Microsoft clears up confusion surrounding Windows 10 Insider licensing

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Right before the weekend my colleague Brian Fagioli explained how basically everyone can get a valid Windows 10 license for free. The best part about it is that you do not even need a valid Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license, even though that is what Microsoft had previously told us, to upgrade from. Or do you?

Shortly after, however, Microsoft apparently had a change of heart, deciding to alter the blog post which announced this so that it reads like users still need a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license to take advantage of its free upgrade deal. And this has generated plenty of confusion, with Microsoft's own Gabriel Aul seemingly writing one thing in the latest version of the said blog post and saying something else after on Twitter. It is amateur hour at Microsoft, people.

Here is the initial wording:

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. Once you have successfully installed this build and activated, you will also be able to clean install on that PC from final media if you want to start over fresh

And here is the updated part:

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. Once you have successfully installed this build, you will also be able to clean install on that PC from final media if you want to start over fresh. 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.

I have highlighted the differences to make it easy to understand what Microsoft has changed -- removed and added -- between the two revisions. And as you can clearly see, Microsoft has dropped any trace of Windows 10 remaining activated after the upgrade to the final release and added the bit about needing a valid Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license to qualify for the free upgrade.

The activation part is extremely important, as, without your copy being activated, you would be limited in using Windows 10, time-wise or in another manner. Without activation, your copy would not be worth much to you.

It seems like Microsoft's legal department has gotten involved, and recommended the changes listed above so that users do not interpret the original version of the blog post like "Windows 10 can be had for free by literally anyone willing to install the preview build and log in with their Microsoft account credentials", which is all that is needed by the way. I believe that Microsoft's financial department also had something to say, as this is not a clever thing to boast about when you are in the business of selling software to billions of people.

Of course, all of this is for naught when Aul says the following on Twitter:

Confusing? Yes. But, basically, we are back to square one if Aul's word is anything to go by, which, after all that has happened, is debatable. To put things into perspective, a few months ago, Aul said this:

Ultimately, I think that Microsoft will have no problem with Insiders getting the final version of Windows 10 for free. The company has to reward their efforts somehow, and this is one of ways it has done so in the past. I think it is safe to say that this will not change before July 29, and that everyone will be able to play this card too to get Windows 10 for free. Perhaps Microsoft should make up its mind well before writing any more potentially controversial blog posts.

Update: I have asked Microsoft to clear things up, and in response the company has updated the blog post with additional details surrounding Insider licensing. Basically, Insiders are treated under a different licensing scheme (Windows Insider Program), where they will continue to get preview builds after the release version of Windows 10. Those builds will have an expiration date, just like the final version of Windows 10 that they will get, but Microsoft expects to offer them in a time-frame which allows Insiders to keep using preview builds without interruption (you can expect more of them going forward).

Those who do not wish to be part of the preview program after Windows 10 is officially released on June 29 will be able to opt out, at which point they will be subject to the same licensing rules as everyone else, meaning they will need a valid Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 license to take advantage of the free upgrade deal. In case users have not upgraded to Windows 10 from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, with a valid license, they will have to roll back or buy a new Windows 10 license, as the license for the final version normally available for Insiders will expire.

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