Did Microsoft just change its mind on free Windows 10 for testers?
Last Friday, Microsoft spelled out much of what’s about to happen next for testers participating in the Windows 10 Insider Preview. That includes the update path to the final, commercial-ready build once it’s time for the OS to go public on July 29. And while we thought the company provided some clear answers to questions the tester community had asked time and time again, as the new week begins things are looking much less certain, and Microsoft could be reversing course on one key point.
If you’ve got a legit copy of Windows 7 or 8.1, you can upgrade for free to Windows 10 – that no one’s debating. But the trickier bit has concerned what happens to users who are testing Windows 10 but don’t necessarily have a current Windows license.
Such users were able to sign up for the Insider program with their Microsoft accounts and gain access to the beta releases. In his blog post on Friday, Microsoft’s Gabriel Aul wrote, “I’ve gotten a lot of questions from Windows Insiders about how this will work if they clean installed from ISO. As long as you are running an Insider Preview build and connected with the MSA you used to register, you will receive the Windows 10 final release build and remain activated.”
That sounded to a lot of people -ourselves included- that if you were testing Windows 10, even on a machine without an existing, licensed Windows 7/8.1 installation, you would receive the final Windows 10 release, and your copy would stay activated just like anyone else’s.
But sometime over the weekend, Microsoft made a telling change to that post. It removed the words “and remain activated” from that last sentence. Then it added the line “It’s important to note that only people running Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 as part of the free upgrade offer.”
That looks like a complete reversal from Friday, confirming that there will be no free copy of Windows 10 solely because you installed the beta – you’re going to need a legit copy of Windows first.
Update: Gabe Aul insists that users who did a clean (no 7/8.1 upgrade) Windows 10 beta install will be able to upgrade to the final version, but Microsoft itself isn’t doing much to help clear up the confusion. The sticking point may be the issue of an “activated” install versus a “licensed” install, and how Windows 10 will continue to work for non-licensed users.
Update 2: Aul has posted an addendum to his initial blog post that does a better job to clear up the situation. Insiders can do one of two things come July 29: upgrade to the final commercial build of Windows 10, or continue as an Insider and receive test builds as they’re made available. If you leave the Insider program, you’ll need a valid Windows 7/8.1 license.
The other option will allow Insiders to continue using Windows 10, but they’ll have to keep installing and activating new builds as old ones expire. As Aul explains, “As part of the program we’ll upgrade Insiders to what is for all intents and purposes the same build as what other customers will get on 7/29, but that will be just another build for Insiders, and those who stay in the program will simply get the next build after as well.”