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Microsoft makes it hard to figure out its Windows 10 license for Insider members

On Friday, a blog post by Microsoft offered up some more information on how members of the Windows Insider program can get the final RTM version of Windows 10 when it launches on July 29. Since then, the blog post has been edited, but the changes have only confused the issue even further.

Here's what the paragraph, written by Windows Insider head Gabriel Aul, originally stated:

"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 (Microsoft Account) 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."

Since that post, that paragraph has changed. Here's what it looks like now:

"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.

The parts removed include the phrases 'remain activated' and 'activated'. Microsoft uses these terms about Genuine copies of its Windows OS. With their removal questions about legitimate licenses remain. In fact, the word 'license' is never mentioned in the Microsoft blog, which itself adds to the confusion.

The blog post seemed to have been edited, in part, to protect Microsoft. The first version appeared to offer a way for anyone to get a free copy of Windows 10, regardless of whether or not they had a legal copy of Windows 7 or 8.1 installed on their PC. You do not have to look far to see other articles proclaiming that Windows 10 is free for everyone, no matter the situation. However, the new paragraph states that Windows Insiders can use a clean ISO build to get Windows 10 if the PC has a linked MSA. This, however, is only true if they have a genuine version of Windows 7 or 8.1 installed, which would seem to be contradictory to the clean ISO plan.

Since the paragraph was edited, Aul has posted a statement on Twitter. When asked if Windows Insiders who install Windows 10 clean via an ISO will remain activated when the final RTM version is released. Aul replied:

"Yes, as long as running a prerelease build connected with registered MSA (Microsoft Account)"

As other publications have noted, what happened is likely Microsoft's legal department got involved. Tossing around phrases like 'activated' or even mentioning licenses can cause all sorts of legal jeopardy for what is supposed to be a for-profit product.

So at the moment we are left with a paragraph that seems to state two opposing policies at the same time. Hopefully, we will get some clarification from Microsoft on this matter soon.

Source: Microsoft; Gabriel Aul (Twitter)

74 Comments
  • Clear as mud then. I'm planning a long overdue upgrade for Win10 and would rather install fresh rather than have to reinstall 8 and then update to 10.
  • I think illegal ones get PRE-RELEASE for life. So you MUST be Insider. Keep PC connected via MSA. Which means, thieves can steal Windows as long as MS can steal their data. Hail Cortana!
  • Not stealing. The free software for your information model has been around for a long time and has made google a very profitable company. People don't seem to mind giving up their info to get free stuff. If you want to protect you info, pay for your software, don't create any accounts with any service, and be very careful which apps you  install.
  • Left hand right hand springs to mind.
  • Really great! If you stay an Insider, you get free Preview Updates and stay activated. If you decide to stay on an older build and your machine doesn't have a Genuine Licence, you'll get the watermark and limited accent colour options.
  • Sounds like they are saying your account info cannot change in order to be able to clean install.
  • Sounds like that too.... That would royally suck for people who are using a specific MSA created just for the preview and not their actual MSA lol.
  • Confused ?? you will be after the next installment of Soap !!! not sure if everyone can remember Soap though. fantastic comedy  
  • Lol. One of my favorite comedies of all time!
  • Loved "Soap". Weird humor at it's best.
  • I do. Great show. Used to watch re-runs after school every day. Thanks for the reminder.
  • Well the preview has always been "Evaluation Copy" so that might make some sense...
  • The only difference would be that you are agreeing to be their guinea pig and have your data logged while getting your feed for free. While that's fine as it's Microsoft and not Google we're talking about here, there should be a way to opt out and continue just like their 'licensed' version. What Gabe hasn't been explicit about, is the status of activation if you switch to a local account and disconnect your MSA.
  • They have stated that insiders can opt out on the 29th after the upgrade. 
  • That statement is as clear as clean water, no free windows 10 for users with pirated copies of old OS, while does who signed up for TP can install clean RTM as long as they sign in with there registered email
  • Yea, I thought it was stated clearly as well. Oh well.
  • Generate a controversy, get more clicks. Reading about this on different news web sites, you see quotes such as Microsoft is creating "licensing hysteria", "the Internet is up in arms," "yet another Microsoft flip-flop" and so on. The media will do whatever they can to create click-bait titles to draw people in. 
  • Absolutely right. Click bait. The statement is quite clear. You can do a clean install only if you own a valid 7 or 8.1 license. How hard is it to understand?
  • Easy for people (techies like us), but the average laymen who happens to blog not so much. Never the less alot of click bait floating around.
  • For the non-techies, it is easy. If they do not get a big window popping up saying "Windows 10 is here! Clik here to download it now" then they will know they need to go to the store o buy a copy. This is news among techies because the bigger web sites are making a big deal about it, generating controversy, and creating headlines like I listed above so that they can get more people to click on their headlines. The non-techie knows nothing about insider programs, ISOs, MSA, and so on that this applies to. In fact, most people does not even know that Windows 10 is going to be released. The first indication they will know about a new version is when that "Free! Free! Free!" window appears on their desktop.
  • Why are we so worried about the people that didn't pay for the copy of Windows 7 or 8/8.1? Seems like we are fighting for those who didn't spent the money for the genuine copy of Windows. If they built a computer and decided they didn't want to spend the $100 to buy the OEM Windows7 or 8/8.1, that is their fault NOT Microsoft. The press is somehow rolling this as negative thing on Microsoft and making it sound like stealing their software is a good thing!
  • The press doing it's damn best to slag Microsoft, that never happens /s
  • That and sense of entitlement.
  • MS makes it hard to be a fan
  • Its just the same process, they only added that if you haven't done a clean install and are running Windows 7 or 8.1 then you better make sure its genuine to get three free upgrade. So if you installed IP of 10 from clean ISO you will get Windows 10 RTM for free, of course so long as you link it to your MSFT account. Pretty clear to me. Maybe you're over thinking it...
  • It's the whole removal of 'activated' that is of concern. Why remove it? You need to be activated to have a legit copy of Windows. No activation means the opposite.
  • Right, but aren't genuine and activated essentially the same..? Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Perhaps in Microsoft's vocabulary.
  • I think Microsoft or who ever writes this statement should write plain simple English like if become a windows insider u will get a free copy period
  • Or in other words.. Every one who has a pirated version or vista or XP register July 28 as insider and get a free W10 copy.??
  • Your plain and simple english fails even more than Aul's original post. ;-) Not to worry though. Communicating thoughts so that they arrive in someone else's brain exactly as intended isn't a trivial matter. Part of the problem is that the whole process MS currently has is simply too convoluted and complicated. a) MS has differnet rules for how the different ersions of Windows (from "Windows with Bing" to Enterprise) upgrade to W10 b) The upgrade to W10 has different ramifications for OEM and retail licenses which aren't clearly expressed c) Many suspect there are legal or licensing differences between an OS that was installed cleanly, or upgraded in place. In this case that isn't true, but this is likely a consequence of how MS rolled out W8 to W7 license owners (no ISO and only updateable via the Windows Store) d) If the rumors rumours are true that W10 will be the last version of Windows for quite some time, then the entire licensing system will have to change, as nobody will be going out to purchase a "new" version of Windows anymore. Nobody is really talking or even thinking about that yet, i.e. most of the current assumptions about how Windows licensing works likely no longer apply. It's a mess. Instead of all these verbose explanations which always leave out some aspect, MS should just draw a chart. If that chart doesn't explain everything clearly at one glance, then they need to simplify the process...
  • @a5cent, well said.
  • my only question is, when the rtm goes out, will i be able to activate using my windows 7 key? it would be a huge hassle to reinstall windows 7 and upgrade from that. microsoft should have at least a system for people with legit keys to swap the keys for a new coresponding key for windows 10.
  • That is what im trying to figure out as well!
  • the Answer is you have to update your windows 7 to Windows 10 once with your Microsoft Account. then you can install windows 10 with ISO file from scrach and just log in to your windows 10 with your Microsoft Account. it will get activated. So Simple. you never need windows 7 or 8.1 DVD or ISO file.  
  • What's not clear? I mean seriously?? Do we really need an article on this every other day? I mean seriously?? Here's what it says; If you sign up for the Insider program and register your Insider Preview with the same Microsoft Account during install  you get to upgrade to the final releease version at no cost. Otherwise you can upgrde for free from a licensed copy of Windows 7 or 8.1   Do you (yes you, mr Callaham) have trouble reading English or are you just trying to confuse people with the umpteenth article on the same subject. The latter quote is even more clear on this then the first one and while it uses some fancy lawyer wording it says what I wrote above.  
  • No need to be a fucking jerk, dude.
  • He did sound a bit jerky yes, but he does have a point. I believe the blogs are in part responsible for any confusion that might arise due to understanding (or lackthereof). This is what I understood: **If you are an Insider member running a current build linked to your MSA you will get the final version free on July 29 **Otherwise you will get Windows 10 free if you have a legit Win7/8/8.1 installation on July 29 **Any Insider member looking to do a clean install of the final build needs to first get this build on July or later in order to validate your license. After this you are free to do a clean install and use this validated licence If I missed something or please let me know
  • You did miss something.  "If you are an Insider member running a current build linked to your MSA you will get the final version free on July 29."  Reading that word for word would imply that ANYONE in the insider program will get the final version for free and it will be activated. I can put a build on a brand new machine currently with no issues. The new wording from MS is saying that the only way you will get Windows 10 for free is if you had a legitimate copy of 7/8/8. The windows insider program is a moot point other than you need to sign in with your MSA.   
  • @EliteMikes. Yup, the keyword here is "Anyone" as a pirate could download the preview, register an MSA and get genuine windows. As "anyone" can become a insider for free.
  • Yeah, I kind of take it like that too. Like "you helped us test Windows 10 so we're going to give you a free copy of it for your help."
  • To be fair to Microsoft, when have they ever been clear in their communications? You need some communications degree in nuances to understand their lingo.
  • Like a high school reading level?
  • It wont.
  • As from the day they introduced the free upgrade: If you have a genuine 7/8/8.1 you can upgrade for free the first year If you don't - you will NOT get a free copy of 10. Any change in terms is to clarify for all the journalist that keep trying to misinterpret this. There is no back pedaling or u-turns. How can anyone be outraged by this?
  • Agreed. Really not all that confusing.
  • There will always be pirates instead MSFT make the product free get people involved in your services, you forgot PC gaming that made you survive so long in market may be that's why mac's seem to be relevant in market now.
  • Anyone have estimates on how many people we're talking about here? If Microsoft says free upgrade for any Insiders with pirated Windows 7/8, what's the bottom line impact?
  • The bottom line is that Microsoft care more about money made off their services than their products. They're sort of like ENCOM in the film Tron, everyone should have access to their OS.
  • Welcome to click bait.
  • It means as long as you're "testing it" you can use it for free
  • MS just need to give the damn thing away for a year. No catches. Apple OSX users have bootcamp on their Macs capable of running Windows and most don't have a current Windows license. This would give MS a chance to cross over into Apple's domain which is what they've been doing anyway.    
  • They would love to do that but there are legal ramifications and then you have regional "laws" to content with. Also by giving it for free with no catches they will invariably upset users whose sense of entitlement stretches beyond Pinocchio's nose. They are trying to keep their legal team, accountants and aforesaid users.
    In an ideal world, everyone would get it free and that would mean no out dated, vulnerable machines in the wild which could be used as nodes for cyber attacks and data theft.
  • Have heard all the comments, and my question is why then Microsoft will sell windows 10 if anybody might have it forever with the technical preview, then what is the point that I should purchase it later of the year of for free upgrade from a GENUINE one? Doesn't matter what Google do with Android, Microsoft have and will still with the stigma of the greedy company and doesn't matter what they will do even if give for free the operative system. The move what is doing is very unfair since, will add the following example, you go to pick up a car for a test drive, but liked so much the car that you won't purchase it just don't return the test unit, is this fair to whose who have their GENUINE or even oem versions of Windows? At least Microsoft should give to us more features than what windows 10 will have, and whose in TP keep it i n TP AND ONLY GIVE THEM betas versions. I know nobody would like this comment but Microsoft isn't an non lucrative company as Google doesn't but their business model like Facebook is your data Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Err there are a few versions of Windows 10 already... Lol
  • Coz not everybody wants to use preview software as their daily driver.
  • To use your example, the car dealership did not offer the car for free after test driving, and if they did then its their prerogative, maybe they have a deal with Sirius and can make money off that. Its Microsoft's choice to give the OS away how they see fit, no need getting butthurt about it.
  • Very clear to me. Windows Insider will get the RTM version of Windows 10, as long you keep that MSA you used in Windows Insider.
  • I don't think this is entirely true.
  • You still must have a legal copy of windows. That's what wasn't clear at first.
  • It's just legal stuff that's all. Hardly anything to worry about.
  • Have anyone noticed that.,
    users who have ACTIVATED their PC using MS Tool Kit ,
    will no longer see
    " GET WINDOWS 10 " ICON in Taskbar..
    In other words you can say.,
    " GET WINDOWS 10 " Icon has Disappeared from Taskbar..
    But you can still see it in
    Control Panel - Notification Area Icons..
    I've the same problem for my both Laptop & PC [ Which is running Windows 8.1 Pro Now ]
  • I think there trying to say insider users with a "legal" copy of 7 or 8 will activate to rtm for free... Other users will have to provide a 7/8/8.1 product license to activate windows 10... MS just sucks at communication... (really bad)
  • One question I had in mind,
    I was an insider before, since its not stable I had to reinstall windows 7.
    Will I still be counted and get the builds as an insider??
  • My understanding is that anyone who wants to be ain insider right now can be (that may change) if they have compatible hardware. (I'd check the site though).  Once you're in, you'll stay in as long as that continues to be the case and you continue to want to run insider builds.
  • Microsoft: Thanks for your FEEDBACKS, helping us to shape the future Real one: Thanks for your FEEDBACKS, helping us to MAXSIMIZE our BANK ACCOUNTS
  • Fuck yeah :D
  • But ffs... No one forced you to use the insider program. If you don't have a legit copy its 6-7 years ago, at least, since you spent a dime on the OS. And during intro you could get a legit copy of win 8 for $14. But still were to cheap to buy a new one. And now you expect MS to give one for free...
  • I don't understnad what is so hard to understand.  If you have a legit copy of windows 7/8 your legal copy is registered and tied to your MS account.  You can upgrade or install fresh with that account and get the offer they advertised.  No changes.  If you are on the preview as a way to have windows 10 but were running an older or pirated version of windows, you won't magically be given a legit license because you chose to be in the preview program.  You won't be cast out either, you'll continue to be able to use Windows 10 as long as you stay in the fast or slow ring.  In essence this is a free version of windows 10 but you agree to be a test subject in return for not having to buy windows 10.  That's how I understand it, that's how I understood it and unless something changes where they come out and say "We are GIVING EVERYBODY FREE licenses of Windows 10 with no strings attached", I expect every message in the future (between now and release) to be about them trying to difuse some article from somebody who wants to twist words to remind everyone that MS is the bad guy and we should all hate them because they never give us anything (other than all the free stuff they give away) and all the evil things they try to do to us (like giving every personal user who's legitimately licensed  one of the OSes in the last almost 6 years --windows 7 released in october 2009--  a free update).
  • They have backed out of pirated software free upgrades, its that simple, and they should not get it anyway. X out all phonies and fakes, I'm glad Microsoft is like that.
  • I'm usually pretty good at interpretting this stuff, but there's a ton of contradictory statements here, so I'm just going to ask one question: If I installed a Windows 10 Insider Build on a home-built computer with no original operating system, will I automatically recieve the full and final version of Windows 10, or do I have to purchase the full version?
  • I guess you will get provided you have MSA connected. Also you will continuously receive preview builds unlike final version.
  • Not hard for me. I will keep both copys of windows 8 and 10 on my computer. keep testing on my 10 testing version. and when I am ready upgrade 8 to 10 do a clean install lock a lisence to my pc. then switch that install to a testing insider program version.  
  • Hi. I have a question to throw into the mess that ms just created:) I had a genuine Win 8.1 Home version which lacks some certain features compared to Pro version (such as hosting Remote Desktop). Last week I upgraded to Win 10 Pro using the Insider Preview CD. so, what will happen when I install RTM version next month? Will genuine Win 8.1 owners get a chance to obtain Pro features for free if they install Pro Insider Preview? (by the way, my installations have always been activated with my MSA)