Thursday, March 19, 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 Upgrades Coming For Free | No Your Pirated Version Won't Suddenly Be Legit

Microsoft made big headlines yesterday when they dropped the news that Windows 10 upgrades will be available for free to anyone even Windows pirates. However, it now appears as though some of those previous reports were not totally accurate.

According to the original reports Microsoft said they'd be "upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10." At the time the program was only confirmed to be rolling out in China as a chance for Microsoft to "re-engage" with the hundreds of millions of Windows users in China. Windows piracy is a major concern in China, and to deal with the problem, Microsoft wanted to offer customers a chance to get on-board with legitimate software. It will dole out Windows 10 through security outfit Qihoo 360 Technology and Tencent Holdings, China's most popular social networking company with more than 800 million users.

This however led to more speculation that Microsoft would be rolling out the same program world wide. It now turns out that is the case, though there are a few caveats that were not initially covered by the previous reports. First is the statement from Microsoft confirming the Windows 10 free upgrade program:

"We are excited to launch Windows 10 this summer. Anyone with a qualified device can upgrade to Window 10, including those with pirated copies of Windows. We believe customers over time will realize the value of properly licensing Windows and we will make it easy for them to move to legitimate copies."

This is the same blanket statement that several sites have confirmed receiving yesterday. Today however we have more clarification on the program and what will and won't be covered. Microsoft revealed the Windows 10 upgrade details to Polygon. This short and to the point statement makes it all clear, the free Windows 10 upgrade will simply be a software update and in no way offers a legitimate license or changes the status of the non-genuine license. Here's the full statement:

"The consumer free upgrade offer for Windows 10 applies to qualified new and existing devices running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Some editions are excluded from the consumer free upgrade — including Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to other Windows 10 enterprise offerings.

"We have always been committed to ensuring that customers have the best Windows experience possible. With Windows 10, although non-Genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license. Non-Genuine Windows is not published by Microsoft. It is not properly licensed, or supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner. If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade. According to industry experts, use of pirated software, including Non-Genuine Windows, results in a higher risk of malware, fraud (identity theft, credit card theft, etc), public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions."

So it now seems as though not much is actually changing. Microsoft is simply stating that they will offer the Windows 10 upgrade software to just about anyone for free. You'll still need to purchase a license to actually be on the legal side, though it likely means you can purchase the cheaper upgrade pack instead of a full retail license. We still don't have full details on what else this might mean or how the 'unlicensed' software will perform or if we'll see things such as nag screens, intermittent reboots, etc.

For those that are going to be interested in Windows 10 here are the upgrade paths according to Microsoft's PowerPoint presentations. As of right now there will be no direct upgrade from Windows XP or Windows Vista. All Windows 7 and Windows 8.x versions (Windows 7 RTM, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 RTM) will require an ISO image, which you can have on a DVD or USB drive.
  • Windows 7 RTM: Media (ISO)
  • Windows 7 SP1: Media (ISO) or Windows Update
  • Windows 8: Media (ISO)
  • Windows 8.1 RTM: Media (ISO)
  • Windows 8.1 S14: Media (ISO) or Windows Update
  • Windows RT: N/A
  • Windows Phone 8.0: N/A
  • Windows Phone 8.1: Windows Update
That's a pretty wide range Microsoft is covering, so long as the minimum hardware requirements are met. They include:
  • Processor: 1GHz or faster
  • RAM: 1GB (32-bit) or 2GB (64-bit)
  • Free HDD: 16GB
  • Graphics card: DirectX 9 with WDDM driver
  • Microsoft account and Internet access
If you are adventurous and want to checkout what Windows 10 will offer, there is still time to download and install the beta version. Checkout this post for more details.

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