Ernie’s afraid that replacing his hard drive is going to be a huge hassle. “One of our laptops is a Dell, that came with Windows 8 that was upgraded to 8.1 and then upgraded to windows 10. The hard drive has now failed and needs to be replaced. I have been backing up my pictures-document files etc… to an external hard drive, so they are safe. Once the hard drive has been replaced, I assume I’ll have to start over with Windows 8 once again (via a disk that came with the Dell), and assume I can update that to 8.1… I also assume I’m going to be stuck having to buy Windows 10 if I want to continue to use it now that the ‘free’ upgrade program is over with?”
Good news Ernie! Windows 10 remembers the product key in a different way. The key is embedded into the system. So unless your motherboard blows, all you should need to do is a clean install of Windows 10 and it should activate. You can get a copy by clicking here. Follow the instructions for creating an installation media. Or, if you’re having a tech professional do the hard drive replacement, they can install Windows 10.