is to run it inside a virtual machine using a virtualization software tool such as Parallels Desktop (which is my preferred method of running Windows on a Mac).

Unlike Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop isn't free software, but it does offer far more in the way of features and functionality. For example, you can run multiple instances of Windows, roll back any changes made to the operating system, and even run other operating systems on your Mac, such as Linux.

But of all the additional features that virtualization software offers, the most useful is that it allows you to run Windows alongside OS X, giving you instant access to all your programs and files without having to boot between OS X and Windows.

If your copy of Windows is running inside virtualization software, then you first need to make sure that your software is up to date and is compatible with Windows 10. For example, only Parallels Desktop 10 or later supports Windows 10, and if you are running an older version then you will need to pay for an upgrade.

After doing that, you're ready to proceed with the Windows 10 upgrade.

The bottom line is whether you are running Windows on your Mac through Boot Camp or virtualization software such as Parallels Desktop, Macs are very capable Windows 10 systems. In fact, Macs make awesome Windows 10 PCs!

So, if you want that free Windows 10 upgrade, you've got a few days left to grab it. As long as you have the compatible hardware and software, there really is no reason to not give Windows 10 a whirl (if you don't like it, you can roll back to your old operating system within the first 30 days).

So, what are you waiting for?

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