Free Windows 10 for Mac and Linux Users?


Windows 10 start windowMicrosoft 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.

  1. Be a registered member of the Windows Insider Program.
  2. Install build 10130 of the Windows 10 Insider Preview.
  3. 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. 

Added 6/22/15- The saga continues. Here is the latest from Microsoft about Windows 10 upgrade. What does it mean? Here is an interpretation by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley:

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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i built my home pc and have linux installed. i also have an aged laptop that came with vista but now has linux mint installed. i tried to sign up for the insider program, but was told it's too close to the release and they've stopped taking new windows insiders. i would love to have a copy of win 10 to use under a virtual machine or perhaps even on my aged laptop just to see how it works.

i have an old desktop that i got from employer re-furbished sale, but that has windows 7 professional.

any tips?

Microsoft has recently stopped new enrollments in the insider program. Whether they will re-open the program is unknown at this time.

With XP and Vista users not getting the free upgrade, there is no way that anybody else is either.

However the idea of a continuing insider program that allows you to keep running Windows in return for feedback is interesting and could start to tempt home Linux users away.

How it would work in the long run though I'm not sure as if people catch on that they can get a free OS on the basis that they have to be guinea pigs might catch on too much.

Will I be updating on july 29?


I've tested every preview release and it's damned good.

The only thing that I will be doing on 28th is taking full images of all my machines as a belt and braces, just in case scenario.

I work on a mac, and downloaded and installed the pre-release Windows 10 (build 10130) in my Virtual Box, from a disk image. It was a Clean install, since I don't have any previous windows versions. It is running great. No problems so far. Received a few updates to it, which went fine.
It says it's activated, but also came with a product key, which I guess is available if I need it.
We'll see what happens on July 29th...

Vic, you, I think, have been following the W10 rollout carefully? I am a (relatively) happy W7 user. I have the little "Get Windows 10" icon on my taskbar. The BIG questions here: should people be in a rush to upgrade to 10? Is it a good move? As the free upgrade is good for a year I think, is it better to wait? What, if any, will be the main advantages to upgrading to 10? Downsides?

Personally, I would not upgrade immediately. There is no rush. When Windows RTM comes out at the end of July, I suspect it will still have bugs. Let the dust settle for a couple of months and see what people are experiencing. If you are happy enough with Windows 7, you might even want to wait until it is time for you to buy a new computer. Then you can get Windows 10 already installed. Upgrades can be a hassle.

When I compare free Windows to free Linux....Linux wins. (Mint is my current favorite.)

@vandamme +1 for Linux Mint.

I made the switch from Windows to Linux about 5 years ago now & never looked back. I spend my days & nights fixing Microsoft systems- and when I get home I just about want to (((hug))) my Mint desktop- lol. It's just so sleek & I find I am more productive using native Linnux Mint programs than commercial products. Is Mint "perfect"? No, and I don't think any OS will ever be able to claim that. What I do have is a system that just always runs & is always fast-- the essential lack of virus issues is also awesome.

Try Mint Mate- see what YOU think...

PS- if you like it & use it, as with all open-source software- please donate to the respective group.

I think Ed Bott is sticking his neck out a little to far on this one. If Microsoft does give away Windows 10 to users who are NOT on Windows 7 or 8.1 it would be like a slap in the face for all the people who paid good money for their copy of Windows. It'll really be interesting to see if Microsoft is willing to do that. I guess only July 29 and thereafter will tell.

Ed Bott has updated his ZDNet article. Apparently, Gabe Aul updated his Microsoft Blog Post in an effort at clarification. The most significant edit was "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.*" ( See ). Gabe Aul also answered some related queries on Twitter ( See ). In spite of all this, Ed Bott (and others) continue to insist that Windows 10 Insiders are going to receive a free upgrade to the final release of Windows 10 regardless of whether they did NOT previously come from a genuine install of Windows 7 or 8.1. It's bad enough when we have some highly paid executives who cannot express themselves clearly but it is being made infinitely worse by some journalists who continue to mislead people.

Thanks, Joe. I have made note of this in the article.

In this post, Greg Keizer comments:

Still, the lack of clarity about many questions related to Windows 10 at this late date is disturbing, although not rare for Microsoft. At times the company seems entirely unable to come clean about its policies.
Computerworld, for example, installed the 10130 build from a disk image onto a new VM on a Mac -- not as an upgrade from one equipped with Windows 7 or 8.1 -- and although it was marked as "Windows is activated," that may not last.

Vic, Gabe Aul updated his blog again today. There is no loophole to get Windows 10 for free. Gabe Aul was referring all along to a continuation of the Insider Program and how it will work. People who join the program will receive Technical Previews on July 29 and will continue to receive previews from time to time. These previews will remain active under the program once the person stays in it. However, if a person leaves the program he now has to qualify for the free upgrade to Windows 10 just like anyone else, i.e. they must upgrade from a genuine copy of Windows 7 or 8.1.

Yes, I saw that and updated the article a little while ago. Thanks.

"If you upgrade from a licensed copy of Windows 7 SP2 or Windows 8.1..." I think you meant to say "Windows 7 SP1". ;-)

You are right, of course. Thanks once more.