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Posted on September 21st, 2009 by Tim Danton

The truth about the “free” Windows 7 upgrades

Why the \Microsoft launched its Windows 7 Upgrade Option on 26 June to great fanfare: “Get Windows 7 for free” screamed the headlines, with the promise that all participating laptop and PC makers would provide a voucher that you could redeem for Windows 7.

But, as we move closer to the launch of Windows 7 in a month’s time, it’s become clear you could pay up to £30 for the privilege. Just to rub salt into the wounds, that’s as much as it costs for students to buy Windows 7 outright.

There are also a number of catches you should be aware of, although for the thousands of people who’ve bought a new laptop or PC since late June this warning will come too late.

What’s in the box?

I surveyed 11 different manufacturers to find out exactly what their customers would receive when they redeemed the voucher. And it’s obvious that different companies handle this in very different ways.

HP, Lenovo, Sony and Toshiba offer, in my view, the best bundle. Not only will you receive the official Microsoft Windows 7 disc, you’ll also receive a disc that includes all the drivers required for your PC or laptop (Sony also includes updates for the software it bundles with its laptops, such as WinDVD).

British PC makers Chillblast, Mesh and PC Specialist don’t include any specific drivers in the package, but you do get the official Microsoft Windows disc.

This is important as it can be used on any computer, giving greater flexibility. Compare that to Advent, Asus and Dell, all of which provide a single disc that can only be used on their systems.

This should ensure a smooth upgrade, as all the necessary drivers for your system will be on the disc too, but it does mean you can’t use that disc on any other system (naturally, Microsoft and partners would argue that you shouldn’t need to).

Disappointingly, Acer couldn’t confirm what its customers would receive at the time of going to press, but its UK arm assures me that it’s chasing the information. I’ll update this blog if and when I receive it.

What else do you get?

Another question mark hangs over the amount of support you’ll receive. Some companies – including Advent (PC World) and Toshiba – offer a dedicated help line, but others will rely on their existing resources. I wouldn’t want to phone up with an urgent query in late October and early November.

It’s also worth noting that Toshiba offers multi-language support, and its disc is sent via registered mail. Asus has also confirmed it will be sending out the upgrade pack via registered mail, while Dell will use UPS couriers.

All of which means there should be no “lost in the post” calls. Advent and Sony will both be sending their upgrade packs out in the normal mail.

Chillblast, Mesh and PC Specialist have all signed up to Microsoft’s direct upgrade scheme, which means the upgrade pack will be sent direct from a Microsoft-approved partner. As yet, Microsoft hasn’t confirmed whether this means normal post or a registered service.

Whichever company you buy from, you should also receive a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) and a Getting Started guide to help you install the Windows 7 ugprade.

The big question: how much?

There is an extraordinary variety of prices to be paid for your “free” upgrade. In fact, only Mesh and Chillblast offer the scheme to their customers for free, with almost all the big vendors – Sony, HP, Lenovo and Toshiba – asking you to pay £20 or more. (Note that Lenovo officially states the price will be around £25, but when I went through its procedure the cost was estimated at £16.85.)

How much manufacturers will charge you for an Windows 7 upgrade voucherAlso beware of hidden prices. The free voucher upgrade really isn’t a free voucher at all, as manufacturers are actually charged a higher fee for Windows Vista with an upgrade voucher than without.

“Basically, since June 26th 2009 Microsoft has been selling two different SKUs through distribution for each version of Vista – Home Premium (32- and 64-bit), Business (32- and 64-bit), Ultimate (32- and 64-bit). One SKU includes the Upgrade Voucher and one doesn’t, the SKU with the Upgrade Voucher is £10.00 extra as seen in the image below,” wrote PC Specialist’s John Medley in an email, pasting the screenshot you see here.

The real cost of the \For Chillblast PCs, for instance, the voucher is included in the price with recently specified PCs. If you try and order the voucher with a PC that was specified by Chillblast before 26 June, however, then you’ll need to pay an extra £15.

The Microsoft line

So why is there such discrepancy over all the different schemes? I put that question to Laurence Painell, Windows OEM & WGA Product Manager.

“We give manufacturers complete control over the program. Obviously they have varying levels of cost, whether it be in support, procurement or distribution costs associated with the nature of the product they’re shipping and as such it really is their decision as to how much they charge their customers and the process they go through.

“We obviously have guidance on how the fulfilment end happens, on how people redeem vouchers and how the whole process works, but typically from a standpoint of how they do things, all we ask is that they have a website that clearly articulates how the customer when they come to redeem the  vouchers does that, and we have links to that off our website.

“Apart from that it’s entirely up to them how they fulfil it and how they support it and how much they charge. Our recommendation to consumers is very much to check with the retailer or the manufacturer at the time of purchase to understand exactly what the implications of the upgrade programme are.”

What happens next?

Whether you’ve already bought a computer that came with a “free” voucher or you’re just about to buy, I recommend you take a few minutes to visit the relevant website for your chosen manufacturer (just click on the name below; note that Mesh and Chillblast will simply take you to the Microsoft landing page).

Also note that the end date for registering your voucher is 31 January 2010, with most manufacturers only then giving until mid-February to actually redeem it.

Acer | Advent | Asus | Chillblast | Dell | HP | Lenovo | Mesh | PC Specialist | Sony | Toshiba


Posted in: Windows 7


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32 Responses to “ The truth about the “free” Windows 7 upgrades ”

  1. David Says:
    September 21st, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve bought some Dell computers for work in the last few months and registered on the upgrade site (we buy few enough computers that we are eligible), and so far I’ve had no indication at all of the cost.

  2. Tim Danton Says:
    September 21st, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Don’t give up hope, David! I’m still chasing Dell on this, and with any luck I’ll have an answer before 22 October!

  3. Tom Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 9:41 am

    Just looked at the Acer upgrade FAQ:

    “You will receive an Upgrade Wizard disc with necessary drivers and applications and a Windows® 7 Operating System DVD. The disks will be in a case with a manual and the Certificate of Authenticity (COA).”

    So i’m guessing it’s a similar setup to HP, Lenovo etc.?

  4. GlasgowGuy Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I remember when I got a Dell Vista Upgrade disc many moons ago (I knew it was going to be disappointing – I had tried the beta), and I found that it was a full ‘Retail-style’ disc, despite the fact the actual disc was branded by Dell and had no holograms (in typical Dell Restore CD style). I tried it (for educational purposes) in a VMWare machine, and in a few other PCs since they had only come with ‘OEM restore discs’, which I did not want.

    The moral of the story: Last time round (might be different this time round), Dell gave full OS DVDs to upgraders. Worth a look when it comes through, as you might get a chance to go the crapware-free route.

  5. GlasgowGuy Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Sorry, worth adding that I was able to use the legit keys from my other PCs with the Dell disc when installing on those PCs. Seemed that the disc was just a plain generic retail one, as there did not appear to be any ‘$OEM$’ folder or anything Dell-like on the disc itself.

  6. Andrew Says:
    September 23rd, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Halfway through this process with HP – they want a scanned copy of a receipt uploaded with IE. My scanner is on my Linux desktop. The only point of the IE restriction is so they can run an optional ActiveX applet to find the serial number, assuming you use the product itself to register. As I don’t trust IE and had wound the security settings way up, it didn’t work anyway. But HP’s outsource did answer email promptly and say I could email the image. I’m waiting for the next step.

  7. Don't Know Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 12:35 am

    how much need to pay for to upgrade ubuntu to the new 9.10?

  8. Don't Know Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 12:38 am

    If you need an OS for the basic things why don’t try a partition with linux? It works and is free.

  9. Kamikaze Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    So you buy the upgrade but will you get support if anything goes wrong?
    I ask this question because in early 2008 I purchased an Acer laptop with the promise of a free upgrade to Vista.
    During the upgrade I experienced problems installing one of the drivers. So I phoned the Acer techie crew and told them I had upgraded from XP to Vista, to which the response was “Sorry we don’t support that sir!” . So if you are planning an upgrade to Windows 7, get it in writing that it will not invalidate your warranty, even if the vendor has encouraged you to “buy in” to the idea of the upgrade. If it seems I am picking on Acer, I should point out that there may well be other vendors who have exactly the same policy. So check before you upgrade !!

  10. Tony Says:
    September 27th, 2009 at 4:09 am

    Acer is charging me aud$23 for the upgrade. Thats not to much is it?

  11. Robert Says:
    September 28th, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Simple Answer:
    Wait another 25 days and get your new computer with windows & installed.

  12. Joe Haveron Says:
    October 19th, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Not only are Toshiba charging £28 for this ‘FREE’ upgrade they aren’t shipping it until December at the earliest! Just received an email telling me because of their Drivers add-on they won’t be shipping ANYTHING before December.
    Salutory lesson for the future is DON’T buy a Toshiba before the new OS is in place.

  13. John W Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Have been told that the Toshiba charge is for p&p. Even some of the store staff don’t know about this – have just spoken to person who sold me my Toshiba with ‘free’ 28 quid upgrade and they were as surprised as I was. I think this needs publicising as widely as possible. 28 quid p&p – is it being delivering in a Bugatti Veyron?

  14. Joe Haveron Says:
    October 20th, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Hi John, have you been told yet by Toshiba you won’t get your copy of Windows 7 until December at the earliest?
    Here’s a copy of their message to me.
    Your shipment will contain a Windows 7 DVD, the product key and a free Toshiba driver DVD, containing the latest Windows 7 drivers for your Toshiba PC. Additionally, the driver DVD will guide you through the upgrade process for your convenience.

    The collection of the driver DVD and the programming of an automatic upgrade process require some more time. Therefore, we will be able to ship your Windows 7 Upgrade at the beginning of December. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.

    Thank you for your understanding.

    While PC World is shipping the normal OS a week early in October!

    I’m not sure why Toshiba think this won’t put buyers off!

  15. Alan Says:
    October 22nd, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Just completed the dell upgrade checkout and they’re charging £15 for shipping & handling charge for the uk.

  16. Matthew Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 4:52 am

    Alan, when did you receive the email prompting you to complete the checkout with Dell? I registered my tag very early on….just a few days after it launched the program and I’ve not yet had the email prompt? Cheers mate.

  17. Alex Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 11:29 am

    @Matthew I’ve not got the email either but I logged into the dell site where you register the service tags and was able to complete the order for the upgrade CD.

  18. Matthew Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks Alex…have just completed it now thanks to your heads up. The least they could have done was email us, huh?

    I suppose it could have been worse than £15 though. No such thing as a free lunch still springs to mind, however. :)

  19. H Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Dell wants to charge £15, which seems rather a lot as 1) their normal P&P charge is £7; 2) they’re offering £0 P&P if buy Win7 at the moment; & 3) US customers are not charged at all. Anyone know how we can start a campaign to protest against this discrimination?

  20. Matthew Says:
    October 23rd, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    ‘H’, it said in the FAQ all along that some countries might be charged and others might not – but you’re right, it’s still a bit shady. If they were going to target anyone with charges it was always going to be us ripped off Brits. I guess people like me who have already completed checkout have now signed for the terms and conditions, and so don’t have a leg to stand on – so anyone wishing to gang up on Dell would best be belonging to those who have not yet paid up. The deadline is some way off yet. Call me a cynic, though, but I doubt it will get you anywhere. M$ said in the above article that they were leaving the charges up to the resellers, so certainly no laws have been broken. Other than the unwritten moral ones, that is.

  21. BigFergie Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 4:04 am

    If anyone thinks Windows 7 is a rip-off in the UK,then look at some of the Australian websites. The US pay less, if anthing. The UK pay some kind of $ vs. £ number. The Aussie’s are paying 2-3 times as much.
    The whole thing with MS, as with all things US, is the market size, i.e. profit to recover cost. I don’t know, but I wonder how much China or India pay for the same thing. Billions of customers.
    Another thing, I once spent time in 2007 with MS UK executives who needed to sell Vista to big UK/Global corporations to meet their revenue numbers. It costs big bucks, time and incovenience, for these guys to move and Vista always looked like a halfway house as a source of big revenue for MS. I might be cynical but there will never be SP2 and SP3 for Vista. They need you to buy Windows 7. Like Sky they’ll charge every country by potential revenue and captive users.

  22. BigFergie Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Sorry. I should have said any significant Service Packs for Vista. Unless they can rip code from Windows 7.

  23. Matthew Says:
    October 25th, 2009 at 10:30 pm

    Well doesn’t XP have an M$ Update cut-off date that outlives Vista already? 2014 for XP, and something like 2011/12 for Vista..isn’t it? You’re right, more service packs…no way. It can’t even be called an “halfway house” really, not in the face of them flogging XP *downgrade* rights. I knew Vista was crap all along, but my XP PC died of death on June 26th this year, and the only reason I got this Vista machine was because that was the day the upgrade program launched. Lucky? You bet! :)

    Sorry to hear the Ausies are getting even more ripped off. Too bad. :(

  24. mullhew Says:
    October 27th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I just had to buy my ‘free’ Windows 7 upgrade from Dell. I registered on their Windows 7 upgrade website, where the mention on various occasions that it was ‘Free’, and when I got through the registration it said that my cost was $0 (it presumed I was American). The minute I selected ‘UK’, it added £15 in taxes and ‘Handling Charges’. I feel ripped off. Why the richest economy in the world gets charged $0 is country discrimination. Boo Dell.

  25. MC Says:
    October 28th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Thank you for contacting Dell Online Customer Service.

    Please accept my apologies for the difficulties encountered when attempting to resolve your issue.

    The cost 15.00£ is only for the shipping , the CDs which will be sent to you will be free of cost.

    Free upgrade is in the Collaboration with Microsoft, the free Windows 7 CDs kit is sent from Microsoft, and so the shipping cost of 15.00£ is the standard charge to get the Free windows 7 CDs kit.

    Also as per the terms and conditions for window 7, it clearly states that to ship the window 7 kit UK customers will be charged £15.

    Sorry that we are unable to assist in this particular instance.

  26. Matthew Says:
    October 29th, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    At least I have some good news. My Dell Windows 7 upgrade kit’s estimated shipping date has jumped from 11/15/09 to 10/31/09…so I should have my disc/s soon (unless it changes again).

  27. Matthew Says:
    November 3rd, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I swear I could train chimps to run a more effective Windows 7 upgrade program than Dell. First my ship date was 11/15/2009, then it jumped to 10/31/2009 (which passed with no mention of it shipping or any other helpful info), then my shipping date disappeared altogether….only to reappear today as 11/15/2009 again. I swear if these IDIOTS had brains they’d be dangerous. To think I let the opportunity of a £40 pre-order for the full Win 7 retail pack pass me by as I had faith in their “free” upgrade system, which ended up costing me £15 “shipping and handling” anyway. As god is my witness I will never deal with Dell again. EVER.

  28. Emma Says:
    November 4th, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I’m just about sick of Dell. First they send me a laptop that doesn’t work and I spend nearly £40 in phonecalls to their tech people for them to just keep doing the same thing. So I now have a £500 glorified brick. I AM NOT particuarly inclined to spend any more money with them, £15 just seems unreasonable when you bear in mind normal P&P for computer programs is between £3 and £8 including delivery. I’m not happy.

  29. Matthew Says:
    November 5th, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Emma, I don’t know if your issue is software or hardware related, but if it is software then look around the net for a good tech site/forum and post and ask about your issue there, or ask on the relevant Usenet newsgroup with the free newsreader your ISP provides – 9/10 times you will get far better technical advice than the ‘technical support’ people at any OEM, not just Dell. The guys on such places spend their nights and days freely dishing out great advice…they’ve saved my PC’s countless times, all for nothing. Of course if it is literally a hardware problem, i.e. broken, then it will have to be taken up with Dell. Also, note that you can contact Dell online for free via the live ‘chat’ thing. Plus, being in the UK, you can always mention the sale of goods act – very often this gives them the kick up the rump they need. It sounds like it is new, so you’re still under warranty…so stand firm and get them to fix it. I wish you the best of luck with your problem.

  30. Matthew Says:
    November 6th, 2009 at 2:57 am

    Well finally got some usable advice. I got advised by a few people that mere hours after making a song and dance on the official Dell forums, their status suddenly went to ’shipped’ for their Windows 7 upgrades. Well I thought it might just be a coincidence, but it really seems to work. Just a few hours after making a nuisance of myself on the forums (including threatening to detail my experience on every Dell Win 7 thread I could find) I suddenly had a Dell employee asking questions in a meeting on my behalf. A couple of hours after that my upgrade got shipped. So it seems internet terrorism is the way forward with Dell. Go play merry hell with em’ folks!

    …and best of luck to you all!

  31. kaushik Says:
    November 6th, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    please provide me the courier agency for dell who deliver the win 7 upgrade kit
    when i check the information on dell site it shows shipped and tracking no. but i don’t know where i track it. i inquired with dell but they are not providing the angency’s name and no.

  32. Rob French Says:
    November 20th, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I too have been emailing Dell about these costs and eventually got some replies.

    “we need to send each windows 7 upgrade in a different package because computers were purchased with an individual order number and because of that you need to pay for the shipping for every computer and every Windows 7 package.”

    This is not true by the way as many units were ordered under one order number.

    I got my Upgrades in the post today and guess what, they all came in one jiffy bag!!
    Now I’m really annoyed.


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