The deadline is rapidly approaching — Friday, July 29, 2016. After that date, if you want Windows 10, you’ll have to buy a new computer with it or buy a copy. It will no longer be free.
Only certain Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 versions qualify for the free upgrade. Windows 8 Home/Professional versions have to upgrade to 8.1 in order to qualify. Current 32-bit installations will upgrade to Win10 32-bit. Similary, current 64-bit will upgrade to 64-bit.
Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows RT, and Windows RT 8.1 versions do not qualify for the free upgrade. Win7/8.1 Professional and Win7 Ultimate upgrade to Win10 Professional; other qualifying versions upgrade to Win10 Home.
Windows 10 license enforcement works differently than earlier versions. The motherboard is still the critical item, though. The copy of Windows 10 is licensed for the installed motherboard. When you upgrade to, or install, Windows 10, it will create a "hash" code based on your computer’s motherboard and, perhaps, other hardware items.
Microsoft stores the hash code on their license server. If you decide to do a clean re-install of Windows 10 (after copying your data to some backup drive), Windows 10 won’t even ask you for a product code — if will calculate the hash code, compare it to the one on the MS server, see that it’s the same, and proceed with the installation. Cool!
I strongly recommend that you back up your computer with an image-backup program before upgrading.
Whether you use Acronis True Image or not, you should make an image backup to an external hard drive or to another computer on your home network. "Cloud backup" is possible, depending on the version of Acronis or other software, but it is really aimed at recovery of individual files or folders. Cloud backup and restore processes for the whole C: drive will be prohibitively long, considering typical ISP upload speeds, as well as possible data caps/limits imposed by the ISP.
I use Acronis True Image 2016, and have used Acronis True Image since about 2007. Version 2016 is the easiest so far (in my humble opinion!). Get Acronis True Image 2016 using my affiliate (I get a small commission, if you do). Their current sale pricing is:
1 computer $29.99, 3 computers $49.99, 5 computers $59.99. Upgrades are less.
After the upgrade is completed, make a new image backup of your new Windows 10 system just in case (that’s the step I forgot). It’s much easier to restore a backup than to reinstall Windows, install all your programs again, customize them again, and copy your data from some backup that you have (you do make backups, don’t you?).
If Windows 10 has a glitch, you can restore completely from the Acronis True Image backup image. If not, you’ve got a good backup from which you can access individual files and folders later, as well as using it for a full boot drive restore, if needed.
After upgrading to Windows 10, you have 30 days in which you can have Windows roll-back to your previous version. After that, it deletes the backup files of the previous operating system.