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If you want Windows 10, get a Windows 7/8.1 PC, already

Mark Hachman | June 24, 2015
XP and Vista users (and pirates) can't get Windows 10 for free, period. The only workaround is a new PC, or a fresh copy of Windows 10.

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It's hard to tell who is more frustrated at this point: Microsoft, which has been trying to simplify the upgrade process to Windows 10 as much as possible; or users, who don't believe it could be that easy.

On Friday, Microsoft's Gabe Aul tried to explain that users would need a Microsoft account to upgrade to the latest Windows 10 preview builds, as well as the RTM version, which will be released on July 29. Implicit in that post was the assumption that users would upgrade from a genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8 PC to Windows 10 via the Windows Insider program.

Some users apparently believe they might be able to upgrade a Windows XP or Windows Vista PC to Windows 10, however, simply by upgrading to Windows 10 from a Windows 10 ISO file before the Insider program expires. That is not true, Aul said. "Friday's post was intended to clarify how the Windows Insider Program will proceed, and in attempting to do so created some unintended confusion," Aul wrote on Monday, in what was essentially a do-over.

Why this matters:  It's hard who to know who's really to blame. I'm told that Microsoft is trying to let users know that Windows 10 will be free--to consumers, not enterprises--without involving its legal team. Users, meanwhile--and that includes cynical reporters like me--wonder whether Microsoft is waiting to spring some "gotcha" on us at the last minute. I'm still hoping that Aul authors a post titled 'Windows 10 is free, free, free," so we can put all this to rest.

Windows Insiders have two choices

For the Windows Insiders helping to test Windows 10, there are two paths: Those who wish to keep receiving and trying out Windows 10 preview builds, even after the RTM version is shipped out on July 29; and those who wish to opt out after July 29. 

For those Insiders who wish to opt out on July 29:   For this group, the experience will be essentially the same as for those who've purchased a brand-new Windows 10 PC, assuming you own a genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license. (If you pirated Windows 7, you don't.) Your license will be valid for the "lifespan" of that device--whatever that ends up meaning.

But that also means Windows Vista owners are out of luck. Even though you helped Microsoft test Windows 10, you'll need to buy a retail copy of Windows 10.

There's another caveat: You have to take the plunge and install Windows 10 as your primary operating system. Assuming Microsoft's Gabe Aul is correct, if you run Windows 10 within a virtual machine, you won't be eligible for the free upgrade. 


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