Microsoft seems to be doing something I never expected to see - giving away Windows for free. As you probably know, Microsoft has said that licensed Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems will be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10. But now they have gone further. It seems that just about anybody can get Windows 10 for free. This is the RTM (release to manufacturer) version, not just the beta.
The catch? You have to be a member of the Windows Insider program and have a Microsoft account. You may already have a Microsoft account if you have used one of the Microsoft email services like Hotmail or Outlook. In any event, signing up for one is free. Joining the Windows Insider program is also free. You can join here and get a free copy of the preliminary version of Windows 10. Install it on a machine you aren't using or in a virtual machine. Then you are set to get the RTM version of Windows 10 when it is released July 29. Note that Mac users can install the preliminary Windows 10 in Boot Camp or a virtual machine. I am not a Linux user but presumably Linux systems have similar possibilities.
So, to summarize, here is how you can become eligible for a copy of Windows 10 when it is released at the end of July.
- Be a registered member of the Windows Insider Program.
- Install build 10130 of the Windows 10 Insider Preview.
- Set up Windows 10 build 10130 using your Microsoft Account.
For more information about this possibility of a free Windows 10, see this ZDNet article, With a nod and a wink, Microsoft gives away Windows 10 to anyone who asks.
Added 6/21/15- I should have guessed that it is just impossible for Microsoft to ever make its Windows licensing clear. The company has a long history of obfuscating just what a consumer can or can't do. As Joe A.TT points out in a comment below, Microsoft spokesman Gabe Aul is now dancing around on the issue of who can get a free Windows 10. At this point, I don't know just who is going to be eligible for a free Windows 10.
Microsoft has taken another stab at explaining this. And it turns out those who came into the Insiders program from anything other than a Genuine Windows 7 or 8.1 build will NOT be able to get a free copy of Windows 10 RTM once it's available. (They will be able to continue as Windows Insiders and get Insider builds after RTM, however.)
As far as I can tell (and don't hold me to it) this means you can enroll as an Insider, install Windows 10 build 10130 on a virtual machine on your Mac or other computer and you will be updated to Windows RTM and future (possibly unstable) builds. In theory you could continue to be able to run Windows 10 as long as you are participating in the Insider program. In other words, you can continue to use Windows 10 as long as you agree to be a guinea pig for trial builds of Windows 10. There will be an ISO so I guess you can reinstall but if a build is really buggy and crashes I am not quite sure. Insider copies will have an expiration built in so you have to keep accepting new builds. If you upgrade from a licensed copy of Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, your upgrade will not have a time limit. That's my interpretation, anyway.
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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.
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