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Who really gets Windows 10 for free? Microsoft sorts it out

Barry Collins
23 Jun 2015
Windows 10
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At the third time of asking, Microsoft finally clears up who will get a free Windows 10 upgrade

Microsoft - never a company to make something simple when there's ample room for confusion - has finally clarified who will get Windows 10 for free. After days of mixed messages from Redmond, the company has finally provided clear guidance on who qualifies for a free upgrade and how to get it. 

The confusion began on Friday, when the company published a blog post suggesting that everyone who had been testing Windows 10 as part of the Windows Insider programme would qualify for a free upgrade, along with all current Windows 7 and 8.1 users. An update to that blog post on Saturday contradicted that pledge, however, asserting that "only people running Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 as part of the free upgrade offer". That potentially left those who had performed a clean installation of the Windows 10 Preview out in the cold. 

Windows 10: the full lowdown

Now, in a third update to that same blog post, Microsoft has finally got its story straight. The situation is as follows: if you're a Windows 10 Insider, you will keep receiving updates to the operating system, but these will continue to be the experimental 'beta' releases of the operating system, not the stable version. As long as you keep updating the operating system, it seems you can continue using Windows 10 in perpuity, albeit a flakier experimental version of the OS that you probably won't want to run a mission-critical PC.

If you're a Windows 10 Insider and don't want to continue using the experimental releases, you will need a valid Windows 7/8.1 licence to qualify for a free upgrade to the stable version of Windows 10 when it's released on July 29. " If your system upgraded from a Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license it will remain activated, but if not, you will be required to roll back to your previous OS version or acquire a new Windows 10 license," Microsoft's amended blog post states. "If you do not roll back or acquire a new license the build will eventually expire."

It's still not abundantly clear what will happen if you nuked a Windows 7/8.1 PC with a clean installation of the Windows 10 Preview and now can't roll back to the old operating system. We suspect you're going to be stuck on the experimental Insider ring. We would ask Microsoft to clarify, but we suspect its press officers are all lying down in a darkened room. 

"I regret that this caused confusion about who was or was not eligible for the Windows 10 upgrade offer, but hope that this helps to clarify," says Windows engineering general manager Gabe Aul on the updated blog post. Stay tuned for tomorrow's gripping instalment.  

 

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