Windows 10 is Microsoft’s most recent operating system, but many PC users are still running an earlier version.
Last year’s WannaCry ransomware attack, which hit PCs installed with the OS released in 2001, underlined the dangers of running out-of-date software.
And to make sure you have the most secure version of Windows, it’s best to have the very latest version installed with the most recent patches.
The original Windows 10 free upgrade offer from Microsoft ended on July 29 2016.
However, there was still another route that remained open to a wide range of PC fans.
One of those options was the assistive technology route, which previously had no end date.
This Windows 10 free download offer was available to those who use assistive technology, and there is a potentially wide umbrella of people who qualify.
But towards the end of last year the Redmond-based tech giant revealed that the assistive technology free upgrade route would end on December 31 2017.
The assistive technology site was updated to say: “If you use assistive technologies, you can upgrade to Windows 10 at no cost as Microsoft continues our efforts to improve the Windows 10 experience for people who use these technologies.
“Please take advantage of this offer before it expires on December 31, 2017.”
That Windows 10 deadline has come and passed, but the ‘upgrade now’ button on that page is still active.
Once you download the file from that page, you may be greeted with an error message when you try to upgrade.
But according to Ghacks, this can be fixed by copying across a specific file.
They explained that Windows 7 users trying to upgrade to Windows 10 may be greeted by the error message api-ms-win-core-libraryloader-l1-1-1.dll.
To fix it, users need to copy across the wimgapi.dll file from the system32 folder of the Windows 7 installation to the Windows10Upgrade root folder.
Microsoft has not specified what kind of assistive technology people would have to use to qualify for the Windows 10 free download.
So there is a potentially wide umbrella of people who could qualify for the scheme.
Assistive technology includes built-in features like Narrator and Magnifier as well as keyboard shortcuts and the on-screen keyboard.
The need for PC users to be running the latest version of Windows was highlighted by a Google blog post.
It was claimed that Microsoft have been patching out security bugs in Windows 10 but NOT immediately rolling those out to Windows 7 and 8 users.
This lag in updates leaves potentially hundreds of millions computers at risk of an attack.
The exploits that hackers and malware are taking advantage of is being fixed in the big Windows 10 releases.
However, this is only slowly filtering back to Windows 7 and 8 in the form of monthly software updates.
The news was revealed by researchers on Google’s Project Zero team.
It’s feared cybercriminals comparing the various builds of Windows will notice these holes in earlier versions of Windows and take advantage of it.
In a blog post, Google Project Zero researcher Mateusz Jurczyk said: “Microsoft is known for introducing a number of structural security improvements and sometimes even ordinary bug fixes only to the most recent Windows platform.
“This creates a false sense of security for users of the older systems, and leaves them vulnerable to software flaws which can be detected merely by spotting subtle changes in the corresponding code in different versions of Windows.”