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Microsoft takes yet another shot at defining 'free' for Windows 10 testers

Gregg Keizer | June 24, 2015
Stay on the Insider branch forever and everything's green

windows 10 build 1022
Computerworld's copy of Windows 10 Pro preview -- installed in a virtual machine from a disk image, not upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1 -- will run indefinitely as long as it doesn't desert the Insider preview program.

Microsoft on Monday took another shot at clarifying its Windows 10 upgrade policy, telling Windows Insider participants that they had to remain in the preview program if they had not upgraded from an eligible PC but wanted to continue running the OS free of charge.

Monday's update was the third or fourth time, depending on how one counted, that the company attempted to kill the confusion it started Friday.

"Let me start by restating very clearly that Windows 10, whether you get it on 7/29 or whether you got it in a preview form through the Windows Insider Program, is intended to be installed on [a] Genuine Windows device," said Gabriel Aul, engineering general manager for Microsoft's operating system group, in a revised blog. "Genuine" is Microsoft lingo for a legitimate Windows license that has been activated with a product key.

Aul also admitted that his Friday announcement -- an Insider preview program housekeeping status update -- "created some unintended confusion."

No kidding.

On Friday, Aul said all testers would get the stable code on July 29, the day Microsoft plans to release the new OS, then later used Twitter to expand on the topic: Bottom line, Insiders would get the final build even if they didn't install the preview on a Windows 7 or 8.1 PC eligible for the one-year free upgrade.

That seemed to leave open a loophole through which people with Vista- or Windows XP-powered PCs, users who wanted to equip a virtual machine (VM) with Windows 10, or even those running an older-but-pirated copy of Windows, could score a freebie.

However, amendments made Saturday to Aul's blog threw everything into doubt by striking references to "activation" and reminding everyone that "only people running Genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1" could upgrade to Windows 10 via the free offer. The changes signaled a retreat from the position of the day before.

Aul weighed in again on Sunday, tweeting assurances that as long as testers continued to run a pre-release build linked to their Microsoft Account -- no matter how it was installed -- Windows 10 would remain activated, and thus considered legit.

Yesterday, he confirmed as much, even as he stressed that Windows 10 "is intended" to be installed on a device running a legitimately licensed edition, a curious juxtaposition.

"This is pre-release software and is activated with a pre-release key," Aul said Monday of the Insider previews. "Each individual build will expire after a time, but you'll continue to receive new builds, so by the time an older pre-release build expires you'll have received a new one."


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