Should I buy a laptop now or wait for Windows 7?

There are key questions being asked by students, parents and anyone in the market for a new laptop, such as:

If I buy a laptop now, can I get Windows 7 for free?

Yes, with some important caveats. From 26 June 2009 through 31 January 2010, Microsoft and many major PC makers are offering free upgrades to Windows 7 for those who want to buy a Vista-powered laptop now. The deals are all essentially the same, and, as expected, have some exceptions and asterisks.

Will a laptop bought now be obsolete in a few months?

To be certain, with the launch of Windows 7, many PC makers will no doubt release new models and revisions of current models. Still, the same could be said of virtually any consumer electronics purchase — there's always something newer, faster and maybe even less expensive, coming around the corner. Especially if you need a new back-to-school system, it's generally not going to make a huge difference if you rely on your laptop for web surfing, email, office docs and media playback.

Do I want to deal with the hassle of upgrading?

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista was not a trouble-free process for many, to put it mildly. In our handful of tests, however, we have been able to move from Vista to Windows 7 without killing our machines — although, generally speaking, a clean install is more likely to be trouble-free. Wanting to start fresh with a Windows 7 laptop would be a legitimate reason to wait, but not a deal-killer if you need a new laptop right now.

Getting your free Windows 7 upgrade is handled through the company you bought your PC from, not by Microsoft, and in most cases you'll have to register and fill out some online forms. At some point after 22 October, you'll receive a physical copy of Windows 7 via snail mail. The upgrade path looks like this:

Windows Vista Home Premium —> Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows Vista Business —> Windows 7 Professional
Windows Vista Ultimate —> Windows 7 Ultimate

Using Vista basic? Tough luck! Also worth noting, upgrades are arriving via DVD, so you'll have to have a DVD drive available. Also royally screwed are netbook buyers who have Windows XP. Not only do you not get a free upgrade, you can't do a direct upgrade to Windows 7 — instead you have to do a clean install, wiping your hard drive in the process.

What Vista machines qualify for a free upgrade?

Eligible machines
Upgrade program website

Selected models from the TravelMate, Aspire, Extensa, Veriton, Prestige and Gaming range. Free for selected countries, handling and delivery charges otherwise. Link

B, F, G, K, M, N, P series and more. Free for selected countries, handling and delivery charges otherwise. Link

JoyBook S42 only To be announced Link

Inspiron, Studio, XPS, Adamo, OptiPlex, Latitude Precision. Handling and delivery charges apply for consumer models. Free for business machines. Inspiron, Studio, Adamo Inspiron XPS, XPS

Vostro, Latitude, Latitude Precision

Dell Windows 7 upgrade FAQ

LifeBook A1120, A6220, A6230, P1630, P8020, S6520, S6420, S6421, T2020, T1010, T5010, U2010, U2020 and Fujitsu L1010. Surcharge for material, shipping and handling. Link

Pavilion dv2, dv3, dv4, dv6; Pavilion tx series; TouchSmart PC IQ800, IQ5XX; Pavilion Elite Edition E9000, p6000.

Compaq CQ35, CQ40/45, CQ60/61, CQ70/71.
Surcharge for material, shipping and handling. Link

All Idea and Think systems. Surcharge for material, shipping and handling. Link

GT series: GT627, GT628, GT725, GT729, GT735, GX620, GX630
X Series: X340, X400, X600
C Series: CR400, CR600, CR700, CX600, CX700
E Series: EX401, EX460, EX623, EX625, EX627, EX628, EX630, EX723
G Series: GT627, GT628, GT725, GT729, GX403, GX620, GX623, GX633, GX720, GX723, GX733
P Series: PR201, PR601, PX601
V Series: VR603, VX600
U Series: U200
No fees for Australia/New Zealand. Link

All models with Vista Home Premium pre-installed. No fees. Link

AW, CS, FW, G, JS, LN, LV, NS, NW, P, SR, TT, Z series. BZ and TP range are not eligible. The upgrade kit comes in two discs: Windows 7 upgrade and Windows 7 drivers and utilities. Charges apply. Link

Satellite: L510, M300, M500
Qosmio: F50, G50, X300
Portege: M800, M900, R600, A600, M750
Tecra: A10, M10
Handling and delivery charges apply. Link

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Juney posted a comment   

I bought my samsung laptop last year in July, and me too still awaiting my upgrade, what a bloody joke. so surprised at samsung


doogalazza posted a comment   

I bought a samsung laptop r519 last year and still waiting for my windows 7 upgrade. It is a joke. I have registered with samsung. They have a link to register your laptop for windows 7 and the link asks for a serial number. Yet there is no facility to register your serial number and the form rejects my attempts because I can't put in my serial number. Samsung told me I get the upgrade from microsoft. Microsoft refered me to their windows 7 upgrade page which has a samsung link that takes me back to the samsung website. The cycle starts over again. I bought the laptop in the beliefe that it will be upgraded to windows 7. What a joke.


Craig Simms posted a comment   

Don't know about vastly better, but all the vendors will be angling for refreshed laptops with new hardware around the Windows 7 launch.


AndrewT1 posted a comment   

Just wondering if anyone knows if Samsung will be introducing vastly different/better netbooks when windows 7 comes out in October (or will we have to wait till december for the pre-christmas releases). Thanks


elie posted a comment   

Hey thanks cnet
Didnt realise there would be fees..

Anyway, Im getting my laptop after windows 7 is released :D

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