PC runs Windows 7. Help it run an updatable version of Chrome.
December 8, 2022 4:50 PM   Subscribe

My parents have an old PC that runs Windows 7 Home. They still have the product key for Windows 7, but I cannot find a free way to update to Windows 10. Chrome (their current browser) will only continue to support Windows 7 with security updates until January 15. What's the best path forwards?

My parents' PC currently runs windows 7. Chrome will end security support for it by January 15 2023. I don't want them running an insecure browser (and they don't want that either).

They are willing to update to Windows 10, but I am having some trouble seeing if their current machine is capable, and they may not want to spend money on updating it since they have more modern laptops that work fine.

I also get conflicting information about cost. Some locations on the answers.microsoft.com site claim that since they still have their Windows 7 product key, they should be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. But other locations only mention the cost with no free option.

I did also go to the Media Creation Tool, to see if I could download an ISO and try that way, but the tool responds with Error code 0x80072F8F - 0x20000 in response. Googling that error code gave some options to try, but there's no point if I won't be able to get them a free copy of Windows 10 anyhow (nor if their computer doesn't meet the specs to run it).

Overall it might be easier to get them a new computer, get them a different (free) browser that will continue to have security updates on their system at least for another year or so, or ask them to hire their "computer guy" to come fix it. But it'd be great if I could fix the problem for them while I'm here in the next few days. Ideas?
posted by nat to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm kind of in the same boat. From my research Microsoft has stated they no longer offer the free upgrade thus, I'm assuming, their Media Creation Tool won't work. I encountered the exact same error as you. My path will probably be download an ISO of Windows 10, make an image of the existing system with Macrrium and install Windows 10 over Windows 7 and see how it goes.

I found this site with Windows 10 downloads (apparently linked directly to Microsoft's downloads):

posted by rmmcclay at 5:39 PM on December 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Several sources claim the free upgrade using MCT still works in 2022.

Often the errors are due to Windows 7 not being fully updated.

If you manually run Windows Update, does it work? If so, run it again (and again and again) until all the updates are done. Then try MCT again.

If Windows Update is stuck, there used to be a "Windows 7 Update Troubleshooter" from microsoft that could "unstick" the updater, but it seems to be hard to find.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:01 PM on December 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I’ve used these instructions to upgrade multiple machines running Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. If you’re having no luck going from 7 to 10, and have time on your hands, maybe try first upgrading to 8.1 and then to 10?

If this hardware is too old to run windows 11 though even browsing is going to become a pain before too long. Totally understandable if you want to kick the can down the road, but worth pondering if you want to upgrade now or avoid but still need to upgrade in a year.
posted by Wavelet at 6:23 PM on December 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I did just try updating Windows 7 as much as possible, but the MediaCreationTool gives the same error still.
posted by nat at 9:15 PM on December 8, 2022

If you and your parents are open to it, and in the case that Chrome is all they ever use on that computer, a solution could be to install a suitable Linux distro (such as Mint) and then run Chrome on that.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:48 AM on December 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Have you tried running the MCT on a different computer? It doesn't have to be done on the one you're upgrading. (I never run it on the target machine; if I have to use it, it's always on a different machine because the machine I'm reimaging is either borked or not running Windows.)

Depending on your level of comfort, you can also try a different tool. Specifically, Rufus, which can download (from Microsoft directly) the Windows ISO and write it to a flash drive. It's a good bit harder to use than the MS MCT tool, though. (Don't download Windows ISOs from random places - Rufus does not; its list of downloads are all from Microsoft, at least at the time of writing.)

The Linux suggestion is not bad too but you may also want to look at ChromeOS Flex, which will turn the machine into a really, really big Chromebook. ChromeOS is more limited but it's also easier to use than a Linux distro (and yes they've gotten better but still).
posted by mrg at 5:10 AM on December 9, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the advice, folks!

My parents now have Windows 10 installed and working. Total cost: 40$ to buy a new home version of WordPerfect (they were still running WordPerfect 9 which does not work with Windows 10). Also some hours of my time (and yours) to figure out how.

Method: Before running the media creation tool (as described in the best answers I marked above), you need to run the Easy Fix from Microsoft's support site, here. This easy fix is specific to the 0x80072F8F - 0x20000 error I was seeing. But if you have the same error, then doing all possible updates for Windows 7 and then doing this easy fix, then using the Media Creation Tool, worked to create a free version of Windows 10.
posted by nat at 10:04 AM on December 13, 2022

Response by poster: Oh I should also say for anyone worried about trying to do the Windows 7 to Windows 10 update, once I knew what to do it was smooth and easy. Simplest windows OS upgrade I've ever done (I run MacOS myself these days so it's been maybe 15 years since I've done an OS upgrade on a Windows system; I was pleasantly surprised by the ease).
posted by nat at 10:15 AM on December 13, 2022

Glad you got it sorted! This just popped up https://legacyupdate.net which supposedly will help old Windows versions get properly updated.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 3:47 PM on December 16, 2022

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