FAQ: How much will Windows 7 cost you?

We parse Microsoft's convoluted prices to help you find the best deal

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3

Not every retailer is doing this -- at least, we couldn't find mention of it on every online store we checked -- but the upgrade is prominently mentioned on such online retailers as Newegg and Amazon.com.

Are those upgrades really free? Again, it depends. Amazon.com, for example, will charge $9.99 for an upgrade to Windows 7 to retail buyers of Vista, while Newegg just says some Vista editions "include free Windows 7 upgrade coupon" but it doesn't go into detail.

Can I get the discounted or free Windows 7 upgrade if I'm still running XP? Yes, but you'll have to do a "clean install" on your PC, which means you'll need to back up your data, install Windows 7, then restore the data and reinstall all applications.

There's no "in-place" upgrade path from XP to Windows 7, unlike the route available via Vista.

What price will I pay if I dawdle and don't buy Windows 7 until after July 11? Once the discount deal expires, pre-order prices will revert to their suggested list; that's what you'll pay after the Oct. 22 launch as well.

In the U.S., Microsoft has set the suggested list price for Windows 7 at between $119.99 for an upgrade (Home Premium) and $319.99 for a FPP (Ultimate). The editions marked "Upgrade" are cheaper in every case than the corresponding FPP; the former is the overwhelming choice, since it presupposes an older version of Windows on the PC. (That doesn't prevent you from using an "Upgrade" edition as a first-time install on a PC, or in a virtual machine on, say, a Mac.)

For quick references, see our price chart below.

What about cheaper OEM editions? How much will they cost? Unknown for now. We weren't able to find any "OEM" edition pricing at the usual suspects, but assume that Microsoft will be offering Windows 7 to small mom-and-pop computer makers who build PCs.

OEM prices are traditionally cheaper than even "Upgrade" editions. The downside: The license bans users from transferring the license from one PC to another, and comes sans support of any kind.

Frankly, I don't have two pennies to rub together, much less $50. But I want Windows 7. What do I do? You can have Windows 7 for free without breaking a single law or joining the ranks of online pirates. There's just one catch: You have to give it up March 1, 2010.

Microsoft will keep Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC), a stable-but-not-quite-finished version of the new OS, on its download pages until Aug. 15. Grab a copy now, and a free product key as well. Install it and you're green. Microsoft didn't make billions by giving away the goods, of course, so starting March 1 of next year, Windows 7 RC will begin spontaneously rebooting every two hours. That's your cue to give it up. By then, maybe you've scratched together the cash for a real copy. If not, you can drop back to what was on the PC before.

1 2 3 Page 2
Page 2 of 3
7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon