The last free Windows 10 upgrade path for consumers will shut down by December 31

There's still one way consumers can upgrade to Windows 10 for free—and Microsoft will shut it down on December 31, even though a majority of the world's PC users still use older versions of Windows.

Microsoft gave Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users an entire year after the launch of Windows 10 (until July 31, 2016) to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. But there was one exception: those who used assistive technology, such as screen readers, got an indefinite extension. 

According to a Microsoft support page, the deadline for those users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free expires by the end of the year, as noted by Slashgear. After that, consumers will have to pay the full price for a Windows license, which costs about $75 from Amazon for a "system builder" license for Windows 10 Home, and more for retail Home or Professional versions.

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Windows 10 digital ink: All the improvements within the Fall Creators Update

Inking and navigating with a digital pen or stylus within Windows 10 has become easier within the Fall Creators Update for those of you who use a tablet as, you know, a tablet.

The improvements include two major elements: navigation, including using the pen or stylus to select and scroll text; and better interpretation of inked words as text, via a more accurate and responsive handwriting panel. Combined, it’s a love letter of sorts to Surface and other tablet users who use the pen to input data. It's amazing how well Windows can interpret your chicken-scratch into text that can be edited in Word and elsewhere.

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How to type emoji on your PC using Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

How can I type emoji on my PC keyboard? It’s a question that you’ve probably asked, given up on, shrugged, and then pulled out your smartphone. Now, with Windows 10 and the Fall Creators Update, a new emoji keyboard will make adding emoji to Twitter, Facebook, and other apps a snap. 

While there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned smiley-face :) or GIF, an emoji is a simple way to add a bit of fun to your communications. That’s the whole point of emoji, after all! And while they’ve been part of smartphone culture for years, Microsoft has now added its easy emoji keyboard to Windows 10.

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How Microsoft Edge will beat Chrome as the best PDF reader with the Fall Creators Update

Microsoft Edge is gaining new PDF reader features within the Windows 10 Fall Creator’s Update—everything from sticky notes to inked signatures. It’s part of Microsoft’s bid to compete with Chrome and Firefox as the best Web browser, and along the way, carve out a niche as the best free PDF viewer available.

We tried Edge’s new capabilities within Build 16251 of the Windows Insider program, several iterations after Microsoft debuted the new functionality as part of Build 16188. The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update has since rolled out, and all of these features are now live.

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3 ways Windows 10 connects to your Android and iOS phones to make a better PC

Connecting your phone to your Windows 10 PC has never been easier—and with the hints Microsoft has dropped as part of the Fall Creators Update, it looks like the phone will be a big deal in future PCs.

Right now, if you own either an Android phone or an Apple iPhone, you can reply to texts right from your PC. In the future, you’ll be able to take webpages you were reading on your train ride and send them to your Windows PC at the office. Passwords? Who needs ‘em? And now, with a dedicated Phone section within the Settings menu, Microsoft appears to be setting up a framework for even stronger connections in the future.

For those of you frantically waving Windows phones—yes, you too can connect your phones to your PC, via the Continuum experience Microsoft debuted a little more than a year ago. Unfortunately, with limited hardware and tepid customer support, Microsoft’s Windows phone aspirations are basically dead. Instead, Microsoft has focused on bringing its ecosystem to the far more popular iPhone and Android platforms.  The best thing is all of these features are live within the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

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Windows 10’s My People: Microsoft makes it easy to just wave hello

Windows 10’s My People feature addresses a need some of us have, at least some of the time: a simple reminder that our friends are thinking about us.

My People is a new feature within the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. (Note: We’ve tested it as part of Windows 10’s Insider Program, so Microsoft may still be ironing out any small bugs we experienced.) It allows you to select your three best friends and symbolically place them near you, via icons in the taskbar. Just as you might stop by for a chat, My People allows you to quickly Skype or email them—and just them—all from a single button on your taskbar. And the best feature is how they can respond: “Shoulder taps” pop up emoji right from your taskbar, so that your friend can wave hello. 

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Windows 10: The best tricks, tips, and tweaks

Digging deep into Windows 10
windows 10 surface laptop

Image by Dan Masaoka/IDG

Windows 10's constantly evolving nature means fresh features arrive twice per year, and with all the new goodies come a legion of new tweaks and tricks—some of which unlock powerful functionality hidden to everyday users. Others simply let you mold the Windows 10 experience into the shape you see fit. Here are some of the most useful tweaks, tricks, and tips we’ve found, including a spate of fresh finds from the mammoth Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (which has many more nifty features than we can include here).

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How to download the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update right now

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update launched on October 17, stuffed with all sorts of cool new features. That doesn’t mean you’ll get it immediately. Microsoft staggers the rollout of big updates across various waves. But the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is available right now if you’re the impatient type.

And bold: Microsoft only pushes the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update to PCs if it knows your computer won’t run into technical issues or nasty bugs, like the broken webcams, Kindle-induced crashes, and system freezes that followed in the wake of Windows 10’s Anniversary Update in 2016. In fact, Microsoft actively discourages workarounds like the one below even though it makes them available.

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OneDrive Files On-Demand: How to enable it in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Where is OneDrive Files On-Demand? If you downloaded Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, you might be interested in the terrific new OneDrive placeholders feature. But on some PCs, it never showed up.

OneDrive Files On-Demand returns the Windows 8.1 placeholder functionality to Windows 10. This displays shortcuts to all the files stored in your OneDrive account in a File Explorer window, rather than storing a local copy on your hard drive. Even if you have hundreds of gigabytes stored in OneDrive, you’ll be able to see them all in a folder that takes up a megabyte or two. It’s one of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update’s best new features.

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