5 ways to save your Windows 10 PC in 2025 – and most are free

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5 ways to save your Windows 10 PC in 2025 – and most are free

 

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We all know that some perfectly good Windows 10 PCs can’t be upgraded to Windows 11. But did you know that Canalys Insights estimated there are 240 million Windows 10 PCs doomed to the trash heap because they can’t be upgraded to Windows 11 after Microsoft dumps Windows 10 support on October 14, 2025? Wow. That’s a lot of trashed PCs.

And, it may be worse than that. By IT asset management firm Lansweeper‘s count, 40% of all enterprise workstations can’t make the upgrade, which would put the number of Windows 10 PCs counting the day to their demise at about 400 million

Also: When Windows 10 support runs out, you have 5 options but only 2 are worth considering

Why? Many older Windows 10 machines don’t have the CPU or the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) needed for Windows 11. The TPM isn’t usually a problem, but if you have a PC from 2019 or earlier, the CPU likely will be unsupported.

Or, say you’ve looked at Windows 11 and said, “No, just no!” (That’s been my reaction.) Or you’ve considered forthcoming Windows 11 features such as Microsoft Recall and had an even more negative reaction.

What’s a user to do when their Windows machine can’t make the grade —  or they simply don’t want to upgrade? Well, here’s one choice you shouldn’t make: Do not keep running Windows 10 come the fall of 2025. Your machine will be hacked. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

 

Microsoft and its hardware friends want you to buy a new PC.  But, suppose you don’t want to buy a new computer. They’re not cheap, after all. In 2024, while you can buy a budget laptop for as little as $300, Windows 11 doesn’t work and play that well on cheap hardware. No, to enjoy running Windows 11, you need a higher-end laptop or PC. These offer better performance, more storage, and higher-quality displays, but they also cost north of $1,000.

So, what can you do? Here are your options:

1. Force Windows 11 on your Windows 10 PC

You could gird your loins and hack your way to installing Windows 11 on your PC even though, officially, Microsoft won’t support you if you try this trick. It’s a bit complicated upgrading an unsupported Windows 10 PC to Windows 11, as ZDNET’s resident Windows expert Ed Bott explains, but it’s not that hard either.

Also: The best Windows laptops you can buy: Expert tested and reviewed

There’s also an open-source program, Rufus, that makes it easy to bypass the Windows 11 system check. This bootable USB drive creation program gives you the option of skipping Windows 11 system requirements when you try to do an in-place upgrade.

Keep in mind, though, that Windows 11 might not work that well, or at all, on your older PC. You’re risking the possibility that you might brick your PC, and no one wants that.

2. Install Linux

Then, of course, there’s my default suggestion: Move from your soon-to-be-outdated Windows 10 to Linux. Yes, I know you’ve been told that Linux is hard to use and hard to install. It’s not.

Also: Thinking about switching to Linux? 10 things you need to know

Sure, back in the 2000s, you needed to be a Linux shell command wizard to install it and run its software. That was a long time ago. Today, anyone can run Linux. Heck, more than a decade ago, I taught a 79-year-old how to run Ubuntu Linux, and we didn’t even share a common language!

Another advantage of running Linux is that your PC will never be left behind. I have computers more than a decade old that came with Windows XP, and they’re running up-to-date Linux to this day.

3. Switch to ChromeOS

If you really can’t see yourself learning Linux, how about ChromeOS? You can use a web browser, right? Sure you can!

Thanks to ChromeOS Flex, you can take pretty much any PC from the last decade or so and get it running ChromeOS. I upgraded a Dell Inspiron One 2320 with Windows 7 to ChromeOS Flex. This all-in-one (AIO) 2012 computer has a 2.4Ghz Intel Pentium Dual Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, NVIDIA GeForce GT525M, and a 320GB hard drive, and it’s a great ChromeOS machine, which I use as my Zoom workstation every day.

You can install and run ChromeOS Flex on any PC with a 64-bit processor, 4GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and can be booted from a USB drive. It’s easy to move any Windows machine to ChromeOS Flex.

Also: How I installed ChromeOS Flex in 30 minutes

Oh, is there a Windows application you can’t live without? Leaving aside that software companies are dumping standalone applications in favor of software-as-a-service such as Microsoft 365, you now can run essentially any Windows app on a Chromebook. Cameyo and Google’s new Virtual App Delivery (VAD service) enables you to run “legacy apps” on any Chromebook. There, they will appear as Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Microsoft uses this cloud-based approach itself to deliver applications.

For that matter, if you still have an Intel-powered Apple Mac and you’re beginning to get nervous about when Apple will cut its support lifeline — unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t tell you when it will end hardware support — you can move your Mac to ChromeOS Flex. There’s nothing remotely complicated about it.

By the way, neither Linux nor ChromeOS Flex will cost you a single dime. They’re free now and forever.

4. Pay for Windows 10 Extended Support

You could, of course, buy support for your Windows 10 machine. Microsoft will offer Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for Windows 10. While Microsoft hasn’t announced yet how much this will cost individual users, we do have the numbers for businesses and schools.

For Businesses:

  • Year 1: $61 per device
  • Year 2: $122 per device (doubles from Year 1)
  • Year 3: $244 per device (doubles from Year 2)

The pricing is based on the traditional “5-by-5” activation key method. Microsoft is offering a 25% discount for organizations using Microsoft’s cloud-based update management solutions like Intune or Windows Autopatch, bringing the Year 1 cost down to $45 per user for up to five devices.

For Education Customers:

  • Year 1: $1 per license
  • Year 2: $2 per license
  • Year 3: $4 per license

For Windows 365 Customers:

Extended Security Updates will be included at no additional cost for Windows 10 devices accessing Windows 365 Cloud PCs.

Keep in mind that the price for the Windows 10 ESU program doubles every year for a maximum of three years. Microsoft really, really doesn’t want you to stay on Windows 10. As the company says, “Extended Security Updates are not intended to be a long-term solution but rather a temporary bridge.”

Also: These two Linux desktops are the simplest picks for new users

In addition, the ESUs provide only security updates. There will be no new features or non-security patches. If you run into trouble, technical support will be limited and require an active support plan.

So, in summary, commercial organizations will pay $61-$244 per device over three years, while education gets heavily discounted pricing of $1-$4 per license. Consumer pricing is still to be determined.

I’d only go with an ESU, myself, if I really had no other choice.

5. Try alternative security patching

Finally, a company called 0Patch offers customized patches for out-of-service operating systems. For example, 0Patch offers support for Windows Server 2012 until 2026, while Microsoft dropped support for it in October 2023. It’s expected the company also will offer support for Windows 10 for about $25 a year.

Also: Linux might be your best bet for heightening your desktop computer security

Ignore it and keep running Windows 10 

Do you have a death wish!? No, just no! Unless your Windows 10 PC is never, ever connected to the Internet, this is just asking for trouble.

Conclusion

Don’t trash your old Windows 10 PCs! There are many ways to give them a long, useful life after Microsoft retires them. With ChromeOS Flex and Linux, I’ve got former Windows PCs more than 10 years old that remain productive machines. Old doesn’t mean useless. You just need to be a bit creative.

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