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PC users have until Friday for free Windows 10 upgrade

What's the big push from Microsoft to get us to install Windows 10? The expiration for it is this week, but I cannot tell from websites I've visited whether it's a bad thing or a good thing.

— Chris G., Central Point

As those popups on your Windows 7 PC task bar have made abundantly clear, you have only until Friday, July 29, to qualify for the free Windows 10 upgrade. Starting Saturday, Microsoft will charge $119 to upgrade a computer running a previous Windows version.

It helps to understand why this lunch is free for a limited time. Microsoft still makes billions selling Windows copies to computer makers such as Dell and HP, so they're not giving Windows 10 away completely, just the upgrade as a promotion that's lasted a year. The previous version, Windows 8 (there was no Windows 9), was considered a flop. Windows 8 famously did away with the Start menu, and it gained a reputation for fixing what wasn't broken while doing away with what worked. Folks had held out upgrading Windows XP before, but competition from iPads and Google Chromebooks didn't exist back then.

Not only did users eschew buying the Windows 8 upgrade, many paid extra to "downgrade" new computers to Windows 7, which came out in 2009. Software makers such as Adobe go where the bulk of computers users are. The unprecedented giveaway was done so software companies would focus on the new Windows, not the old versions.

Should you upgrade? That depends in large part how much you loathe change. Windows 10 is considered to be an improvement, adopting the better parts of Windows 7 and Windows 8. It has been shown to work well on many older computers that ran Windows 7, with one review site showing it running on a computer using a 12-year-old chip. Under the hood, Windows 10 works similarly to Windows 7, so older programs should run the same.

Although the update process is relatively simple, as those popups promise, it's always best to back up important files before undergoing any change that significant. When in doubt, check with a professional.

If you'd rather keep your computer the way it is, you have time. Microsoft will stop issuing security updates for Windows 7 Jan. 14, 2020, although "mainstream support" of Windows 7, which includes feature updates, ended in 2015, according to Microsoft's site.

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