Clearing away confusion about Windows 10's free for a year offer
When Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would be available as a free upgrade for users running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, it probably did not imagine the confusion the statement would cause.
Rumors began to appear shortly thereafter on the Internet claiming that users would have to pay after the first twelve months to continue using the system, and that Microsoft would introduce a subscription system similar to Office 365.
Part of the confusion came from the fact that Microsoft did not reveal additional details about the deal.
In fact, one could argue that Microsoft did a bad job at controlling the issue as it did not address any of the concerns that users and journalists have had at the time.
This article has been designed to end the confusion surrounding the free upgrade to Windows 10. It begins with information that have been confirmed by Microsoft and ends with a list of things we don't know yet.
Here is what we know so far:
- Eligible Windows 7, 8.1 and Phone 8.1 customers can upgrade to Windows 10 for free in the first year after the release of the new operating system. Eligible meaning customers with genuine licenses. While others may upgrade as well, their systems won't be genuine after the upgrade.
- The Windows 10 edition that customers can upgrade to for free depends on the operating system that is upgraded. Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium and Windows 8.1 systems are upgraded to Windows 10 while Windows 7 Pro and Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro systems are upgraded to Windows 10 Pro.
- Customers who have upgraded to Windows 10 in the first year won't be charged after the 12 month period. "Once a customer upgrades, they will continue to receive ongoing Windows innovation and security updates for free, for the supported lifetime of that device". This indicates that the license is tied to the device the upgrade is run on.
- Microsoft will charge for Windows 10 after the twelve month period in which the operating system is available for free and also through retail channels. This won't affect customers who used the free offer to upgrade but customers who don't have an eligible license (for instance Vista and XP systems) and new customers.
What Microsoft has not revealed yet
Some information have not been revealed yet by Microsoft.
- The price of Windows 10 and Windows 10 Pro. Microsoft has not announced yet how much it will charge for Windows 10 if the system is bought through retail channels. It is unclear if the company will push early adopter offers like it did when Windows 7 and 8 were released or if it will rely on the free upgrade instead this time to push adoption rates.
- If Windows 10 Insider Preview users will receive a free copy of the operating system as a thank you for participating in the test, or if a retail copy needs to be purchased.
- What the Windows 10 upgrade license entails. For instance, is the license linked to the PC the upgrade was carried out on or is it transferable, and what happens if the system needs to be set up anew?
Now You: Will you take Microsoft up on the offer and upgrade to Windows 10?
What I want to know is what happens if reformat your computer AFTER you upgrade and the first year…
Do you get a new key when you upgrade? can I just install Windows 10 upgrade license that I got? Do I have to install the original OS and then upgrade? Or am I SOL and would have to buy a license because I decided to reformat my computer?
Exactly, that is my main concern as well. What happens if you need to reinstall or want to migrate to another computer?
There are tools that will reveal your license key.
The best way is to do this just after your upgrade and store the key with your OS disk ;-).
Then you have the key and do not need to worry if you should encounter a reformat.
But remember Windows 10 will have a kind of restore to factory defaults option which would remove the need for refomat.
but the question stays valid in case of a new disk.
I intend to update to 10, hopefully via a ‘fresh’ install, then create a Macrium Reflect disk image of the fresh install. Then, rather than reformat, I can just restore that ‘fresh’ image, which will already be licensed.
I have no idea why this would be any different than any other version of Windows. If you have a genuine XP, 7, or whatever what happens after you format? Same here, I am willing to bet. MS is going to treat a legit upgraded machine differently than someone would bought 10 straight up? … we all criticize MS and often for good reason but I don’t think this will be one of the reasons.
Agreed. I think this will be a “once owner, always owner” situation.
‘While others may upgrade as well, their systems won’t be genuine after the upgrade.’
Embarrassing to see a ‘journalist’ replicate Microsoft spin in such an uncritical way. The genuine/not genuine dichotomy has been constructed deliberately by Microsoft PR to discourage piracy. Of course running Windows without a license doesn’t mean that computers would cease to be authentic.
I think all of the people who are interested at least a bit in the tech world will understand perfectly what Martin said.
Terry, not sure embarrassment is where you spot it. Journalism is before all reporting facts; discussing them is an option. Martin brings his comment often, often as well with substantial diplomacy (I’ve seldom read him express annoyance loudly) but has the tact to deliberately distinguish them from facts, making things clear for everyone.
That’s not Microsoft ‘spin’, that is simply terminology – Windows installations without a valid license are considered ‘non-genuine’ and . That has nothing to do with computers being genuine or authentic, and Martin did not imply that it did in any way. Even Microsoft doesn’t really say that – nobody pretends that your computer hardware will be ‘inauthentic’ somehow, just that your Windows install won’t be fully functional any more.
Yes your computer will be fully functional. What are you blabbing about?
“The genuine/not genuine dichotomy has been constructed deliberately by Microsoft PR to discourage piracy.”
How shameful of MS to do that.
Information not (yet) revealed by Microsoft, point 3 : is the license linked to the PC the upgrade was carried out on or is it transferable? is my major concern at this time. Should the license be linked to the PC that I most likely would not take take advantage of the 1-year limit free upgrade. I aim as always to have a license for a system installer made available on a support, a physical support. Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10 online only for it to be free (necessary condition) will likely make me strongly hesitate to upgrade without a clean install, unless maybe if I get convinced within the 1 year period that the upgrade is done easily and that problematic upgrade experiences are not reported as a common issue. Frankly : who would want to go through the tough, adventurous odyssey of installing a new OS over an old one to find out that a new computer requires a new, paid license? Not me.
I find it suspicious that Microsoft is making the upgrade to Windows 10 available for a period of a year to Windows 8.1 and 7 users (somewhat like 8.1 was for Windows 8 users)
I bet this Windows 10 upgrade is just an unfinished mess (like all new Windows Releases are) that Microsoft is simply offering users to get for free as long as the bait is taken advantage of within the periode of a year after the OS’s official release.
All this seems fishy to me, Microsoft cannot be trusted.
The article clears that up by reporting that all innovations and security upgrades will be free after the first year. Microsoft has reported that there will be further upgrades after this summer adding more features/innovations starting this fall
That is good to hear, although, what I am apprehensive about in particular is Microsoft’s intention of offering this OS for free, given that we all live in a capitalist society leads me to question why it is being offered for free, what is the catch behind it(?), do they intend on bundling it with an NSA backdoor or what(?)
My other worry is in respect to the conjecture that I have been reading about how the current available state of Windows 10 not being ready for release. For someone who went through a horrible experience with Windows 8 when it was initially release, that is something that I would rather not go through again.
“I bet this Windows 10 upgrade is just an unfinished mess (like all new Windows Releases are)”
This is far from true. Windows 7 was very stable and solid from even before the official release, which makes sense because it was an evolution of Vista. 10 is already pretty stable (many people are using it already w/no problems), and 10 is an evolution and slight advancement of 8.1, which is stable. I’d even go so far as to call it Windows 8.2.
I use 10 regularly in a virtual machine, and have been testing quite a bit of software and hardware on it, and haven’t come across any issues yet.
Wow your bias is dripping there Xeno. It seems in your world it’s impossible for a large company to earn your business.
Microsoft might be very interested in maintaining this uncertainty about Win10, because if a user doesn’t know what happens after a year, (s)he might be tempted to buy a full license and be done with it.
I do not follow. Are you saying Microsoft, who are offering a free upgrade within the first year of the OS’ release, are hoping people will be confused enough to not bother with the free upgrade and spend money on a separate license instead? Is this their cunning plan? Surely they could just charge for the OS in the first place?
Of course they could charge the full license cost from the beginning, but they wouldn’t get all the good reviews and “good will” that they get now. It is the same with the “Free Windows 10 for pirates” idea: they wanted to appear to be generous and come up with a radical idea, but in the end it didn’t happen.
Sure, it is perfectly possible that there is no plan and they have a truly incompetent marketing department…
More likely is that they themselves don’t know, or haven’t decided as yet.
of course they have a plan(!) this is Microsoft we are talking about.
To answer your question: if upgrading from my Windows 8.1 Pro (with Media Center) to Windows 10 Pro will imply (as indicated) that Media Center will be removed from my media computers even though I do not want it removed, then this “upgrade” will in fact be a downgrade. Obviously in this case I will most certainly not make the switch to Windows 10.
There are better third party media/DVD programs that are free. Microsoft has to charge a license fee, which is why it is currently charging for Window media center. I bought the Media center program with 8.1, but since I downloaded VLC and Kobie I no longer use Media Center. The omissions of Media Center is not a big deal. Kobie provides all the same functions and more. Also, Microsoft is working on a new version, which will be offered free some time after Windows 10 is released, so I wouldn’t let the ential lack of Media Center be a deal breaker for updating to Windows 10 especially if your upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8 for free.
You’re wrong, Gary. The scrapping of Media Center is a huge problem for a small minority of users (to which, sadly, I do belong). Those users who happen to live in a rural area where cable TV is not available, and where all possible internet connections simply are too slow for acceptable-quality video streaming.
In this case, for receiving pay TV channels we (that’s me, my neighbors, and others in similar situations) depend on DVB-T (digital-over-air) reception with an antenna tuner combined with a smartcard. The latter allows for decoding the pay channels.
Now I’ve done a lot of research on this over the past few months (not incidentally). And while there are some TV reception software alternatives, the TV part of Windows Media Center really is the only one sophisticated enough to work flawlessly with smartcard tuners.
All other TV-reception software will receive free TV channels over DVB-T, but none of them can decode pay TV channels. This includes Kodi, which I tried some weeks ago – it just doesn’t work with pay TV. As for VLC, it’s not even relevant in this case.
So when it comes to watching pay TV channels over DVB-T, there simply is no alternative for Windows Media Center. Sad, but true.
When dumping Media Center, the Microsoft people just forgot that we cannot yet all get a connection that’s fast enough to simply switch to streaming internet TV…
Methinks you confuse Windows Media Center with Windows Media Player.
Reinstalling or doing a clean install would be no different then purchasing a computer with Windows 8 already on it. The recovery partition for Windows 10, like 8, has the key embedded in it. For clean installs, the key can be extracted using software however if you take your computer to a Microsoft Store, they can and will do all of that work for free. Just like their virus removals and PC Tune Ups, always free.
While Windows 10 wont include Media Center, Microsoft is working on a successor to Media Center for Windows 10
Apart from those issues. There is also the issue of the updates. It has been mentioned that all updates will be obligatory. No more picking and choosing. Patch tuesday will disappear.
I will definitely wait at least 6 to 9 months before I upgrade to 10. just to see what will actually happen.
A six to 11 month wait seems appropriate to me as well. I need to be sold that Win10 advantages for Win7SP1 machines are worth the learning curve. The new is better concept isn’t necessarily so.
This writer is as retarded as Microsoft and didn’t clear up anything, if anything he just continued the confusion. Waste of time and space this article.
That is manifestly not the case. It’s not the author’s fault if you did not read it correctly, but he lays out exactly what is known and what remains to be clarified by Microsoft. This is not ‘retarded’. You do yourself a disservice lashing out like that.
Really is that necessary to use those words:(
A fine article indeed. Mr Brinkmann always seems to approach subject matter thoroughly and diplomatically
This was an excellent article that is much needed imnsho. The “free upgrades for pirates” rumor among other things needed to be handled in no uncertain terms. Also, he mentions that Microsoft did a less-than-stellar job of making all of this understood (perhaps on purpose?).
And whining about genuine / not genuine is just plain silly. No rational person believes that MS could have possibly meant that your PC might, in fact, be a waffle iron. The stuff people come up with…. ;)
I am running a win7 home premium system, and have the original installation media; if something goes very wrong or if there is need for a new machine, it’s pretty a straightforward process to format and reinstall
if this happens on a win10 system, a few of the hundreds of millions of users will receive incomprehensible error messages or be ignored altogether, this is known as falling between the cracks
according to MurphyÂ´s law it will probably be you
…people running licensed copies of older operating systems such as Windows XP or Vista will also get free upgrades, but only for one year. After that, however, theyâ€™ll have to pay.
I did not mention that in the article, did I? Thanks for then link Ilev.
Martin – it does not say it will be free for XP licence holders in the link your member supplied
I know, I contacted the author and he edited the article.
How strange – it did not say that in the link that I opened which you kindly supplied
I disagree completely. Microsoft WAS counting on the confusion, to drive people to foolishly “upgrade” to Windows 10. The company has always used this tactic – it is commonly referred to as FUD.
The confusion is by design, allowing them to move the sheep along, and remove many from earlier licensing agreements.
Yes, offering a FREE upgrade so people would buy Windows 10, what a scheme!
For me the critical question that needs answering is what Microsoft consider is the lifetime of a device?
My guess would be that lifetime is going to be dictated by Microsoft themselves, if we use Windows 8 as an example support for that ends in October 2017, two years after the release of Windows 8.1.
I’ll be sticking with Windows 7 as long as I can. None of the features that Win 8 offered and Win 10 will offer is appealing for me. The day I have to upgrade to Win 10 will be the day that some PC games will start using technologies that only Win 10 offers, like DirectX or something like that. As for security features, “I” have been the most reliant “anti-everything-that-does-bad-things” for years. We’ll see.
So you mean… the very next version of directx?
To my knowledge windows 7 most likely won’t get directx 12 which is the next version of directx.
This was stated by Richard Huddy who is the head of AMD’s gaming division.
The statement was later retracted by him after getting slapped on the wrists by Microsoft for speaking out of turn as he can’t speak on Microsoft or Directx behalf.
So by no means a solid source, but still something to consider as this IS a person who is active in the business.
If true though, this kinda implies you would need to run windows 8 or higher to run the latest directx.
As the latest directx usually is the better choice for gaming (which I assume is where this comment came from)
you would especially want to upgrade. Otherwise you would be running an older (slower and less streamlined) directx which
will result in not being able to use your hardware to it’s fullest potential.
As a gamer myself, sticking with Win7 seems pretty ignorant, as I would like to use my hardware to it’s full potential, especially while gaming.
Why would I want to have to lower settings on a game simply because i’m running an older decoding software which will bottleneck my system?
Granted right at this moment this is a non issue as directx 12 supported games are non existent and Microsoft or Directx has yet to confirm or deny the statement.
But with some major titles up for release throughout 2015/2016 i’m pretty sure most will have directx 12 capability.
So this is something to take into account while upgrading or not.
The way you’re speaking now is the same as a lot of people who stuck with windows XP after Win7 came out.
Mind you the horror that was Vista had something to do with that though.
It’s actually been confirmed already that Directx 12 will be Windows 10 exclusive. So both Win7 and Win8 gamers will have to upgrade to make use of it.
Is the upgrade free for ALL Windows 7 users, or only users that have purchased Windows 7 within a certain time frame? I have had Windows 7 since the keynote in my area, years ago….
All Windows 7 Users w/ a legit license
All Windows 7 users, with a legitimate license or good working crack [verified].
Don’t install build 10125. They are switching the jump lists to flat design crap. The taskbar only works half the time. It was so bad I had to go back to 10122.
What about those running Windows 10 beta ? Will they be able to upgrade to RTM, or will they be forced to downgrade to Win 7/8.1
before installing Windows 10 ?
They can upgrade directly to RTM, but if you get a license for helping out is still in question.
I really don’t get all the people that are scared for Win10.
Sure Win8(.1) isn’t great for desktop users. However, this is mostly due to its UI. The OS is pretty much stable.
Windows 10 will most likely be for Win8(.1) what Win7 was to Vista.
Adding what the people want while removing the fails.
I think Win7 was probably a bigger rework of Vista then Win10 will be of Win8.
Apart from adding some features I believe the base code for both Win10 and Win8 are pretty much the same although they will have probably streamlined it here and there.
People using Win7 love it to bits so this was a great rework. Microsoft saw what was wrong with Vista and fixed it in Win7.
I would expect Win10 to do exactly that for Win8 with the only difference, Win8 isn’t one big broken mess, the UI just isn’t desktop user friendly.
As for those who find offering Win10 for free is suspicious I have this to say.
I think Microsoft is finding out the trend on software retail is shifting.
You ship the base for near to nothing and people will buy bits to add on later.
I.e. this trend is very much alive in gaming right now in the form of DLC’s (downloaded content), or in game purchases.
Microsoft is already promoting their app store as the source for all the additional add-ons for your windows experience.
This is no different than the gaming market.
Maybe they’ve taking a play out of Google’s playbook. All their software is either free or opensource yet they make tons of money regardless.
Of course all of this is speculation, but what I said about shifting trends is very true. Microsoft switching to a more modern business model isn’t far fetched at all and would quite frankly be expected for a business wanting to dominate a market for years to come.
And really people, Microsoft doesn’t need to give you a new OS to spy on you. They’ve been using (Internet)Explorer for that for years. This is so hard coded into Windows since the beginning of personal computing even if you close the process it’s still running parts of it in the background. And even then, if a dodgy programmer can create a trojan to spy on you, don’t you think Microsoft can use the same back doors and probably even more? They wrote the OS for pete’s sake…
If you want privacy, go live in a wooden shack and cut all ties to this world. I’ve seen some great shows about homesteading in Alaska on TV. It’s a lifestyle, but your choice in the end.
So I would say, why not reserve your upgrade? You wont upgrade till you actually click the accept button on the Win10 upgrade installer prompt. At the very least you’ll have opted in for a free update to your OS. You can postpone the actual updating for a full year.
“whether they could clean install the OS again after the 1-year period of free upgrades ends”
….But…. how much are the updates going to cost after “the 1-year free period”? With 5 computers, I could easily find myself in a bad way should I jump on this for all, then have to take out a second mortgage a year later. Can one revert back to Windows 7 if the cost is too high? Has Microsoft stated the cost of updates after the one year period? Seems a bit of a come-on to get people hooked before they ‘pull the rug out’; Totally unfair and arrogant, in my opinion.
Windows 7 suits me well and it’s support period probably lasts past my ‘planting date’. :)
Don’t like being conned; they should tell us up-front, the economies of this ‘subscription’ they don’t want to talk about…..yet..
It blows my mind with all of this coverage on windows 10 that people still believe there will be a subscription… Updates are free for the life of the device once you upgrade to windows 10, microsoft has said this numerous times. After a year if you have not upgraded to windows 10 then you have to purchase a license, that’s it.
Well…What did they mean during the Windows 10 launch video, when they spoke of windows 10 being “a service”? All ‘services’, that I can think of, are on a ‘fee basis’. Phone, power, Dr., cable, garbage, rent, etc. Name one that isn’t. I sure can’t afford a separate fee for each of my Win7 boxes….
Meaning that windows acts more as a service than a product, when you look at everything that Microsoft Windows will offer via their ‘store’ and apps, plus their move to hardware with the purchase of Nokia. Windows also will be selling licenses like normal to both at the consumer and the enterprise level (apparently $119 for home and $199 for Pro). They most likely are offering the free upgrade because they want to prevent fragmentation of their OS’s and get everyone to be more familiar with the new services and products offered since windows 10 is going to be used on multiple devices from desktops to phones.
The Windows 10 keynote was almost 6 months ago, have you not been keeping up with any of the news or even looked into any concrete facts before posting your original comment? Microsoft has never mentioned anything about a subscription. In fact, they have time and time again stated that there would not be any additional costs or subscription once you upgrade to windows 10, for any updates. Even this article states there’s no subscription, which i’m guessing you didn’t read.
So, unless you have some facts about the subscription service, I recommend you read up with current events about windows 10 and not go solely on assumptions
The launch video should not be your last reference to understanding Win10. Try Google for more information, such as
And where does it say no service fees? What a joke LOL
and where does it say service fees? What a joke LOL.
All services have fees; also likened to Word 360 in the launch video. Words have meaning…Where does it say it will never cost me a red cent? Don’t point to “no yearly fee”. :)
I believe you’re just too hard headed to believe anything except for your fruitless assumptions. Microsoft said there’s no subscriptions thereafter for updates to windows 10, reports have stated there’s no costs for upgrades, even the windows 10 FAQ stated there’s no cost for upgrades and no ongoing fee.
You’re relating Windows, a operating system to utilities, which is apples and oranges, when you should be relating it to other OSs (OSX, iOS, Android, etc.) all of which have not charged for the recent upgrades.
If you don’t want to upgrade because you assume they will charge later, then don’t upgrade, but stop spreading FUD without any facts to back it up. Saying “they said windows is a service so it means they will charge for it later” is just about as legitimate as saying “they said windows is a service so half-life 3 confirmed!”
Hardheaded….perhaps so; but have always related ‘no charge’ to a ‘cost’ ….somewhere; as no one can stay in business forever without an income model. Perhaps the new model will be to shove updates at us till our old hardware will no longer work……thus as the statement says: “the lifetime of the device has been reached”…… time to go buy new hardware + New Windows. Can’t afford that on SS.
Still not clear if Windows 10 will be a subscribtion model, or not .The free updates bla, bla,bla thing does not clarify that at all.
Part of the confusion came from the fact that Microsoft (and you) did not reveal additional details about the deal.