Hidden Fees Discovered for “Free” Windows 7 Upgrades

win7upgrade Since June 26, retailers and computer manufacturers have urged shoppers to buy computers already on store shelves loaded with the much-maligned Windows Vista operating system because they would qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7 when it was released in October. As it turns out, Mouse Print* has learned that some computer purchasers will be asked to pay shipping, handling and other junk fees that total between $11 and $17 to receive their “free” upgrade disks.

Here is a part of a typical advertisement promising a free upgrade to Windows 7:


However, when visiting various computer manufacturers’ websites specifically set up for processing Windows 7 upgrade requests, some consumers will learn for the first time about the possible fees (that are often buried in a FAQ section or under Terms and Conditions):


The Details: “The Windows 7 Upgrade license is free for qualifying PCs. Only materials, shipping, handling, and fulfillment fees may be included in the cost of the upgrade program. If any fees apply, the amount will be presented to you prior to final submission of your order. At that time, you will have the opportunity to opt out before final order submission.” [from Lenovo terms] [Emphasis added]

“There is no charge for the Windows 7 Upgrade Option Program from HP; however, shipping, handling, and other fees (including taxes depending on local and state laws) might apply depending on the retailer or reseller where you purchased your eligible computer.” [from HP FAQ] [Emphasis added]

Dell ad 9/30/09. [Dell FAQ]

Dell told Mouse Print* that it is not going to charge any fees to US customers, despite disclosures to the contrary on their website and in recent newspaper ads (like the one above).

Both HP and Sony told Mouse Print* that they negotiated with big retail chains offering them the opportunity to allow their customers to receive completely free upgrades. Neither would provide a list of which retailers signed up, nor what retailers had to pay or agree to. Retailers say the manufacturers decided on pricing. So they are each pointing fingers at the other claiming the other is responsible for setting the shipping charges if any. Who’s caught in the middle? The consumer, who may not know until after purchase, whether they will have to pay high shipping and handling fees.

No manufacturers’ site linked from the official Microsoft Windows 7 upgrade page lists upfront the specific total charges that consumers will incur for shipping/handling/fulfillment, nor which retailers have agreed to “eat” the shipping charges and which have not. You often have to begin filling out the upgrade request form, sometimes with personal information including the serial number or part number of the computer you have purchased before the shipping costs are revealed. Lenovo is one of the few manufacturers that discloses their fee in the first step of the upgrade process.

Despite the near complete lack of price disclosure, Mouse Print* has learned some of the charges that some consumers will face:

Manufacturer Shipping Fees for “Free” Upgrade to Windows 7
Acer/eMachines/Gateway $0
Compaq $0 for most buyers; others pay $12.99 for first kit
Dell $0 for US online and retail purchasers
HP $0 for most buyers; others pay $12.99 for first kit
Lenovo $17.03 all buyers
Sony $0 for some buyers; $14.99 for others
Toshiba $0 for most buyers; $11.25/$12.99 for others

Now to the retailers. There generally is little or no disclosure by retailers and etailers in their advertisements that some purchasers may have to pay substantial delivery charges to obtain their “free” upgrades, let alone the actual price that will be charged. Of course, some stores’ customers won’t have to pay any charges, but the consumer cannot tell the difference between sellers that fail to disclose the charges and ones that legitimately are not making their customers pay. Staples appears to be the only major retailer that clearly states separately for each computer in its circulars when customers will have to pay for shipping.  Spokespeople for Amazon.com, Costco, Best Buy, and Office Depot told Mouse Print* that their customers will not be charged shipping and handling fees.

So what’s a consumer to do?  If you have already purchased your computer, you can go on the manufacturer’s website to register for the “free” upgrade.  During the registration process, manufacturers will eventually disclose the actual shipping cost, if any. If you have not yet purchased your computer, there is no real way to know whether purchasing it at retailer “A” versus at retailer “B” will result in a truly free upgrade (except those noted above).

And one last bit of bad news.  Some customers who purchased computers since June 26, the start of the free upgrade qualification period, will not qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 7 no matter what, and different procedures and costs apply to purchasers of boxed Windows Vista:


  • Computers with Windows Vista Basic are excluded from the program;
  • Computers with Windows XP (except for the Professional Vista version downgraded to XP) are also excluded.  That means virtually all purchasers of netbooks will not get Windows 7 free.
  • Purchasers of boxed Windows Vista software versions higher than Basic since June 26 must process their upgrade requests through Microsoft at a cost of $9.99 for shipping and handling.

No doubt, the charges that some computer purchasers will be asked to pay for their “free” upgrades will come as a big surprise.

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51 thoughts on “Hidden Fees Discovered for “Free” Windows 7 Upgrades”

  1. Has anyone heard what online retailers are doing? I just got a laptop from Tiger Direct. I have had good dealings with them in the past, but in today’s economy, everyone is trying to improve their bottom line so I wouldn’t put it past anyone to slip in some extra fees.

    Edgar replies: I left mulitple messages for them (and their sister companies), and got no response.

  2. All fees seem reasonable,again buyers should know that nothing is really free.As stated in the article,the actual upgrade IS free.This info certainly did not rate a special update.it falls into “The sky is falling” mentality of all media today.

  3. I purchased my hp from office depot and the manager there thought the charges would be from HP. I suppose though that the disk will come from Office depot so charges will be from Office depot. I also told him that I would have printed out the notice from Mouse Print but I probably needed a printer. I said if there was a charge from Office depot he could be assured the new printer would not be from Office Depot. At this store everyone knows me by name so I am a pretty good customer. In the meantime I will check around on consumer world for printers. Have a nice day

  4. Thanks for this article, Edgar. I ordered a Lenovo ThinkPad last week. Do you have any advice regarding how Lenovo customers could effectively bring to Lenovo’s attention the fact that they’re overcharging their customers? Thanks again.

    Edgar replies: Josh, all you can do is write or call the company to complain, and try to get others to do the same thing. You could also make a complaint to the AG’s office in the state where Lenovo is headquartered.

  5. In Australia, ASUS offer a free Windows 7 upgrade on $700 AUD computers.

    Of course, the free upgrade costs $35 AUD. So that is 5% extra, rather than free…

  6. Why shouldn’t I pay more for what I have already purchased. Maybe it will be like a rebate and I will pay for it and it will come 9 months later. I just bought a new HP and did not go cheap. My first time at Vista and I am not sure if the reason nothing works is because of me or because the computer hates me. I installed the new wireless printer but it don’t work. I plugged it in and it works when it feels like it. Maybe an hour later it will start printer. Now the first thing this computer did was to do maintenance and it did a default defrag. It defragged the factory image.

    I call them and they are nice but this is not my fault. Better interfaces are needed especially when you buy on line.

  7. I just got a new dell mini and actually miss having Vista which my old laptop has. Does anyone know if windows 7 will work on a mini (netbook)?

  8. To be fair, the charges I’m seeing for the “CDs” (actually for Win 7 I think they are DVDs) are comparable to the charges that PC makers impose to order “System Restoration disks” for earlier Windows versions. So these fees aren’t terribly out of line with what they are already charging for media with other versions of the Windows OS on it.

    But it sure ain’t “free”, either. That kind of hidden cost needs to be disclosed on the same page as the advertisement for the “free” upgrade. And if they are going to advertise “free”, there needs to be an option (presumably by download) where the consumer can actually get the upgrade for free without paying fees for the shipping and media materials.

  9. On almost all computers you can upgrade you OS for 0$, you only have to choose between one of the thousands of linux distributions available.

  10. A fee charged for shipping and handling is to be expected.

    The cost of postage, printing of discs, sleeves, mailers, and the time of employees to do this activity is borne by the computer manufacturer. M$ is not bearing the cost and someone has to. All increased costs are ultimately borne by the purchasers/consumers.

    Are you tired of the M$ upgrade rigmarole?

    If yes, there are plenty of alternatives.
    (1) move to Linux (Ubuntu will probably run on your current hardware),
    (2) go to Mac OS X. Apple’s recent upgrade costs $30. Other choices, (3) stay with your current Windows OS.
    (4) buy a netbook.
    (5) use a game console.
    (6) just quit computers at home.
    (7) do something else.

    I left the M$ rigmarole that makes money for M$ and wastes my time and energy. Now, my life is easier and I have more time for the things I would rather do than deal with M$ and their marketing schemes!!!

  11. Acer South Africa are charging R500 for the upgrade discs. Also for those of us who bought prior to 26th June there is no option to upgrade offered.

  12. I live and Canada and got charged 26.71 US Dollars for them to ship my “free” upgrade. Not very impressed.

  13. I live and Canada and got charged 26.71 US Dollars for ASUS to ship my “free” upgrade. Not very impressed.

  14. You need to read Dell’s fine print more closely.

    Dell’s fine print does not say they WILL charge for shipping and handling, it says that they MAY charge for shipping and handling.

    Big difference. And for which their reply to you is correct.

    If you’re going to read fine print, read it *ALL* and make sure that English is your first language so that you don’t get tripped up by nuances in wording.

  15. Seriously, contact the AG? Doesn’t the fine print disclose there MAY be a S&H fee? This is exactly the same thing that you see on those stupid commercials where you “call now and get a 2nd widget for free, just pay separate shipping and processing.”

    People need to stop the b*tching, seriously, this country has turned into a bunch of whiners who want everything for free. Guess what? You are getting Win 7 for FREE, you aren’t actually paying for Win 7 otherwise you’d be paying at least $100.

    Stop whining, realize that just because you don’t like certain things it doesn’t mean you should sue or contact the AG, give me a break.

  16. I would have thought collecting your DVD upgrade disc from the store that you purchased your machine from when they receive their first deliveries of machines with Windows 7 pre-installed would have been the norm.
    In the digital age we now live in, it is also not too much to expect Microsoft to make available for download the upgrade image for genuine customers; using their license key for authentication. I doubt they will.

    What the manufacturers of machines labelled with Windows 7 free upgrades need to know is that the customer purchased the machine on that basis and that the price paid was the price of the machine and the update. Therefore customers would not have bought machines with Vista on them at all over the last year and some of these manufacturers would be in big trouble financially right now without that upgrade sticker on the product.
    So for manufacturers to have not factored in the cost of distributing the Windows 7 update and misleading customers into thinking that they had, by labelling it as a “Free” Update, not telling Microsoft that they needed to cover the cost of update distribution, (Owing to the fact that Vista has been a massive business sales flop for IT manufacturers) The trust of many customers in the manufacturer they bought their machine from will certainly suffer.
    Microsoft destroyed trust by shipping Vista which is just Windows 7 unfinished and rushed out of the door (That’s why it’s an easy update.)
    Microsoft should be fronting the bill for Windows 7 update distribution because they sold everyone Vista, which is not suitable as a computer operating system and they told manufacturers to offer the 7 upgrades for free.

    I’m sure that there are now plenty of people regretting their Vista Laptop/Desktop purchase and are again feeling disappointed by a product that they have purchased with Microsoft software installed on it.
    Now not only do they have to pay for their “Free” Windows 7 upgrade but they also have to install it themselves.

  17. I understand that there are shipping fees, really, I get it. However, I do have a mirror situation that SHOULD be used when arguing about this with the companies.

    If I order three shirts from a catalog, they then figure out the shipping costs and I pay for everything up front. However, come to find out, one of the shirts is backordered. They ship me my two shirts, and then 2 months later, they ship me my third shirt. They do not charge me extra to ship the third shirt, even though it arrives in a seperate package, and I ordered all three together.

    In a similar light, if I purchase a computer online today, and it “comes with” an upgrade at a later date and time (that is currently not in stock), then the shipping on my computer today should include the shipping on my “not in stock” portion of my purchase which will be shipped at a later date and time.

    However, since this does not automatically get processed like a backorder would, and you have to specifically make the request, I can see how that would be a loophole. Oh well, not my problem – I have a mac 🙂

    And to the guy who asked if you could put Win7 on a Dell mini: Yes. You can put anything on a Dell mini. Ours has run XP, Vista, Beta Win7, Ubuntu & is currently running Mac OSX.6. However, the upgrade on the netbook isn’t free; you will have to pay for it.

  18. Just talking ’bout free license, they don’t say material comes free…

    and 17$ or so, well, that’s the cheapest Windows that Microsoft will have ever sold 😀

  19. Fujitsu here in the UK are charging 36 Euro = about $52! But is Windows 7 going to be worth it? Surely it has to be better than 64 bit Vista, which is driving me mad.

  20. Chris: Yes, it’ll definitely be worth it. It was worth a Technet subscription, which is ~$350 (Australian) a year.

  21. In Israel, Lenovo asks for about 26 USD for this “free” upgrade.
    Toshiba asks for about 40 USD for the same service.

    Now, why would I pay that for something that is supposedly free and if not free, than much much lower cost to produce and deliver?

  22. am I the only person in the world that likes Vista? complain all you like about Microsoft but they have made things easier for most people and businesses and they are doing it for profit. That is what makes this country run.

  23. I have been through the Samsung form for the notebook I bought last March. It required my serial number and my purchase receipt, but no charge at this point.

  24. I have to pay $17 shipping according to Acer, so the $0 shown in this article seems to be a lie.

    Also, the retards sold me a machine with a 64-bit processor, refrained from mentioning that the installed Vista is just 32-bit, and will now only send me a 32-bit Windows 7. For a charge.

  25. Actually I’m pissed. Having bought a $USD 1000+ Sony Vaio with Vista pre-installed and being told the Win7 inplace upgrade was FREE I now have to go contend with the new notion that FREE is not necessarily FREE.

    And to those that think the Win7 Upgrade is a full version of Win7 from which you could do a bare bones install I think, considering this FREE episode, you will once again be dissappointed.

    Little wonder there is a proliferation of unofficial sites where OEM versions of VISTA are available for download to enable users like myself who periodically need to do clean installs.

  26. I e-mailed Lenovo about the $17USD charge, here is there reply 🙁

    Dear Alex,

    Thank you for contacting Lenovo, the makers of ThinkPad and Think Centre products.

    As I understand you would like to get the free upgrade to Windows 7 for free to your unit. I would like to inform you that we have not charged any fee for the upgrade to get the Windows 7. However the shipping charge would apply to provide the same for the registration. I apologize if this has caused any inconvenience but we can’t waive off the shipping charge for the same.

    If you have further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at 866-42-THINK (84465) option number 2. We will be happy to assist at that time.

    Once again, thank you for contacting Lenovo.

    Mimi Shingnaisui
    Lenovo Websales/CustServe

  27. Well, over in Singapore, we have to pay the shipping charge of S$30 (~US$25) to ASUS…

    And when I asked if I should wait for the laptop to come pre-installed with Win7 since the launch date is just a couple of weeks away to buy it, the reply I got was they may not sell Win7-installed laptops until early Jan 2010!

    What a rip-off!

  28. This is the kind of practices that ought to be met with class action lawsuits and make some lawyers rich – but cut out this fine print fraud by what we thought was legitimate companies. They need to pay big and I am willing if others are to join in a class action to sue these fraudulent companies. Do you think that we have any judges who have enough sense will realize that $17 ain’t free. God forgive us if we expect justice in the United States. It is too owned by the corporations and their lobbyists. However, ANY DARING LAWYERS OUT THERE WILLING TO STEP FORWARD TO REPRESENT THE PEOPLE???????

  29. I just purchased a Gateway notebook– Does anyone know if I can get the Win7?

    Edgar replies: If the notebook has Vista Home Premium or higher, yes, you get Win7 completely free.

  30. I never got my XP to Vista “Free Upgrade”, sadly. I agree with Edgar, file a report with the Attorney General’s office, Better Business Bureau, etc . It may not seem effective but it raises ATTENTION which normally, for me at least, gets the matter resolved. If you bought the computer for a charitable organization or 501c(3), leverage that – I’ve found that when you mention you’re a 501c(3) many many times the tunes change, fees get waived, and the last thing a company wants is bad PR.

  31. J”ust talking ’bout free license, they don’t say material comes free…

    and 17$ or so, well, that’s the cheapest Windows that Microsoft will have ever sold

    Comment by motor — October 5, 2009 @ 1:55 pm”

    I was going to say the same thing. Yes, the LICENSE is free. They have to
    charge you to mail it to you. It’s not THAT big of a fee, even though it is
    a bit misleading. Still, think about it…. a regular, off-the-shelf copy of ANY
    Microsoft OS is over $100, so only paying around $20 is a great deal.

  32. I purchased a laptop from Dell in September; now I’m told I won’t qualify for the Windows 7 upgrade because the version of Vista on my laptop is the Home Basic edition; only the Premium will get the free upgrade. So I’d have had to pay for it one way or the other.

  33. To all Canadians: $26 USD to send to Canada for my ASUS ‘free’ upgrade. Rediculous for a piece of plastic. ASUS is also using to ship, so I should expect to be extorted for an additional $20 in brokerage fees.
    I understand shipping costs to the far reaches of the world, but this is silly. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could choose which carrier to use for shipping, because UPS consistently costs the consumer much, much more.

  34. We bought a compaq (HP) lap top about 4 weeks ago from John Lewis in the UK on the understanding we would get a free windows 7 upgrade. Just tried to order and they want £21.99 shipping and handling costs. Not my definition of free. John Lewis the retailer say not their problem as they never advertised the upgrade. I’ve complained to HP as I think £21.99 ridiculous to post a disk???

  35. For my family, I bought a HP notebook and a Dell notebook after June 26. Both qualify for a free upgrade and for each I have registered at the respective manufacturer. I live in the U.S.

    HP is charging a $12.99 shipping fee and I had to provide a credit card number to complete the “free” upgrade process. Per the web site, the fee will be charged when the item is shipped.

    Dell is not charging any fees. There are no hidden fees and the upgrade is completely free. No credit card number required.

    Obviously HP saw this as a revenue generating opportunity. Even if they just wanted to cover their out-of-pocket costs, the $12.99 fee seems excessive. This is just another example of a company misleading the consumer and taking advantage of him/her after the sale is complete.


  36. Another detail I found was that some manufacturers will only honor the Windows 7 upgrade if you buy it directly instead of a retailer. I found a Lenovo Y650 w/ Windows Home Premium on Newegg.com thinking it was eligible for the upgrade (since it met all criteria on Lenovo’s website). Newegg told me that an upgrade form would be provided, which I would need to mail to Lenovo. However, Lenovo would not honor it. I asked them for link or pdf with a full upgrade policy but have not heard back. [copy of email edited out]

  37. Hello,

    before one week I bought FUJICU Amilo with Win.Vista Home Premium and with upgrading coupon.
    To upgrade to Win.7 I need to pay 24.95 euro for licence and 81 euro for shipping fee.
    Shipping fee is cost of shipping to Cyprus (european comunity)


  38. Just been asked for £17 UKP (~$26 USD) from Samsung for my FREE upgrade in the UK.

    To all those “stop whining” posters, please give it up. The adverts said FREE. The retailer said FREE. The webite said FREE. There were no asterisks or pop-ups. Don’t tell me that “may charge shipping” was written in Appendix 45 subsection (ii); I read the terms just like others here. The cost of shipping a CD within the UK is less than £1; from Asia or America, maybe £3-4. I’m quite happy to pay that much for a disk, and to still consider such a transaction essentially “free”.

    But £17 is not “shipping”, it’s a retail price – albeit a low one – for a product that I was promised FREE. If Samsung were charging me £1000, would that still be reasonable, simply because I was “warned” about “shipping”?

  39. Hey I got a HP desktop along with free upgrade to window 7 when it is available. Anyways, after a couple of months, I fill out the free upgrade form on HP.com (on the disclaimer it did say there might be a charge) but after I complete the form it ran up the total: $0

    So basically I DID got my free upgrade. Perhaps where I live is close to HP center??? I live in MD just incase your wondering.

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