Update 2015/12/27: Time has passed and this article is now out of date. Read my new opinion on upgrading here: Windows 10: Feel Free To Upgrade
Windows 10 is here and many tech websites are urging people to bite the bullet and upgrade all of their machines to the latest and greatest OS. You’d be a technophob or person who hates progress to not upgrade after all, right? It’ll be great for older machines too because of the improvements(only true technically speaking). I am one who thinks you should NOT upgrade your PC, at least your current one. Read on to find out why you shouldn’t and why I can’t upgrade the laptop I purchased brand new last fall without shelling out at least $120 dollars for a new license key.
So, first and foremost let’s start with my story of frustration and a wasted 10 hours of my life trying to follow all the prompts to get the upgrade installed.
With Great Hope
It was Wednesday evening and I was an insider preview member since the program launched. I fired up my Toshiba C55D-B5214 and ran Windows Update with anticipation of having the download ready to install. No new updates. What? Microsoft had announced that insiders would get first dibs on downloading. (Checks email for verification that the download is ready) Nope, no email. “Ok, let’s force it.” I say. I fire up Firefox and search for how to force the update. There are a few ways, the one I pick is deleting some files from Windows Update to force it to download the update list again from Microsoft. The download appears and I am able to start the process after I ensure all my data is backed up.
The download only takes about 15 minutes which is nice and then I click the button to install. Windows reboots multiple times, and takes another half hour to an hour to install. It greets me with a “Hi there, welcome back!” and my account is still intact. I sign in and it goes through a set up similar to Windows 8.1. I am thrown into the desktop. However, now my trackpad doesn’t work although it did while it was doing set up tasks. Odd there must be some way to fix it, but I grab my portable mouse and start to use that in the meantime.
Activation Error and Roll-back
So about 1.5 hours into this I am finally upgraded. I start to poke around and I don’t recall if it was a notification or my PC settings that showed that Windows had not activated. Odd, that should have happened during set up. I click the button to activate. “Error: 0xC004C003 – The activation server determined the specified product key has been blocked.” What? That’s weird, maybe it’s because of the number of people downloading today or that I deleted the Windows Update files to start this upgrade. I start the procedure to roll back to 8.1. Another hour passes until it’s complete and I go to bed.
It’s now Saturday, and I think it’s time to try again. I restore the deleted files from the trash can and run Windows update yet again. It says Windows 10 is available. I repeat the process to update and it happily updates my system to 10. I open up the PC details view, Windows did not activate. What? Again?! I try to click it and I get a different error saying to contact the manufacturer or to buy a license for $120 USD.
Manufacturer Does Not Support This Device With Windows 10
I hop online and start searching for answers, but quickly decide that Toshiba should have something to let me know about the upgrades. Then a Google search lands me on a Windows 10 page on their US site. (Upgrade page found here) Here they have options to find out if my machine(a new model last year) is available for upgrade to Windows 10. I scan the list and see C55D is on the list, but another number is present and that requires a tool to inspect the system to get the model Code. Download. Installed. Ran it. Model Code doesn’t match. My laptop is not supported for the free upgrade. However Microsoft tells me I am eligible for a free upgrade, but the license key is sold separately? WHAT?! So I guess I can buy a copy to upgrade myself, but Toshiba does not support it so I can’t get the free upgrade. Wonderful. Now I wonder how retail copies will work. I assume as long as the hardware is supported and you can upgrade it yourself, you could ride it out the full 10 years. However, I don’t have $130 for a new OS right now.
So with that I am rather upset. I download the media creation tool for Windows 8.1 and perform a clean install to remove any mess this ordeal may have caused. Then, when running updates again, it defaults to downloading windows 10 again. NOOOOO!!! STOP IT! MY DEVICE ISN’T COMPATIBLE BUT YOU KNOW AND WON’T CHECK UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE! YOU’LL WANT ME TO BUY A LICENSE KEY OR ROLL BACK! I search online again and find nothing. I check the optional updates and find Windows 10 upgrade automatically checked. Thanks for that OPTIONAL update being a DEFAULT. I uncheck it, hide the update and reboot my PC because the Windows 10 Upgrade graphics don’t go away. After a reboot updates continue as normal I think, but it still tells me it’s Downloading Windows 10.
So now I am happily stuck on Windows 8.1 and may have 2GB lost due to an optional upgrade I can’t get rid of. In addition, I now see Windows 10 graphics for every Windows 8.1 update. Great.
You Need To Wait To Upgrade
Don’t listen to all those who may think less of you for staying with what is tried and true. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is a saying for a reason. You may have similar issues or find that specific hardware no longer works. So with that my recommendations are below.
Check With Your Manufacture
Before you dive head first and trust that all will be OK, you need to check with your PC’s manufacture to see if they support your device with Windows 10. Immediately follow that up with how long they will continue to list your machine as supported. These are very critical questions for reasons I will explain. If it’s an older machine, chances are it’s not supported for Windows 10 and then you need to avoid upgrading unless you’re willing to pay $120 for a Home license or $200 for a Pro license. However that’s only if they initially support it.
Dubious Clause: Free Updates For Lifetime of Device
The new lifecycle for Windows 10 on Microsoft’s site is a bit vague about how long you can expect support. I wrote about this in my previous Windows 10 article here. Basically I was concerned about what supported meant. To recap, here is the clause taken from Microsoft’s website.
** Updates are cumulative, with each update built upon all of the updates that preceded it. A device needs to install the latest update to remain supported. Updates may include new features, fixes (security and/or non-security), or a combination of both. Not all features in an update will work on all devices. A device may not be able to receive updates if the device hardware is incompatible, lacking current drivers, or otherwise outside of the Original Equipment Manufacturer’s (“OEM”) support period. Update availability may vary, for example by country, region, network connectivity, mobile operator (e.g., for cellular-capable devices), or hardware capabilities (including, e.g., free disk space).
Text taken from: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/lifecycle bold added by NatuilusMODE for emphasis.
They say they will support your machine for 10 years for free but only if the device is currently supported by it’s manufacturer. Ok, so whatever, my PC is supported right? I mean, I just bought this new model that came out in July(if my memory serves me right). Well, WRONG. Toshiba has already blacklisted my device from getting upgraded to Windows 10. Given the error message I received with my first upgrade, it appears the manufacturers tell Microsoft when they discontinue models and what keys were used for them. Thus, leaving me to purchase another key if I want updates because they do not support the OS on my device. This fits the description perfectly of while the device is supported by the manufacturer. However, it could also be that the key was never added because they said it wasn’t going to be eligible. Regardless, I can’t get the upgrade.
Free but Not?
So, although the promise is up to 10 years of free support (so long as your manufacturer supports it) you are now honestly at the mercy of your PC manufacturer. If they discontinue support for your machine, it can look like you will have your system updates revoked and Microsoft will ask you to purchase a new license key as this is what happened to me attempting to upgrade. However how exactly this will work will need to be determined in the coming months or years as machines that got the update become unsupported by their manufacturer. This is one of the key pieces that isn’t fully clear and I don’t have a good feeling about what will happen. My guess is something similar to what I experienced but Windows will tell you that your device is no longer supported in advance so you can prepare for it.
This is all speculation on my part, but given how my device was treated, it’s just a matter of finding out what the fine lines are of what is and isn’t considered ‘supported’ but you PC maker. What makes me more worried are these articles on ComputerWorld:
They make mention that the expected lifecycle of support to be 2 to 4 years. This is alarming because according to an article linked here on barrons.com it mentions estimates that the average computer replacement is after 4.5 years or more. So if it’s true, then that may give credit to the idea that an OEM can contact Microsoft and say their device is no longer supported that the key is then blocked from reactivating or from receiving updates. I hope this is not the case. As who wants to be forced into upgrades more frequently or have this expense happen more often?
Closing Thoughts and What To Do
In light of my own free upgrade working but requiring the purchase of a key, I would say stick to what works. If you don’t need the latest and greatest, don’t update/upgrade. It may be free, but to me looks like it could cost you a license key in the near future as older devices lose support from their manufactures depending on how it pans out. This could play out differently, and if so I will gladly welcome that reality and suggest the upgrade. However right now, I would wait until these questions are answered. I would wait to upgrade your OS once your PC needs replaced unless there is some much needed feature in 10 that you can’t live without or would be worth the possible hidden cost of upgrading. I know its suggested for older machines, but now I wonder just how many of them would even be eligible to begin with?
The other key point is just because Windows says you can upgrade, doesn’t mean they already checked that your key will work. So please, check with your PC’s manufacturer before attempting the free update. Especially with older or more obscure machines. There is a chance they could be like mine and be unable to activate because they are excluded for whatever reason.
So, to recap, don’t jump into the upgrade blindly. Contact your manufacturer to confirm support and for how long and how the new license works. Then, if those check out go for it. If you plan on purchasing it at retail, then by all means go for it. I understand retail copies are not tied to the machine they are first installed on such as OEM copies. So you should be able to replace parts and reactivate as needed to keep using Windows as it ages over the next 10 years.
Have you already upgraded to Windows 10? If so please let us know in the comments below! How was the experience? Did your upgrade work? Did you have to roll back? Did you lose and hardware compatibility? Did you need a new license?