Why Is Windows 10 Free?

Why Is Windows 10 Free?

Late in January 2015, Microsoft’s system chief has said in an announcement that Windows 10 will come as a free upgrade for those who are using Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. This came as a surprise to many, particularly those who are accustomed to having to pay for new versions of Windows every time Microsoft releases a new one. What’s with this change? And is Microsoft really also including pirates among those who can upgrade for free? This sounds a bit generous, so I decided to explore the subject and find out everything humanly possible about it!

Why Make The Upgrade Free?

First off, the upgrade isn’t 100% free. Second of all, to qualify for it, you have to have a compatible device (we’re still not absolutely sure what that is), and you have to have Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 installed on it. If, for one year after Windows 10 is released, you do not upgrade, you will have to pay for a license. Also, should you be using an Enterprise version of Windows, you will have to pay for your upgrade to Windows 10.

I’m unable to find a comment from Microsoft as to why the upgrade was made free, but it’s very possible that this is an attempt to push people towards the new Windows architecture one way or another. Windows 8 did not see as many sales as its predecessor, hinting at a slow adoption rate. Many of the comments and reviews of the latest iteration of the operating system were neutral at best, negative at worst. Being a slow year for the company in the consumer market, my best guess is that Microsoft figured it could boost adoption by releasing Windows 10 as a free upgrade, hoping that people who were content with Windows 7 will make the switch once they understand that it costs them nothing but a few minutes of their time.

It is also probable that Microsoft may be hoping to gain revenue from selling additional software that runs exclusively on Windows 10, but this is pure speculation.

Is It Really Free for Pirates?

Is Windows 10 really free for pirates?

No, it’s not, not really. Although many sites on the media are reporting that Microsoft Windows 10 is free for pirates, this is not exactly the case. A spokesperson for Microsoft has told Ars Technica that “if a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed [sic] prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade.” Perhaps what was meant in the “free for pirates” statement by Terry Myerson is that pirates will still be able to use Windows 10 without being locked out of any functionality, but they will not be able to download updates until they get a genuine license.

So, it’s still free, but only as a system that will be outdated by the time a new update rolls in. This particular scheme is something that Microsoft hopes will help it re-engage with potential customers in China; a large percentage of them are currently using unlicensed versions of the software. My guess is that the company is hoping that it will make some sales in the Chinese market from people who want to get these updates. However, there is a very clear possibility that this will not play out the way they had planned. Had they wanted updates from any other version (7 or 8, for example), they would have simply purchased the operating systems as well. Now they will have a version of Windows that doesn’t even need to be cracked.

Is the release of Windows 10 as a free upgrade a good idea? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.


    1. One OS to Find Them…. One OS to Bind Them…. The idea is that MS is trying to bring a single OS to the Market as a whole. So your tablet will technically run the same OS as your Desktop with a different UI that the OS “knows” is needed for that screen size. The back-end will be the same. I say this because I’ve been running the Tech Preview on a tablet, a surface pro 3 and a desktop and other than UI/UX differences they are the same. The only other “version” that could possibly (I’m not 100% sure on this) be offered would be an Enterprise version which would have additional business only features.

      The idea behind the upgrade is to draw you into the new system so that the other software offerings will be more attractive. For example, once you have Cortana, and you become used to and/or decide you need it you may want it on your phone. Since it will be on the iPhone and Android it should draw you into the MS ecosystem. Then if the next version of WinPhone comes out in a decent phone you may choose it instead. Also, if you didn’t have to pay for the upgrade, and you started to see MS as an alternative to Apple or Google…

  1. The major reason Windows 10 is being offered free is that Microsoft would like to recapture the desktops and wallets of as many users as they can. Unfortunately the market share train has left the station a long time ago and is getting smaller and smaller in the distance.

    1. I’m guessing the same thing. The high rate of OS piracy of China concerns them, but they don’t seem to realize that this isn’t exactly an ideal solution.

    2. I think the same. I am writing this reply on my opensuse Kde Desktop. When comparing the windowz with ux systems (linux, mac os x etc.) it seems very basic and doesn’t integrate apps at system level.
      After 25 years, windowz 8 encouraged me then I have switched to KDE (along with mac ) and I am very happy dude.
      Nearly all apps talk to each other man.. This is greatest. All major apps have live integrations with each other and system components.
      Do you know someting Krunner, Synapse (Alfred, Launchbar, Quicksilver) alternatives for windowz? There are some but they will never get any closer because of Unix system base. This makes a great productivity for me :)

  2. Slow adoption rate? You bet. If you don’t have a touch screen, Win 8 is a pain…and many are still using Win XP….Most ATMs for example still run on XP.

    1. ATMs still run on XP because MS is still supporting the version of XP that the ATMs use. They will do that until 2019. Check out this link. http://www.ghacks.net/2014/05/24/get-security-updates-windows-xp-april-2019/

      Windows 10 takes the UX (User eXperience) of XP and Win7 and adds it to the Win8. That is why there is a two column “Start Menu” where the left side is WinXP/7 and the right side is Win8.

      Little known fact: You can set Win8.1 to run in Desktop mode which makes it almost identical to Win7. Most users/consumers just don’t know how to do that. Which is a failure on MS’s Marketing Dept.

  3. Just had my lunch and recalled the expression “beware Greeks bearing gifts” but then on the other hand I also recall the expression “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”.
    Food for thought?
    Glad to contribute to this discussion.

  4. I’ll be giving WIndows 10 a really got try-out. I also hear that a small version of Windows 10 will be available for the Raspberry Pi 2.
    Can one use the Update Version to create a new system? I use Win 8 Pro, but think my current system needs a format and re-install.

    I hope this time that future new installations of Win 10 will not involve hours of updating, and re-installing of existing Application software – perhaps a registry export/import?

    If Win 10 is a bummer, then it hello to Ubuntu!

    I’ve just started testing Ubuntu + Debian under Oracles VMBOX — just in case…………..

    1. First, If you think you need a format and reinstall…. You can refresh your system prior to upgrade and if there are problems it should be fixed without causing your applications or data to be reinstalled. Then upgrade.

      Second, if you have a MS Account and you have purchased the software from MS then it should install automatically with any updates as it installs Win10. THIS ASSUMES you have to actually Install rather than perform an upgrade.

      Ubuntu is great, I have it on a box and it works for most things… until I want to play a game. Or until I want to use the latest version of Office… etc. This has been the bane of Linux on the desktop since it began. That is the #1 reason it has never been able to be a serious contender in the Desktop Market. As a server OS? it is possibly the best OS ever designed. But as a Desktop OS…. it frankly, needs work. If you do like/decide on Linux check out Linux Mint. It runs on the latest version of Ubuntu but the Cinnamon UI is awesome and can be part of the download instead of an additional installation.

      1. What if I have a relatively old computer with a BIOS that does not have the Secure Boot option? (i.e. the BIOS was published before the advent of Secure Boot!) Does anyone know if Windows 10 would install without complaints/problems?

        1. That would really depend on the BIOS involved. For example, on one of the motherboards that I currently have I have turned off the Secure Boot and gone with the BIOS option. Window 8 and 8.1 installed without any issues. I have not tried to upgrade using the Tech Preview yet (mainly because the OS is still in Beta and not everything works 100% so the test would not be accurate)… but it might be interesting to see.

          Both Microsoft and Apple are moving towards locking the hardware down to a specific OS. If I remember correctly I believe Apple will not allow Win10 to be installed on their machines, which is a change from allowing Win7 and Win8/8.1 to be installed via Boot Camp etc.

  5. I like the question how many versions of Windows 10 will there be and which ONE will be free. I bought the Windows 8 upgrade when it was offered cheap only to find I had to pay the extra $99 to get the professional version that worked with the software I wanted to run. And I only found that out after having to upgrade my entire hardware platform just to get Windows 8 to install. Which I thought was totally nuts but hey it was an excuse to buy new hardware. So is that what Windows 10 is going to do again is require the newest and latest hardware. If that takes some of the bloat out of the OS I can see the advantage otherwise Windows and the hardware manufacturing are just stuffing each others pockets. If Windows 10 doesn’t offer some real advantages I’m out of here installing a free Linux system and free desktop software.

    1. Great Question, I answered part of it for tb. As for the rest of it: Would-be Windows 10 users will likely find that they can keep their current computers without fear of being unable to take full advantage of all Windows 10 features. Windows 10 will require just a 1GHz or faster processor, 16GB of data storage capacity, 1GB of RAM for the 32-bit option and a Microsoft account. A graphics card with DirectX 9 will also be required. In other words, a computer that was purchased years ago will handle Windows 10 just fine.

      In other words, MS doesn’t want to screw up again and make you the consumer find a reason to go to another OS. There are some features in Win10 which would need new or additional hardware, i.e. if you want to take advantage of being able to write on a webpage before you share it with your friends then you need a pen… (The Spartan browser that is replacing IE can do that.)

        1. For the same reason one needs an Apple ID or a Google Account…

          One of the major issues I have seen over the years with computers. All computers from servers to desktop and even mobile devices (Phone or Tablet) is the fact that a large number of users do not have a back up solution. People just don’t do it until they loose everything that was important on their machines… then its a major problem.

          What is the main purpose of an Apple ID or Google Account? When you get that new phone and sign in…. all your apps appear/install… your contacts copy down….

          What happens when your sign in with your MS account… all your apps appear/install… your contacts copy down…. And if you actually use the One Drive account any Documents or Music you have also downloads/installs/copies to the machine.

          You need the MS account for the same reason you need one for Google or Apple…. All three companies provide basically the same type of service, however it is only when MS is up front about it that most people have an issue. (at least that has been the case from what I have seen so far.)

  6. Nothing new here.

    It was a short time possible to upgrade from Vista to W7 when you purchased a Vista installed PC after W7 was released. You also got the free upgrade option for a short period of time.

    Seems that MS does this after each not so good version

    1. The only difference is that MS has stated (CEO Satya Nadella touched on this in a keynote address) that moving forward each new upgrade/version will be handled in a similar fashion. The idea, from what I understood, is that Win10 will be the last major version and that MS will be going a bit Apple-like with their OS. Just like MacOS X has different versions the basic OS is still the same, and like MacOS X the upgrades will be free. The new computers will require a new installation and that is a new sale of the license, but any upgrades of an existing system would be free.

      The general feeling that I am getting is that MS is going to focus on providing the platform (Win10) and try to sell the consumer additional software that is has created.

  7. I have been using Win 7 & Office 2010 at home for two or three years now. Office took a LOT of getting used to. So, after work migrated everyone to Win 7 about a year ago I am now more comfortable with it. However, when the commercials began airing showing the tiles for Win 8 I decided I did not like it and will not upgrade. If I am forced to at some point I will make the change to an alternate (read: better) OS. (By the way, I am using Win to represent “Windows”, not “Winchester.”

    1. Phil, you are the type of consumer who did not like Win8 for valid reasons. The tiles threw many people and they are really designed for a tablet or touchscreen. Win8.1 tried to fix some of those issues by allowing the user to turn the tiles off, but it was never really explained and unless you were a techie it was hard to figure out. That is MS’s biggest failure imho.

      Win10 is designed with those lessons in mind. Are there tiles in Win10? Yes, but they are not the main focus and can be turned off very easily. The Start Menu returns and the tiles can and are an extension of the Win7 menu. I’ve been running the Tech Preview on a few of my test machines (I confess to being a techie) and one of the first things I tested/used/etc. was the start menu. I found that for certain things i.e. the live tiles for the local weather and my email, are a great addition to start, however the basic and USEFUL start menu of Win7 is back.

      If you want to try it for yourself go to https://insider.windows.com/ and download a copy of the preview. You can run it in Virtual Box (free Virtual Machine program) without issues. It would give you the time and space to try the system without having to install or dual boot your current system. A chance to try before you buy in might help you see if it is a good fit.

      As for Linux… you think office was hard to use with Win7… Office does not install natively on Linux. IF you do decide that Win10 is not for you, don’t upgrade or if you chose Linux (I LOVE Linux Mint) then I recommend using Crossover from Codeweavers (https://www.codeweavers.com/products/) because it will allow for you to reuse your Office 2010 disc to install office on Linux. Remember, free office suites (LibreOffice or OpenOffice) are not MS Office and they have a learning curve that can be steep. They are viable, but again there is a learning curve. MacOS X is a great OS… but you have to buy the hardware. Then the MacOS version of Office… or use their Office Like programs.

      1. “Remember, free office suites (LibreOffice or OpenOffice) are not MS Office and they have a learning curve that can be steep.”
        Why do you say that? Sources? If you are familiar with Office 2000, then LibreOffice is quite the straight-forward version with a minimal learning curve. So is KingSoft’s Office. I use both MS’s products and Open Document Foundation’s: they each have their strengths and weaknesses. For 99% of Office product users, LibreOffice does everything they need doing, and for older MS Office users (pre-Office 2013), LibreOffice even saves out documents to PDF!
        The one key weakness Open Document Foundation has yet to address is macros: LO has the capability — only just — but it is convoluted and lacks development effort at this point in time. Hope this changes, and fervently hope they migrate away from that silly language BASIC to something more robust. Python suggests itself.

        1. Robyn, There are two reasons I said what I said. First, as a computer tech who has dealt with a very large number of people trying to use King Office, Polaris, LibreOffice (My favorite of the non-MS office suites), and OpenOffice, there is a learning curve. Just how steep it is depends completely on how comfortable the user is with computers. You talk about macros and what language the program is written in… so I would guess since you know what those are the learning curve was very shallow. But, the average user doesn’t know what you are talking about…. they just want to be able to use it. So the curve gets steeper. That doesn’t mean the program is bad, they aren’t bad, that wasn’t the point. The point was that free office suites are not MS Office, because they aren’t… There will be a learning curve… it COULD be… steep. What I didn’t say (I was worried I was starting a book) is that the Office program that are part of MacOS also have a learning curve, and since I brought it up they can also have a learning curve…

          Second, Phil already has Office 2010…. that was expensive and I always suggest that any user get every penny of their money out of a product. It will install on Win7 and Win8/8.1, and unless they change something at the last moment it will install on Win10. That is useful.

          1. Odd. I have always found Office to have a steep learning curve. MS likes to put settings in half a dozen different places, and none of those places make sense.

            OL just makes sense. It doesn’t try to make anything complicated or to do anything but the most basic stuff I need. I can just use it.

            Maybe you’re just used to Office.

  8. Smashing sales idea. port to all devices and cross device seamless compatibility, UC. Better 10 not as clunky as 8. just keep a eye on who has your data , who is controlling your net IoT and how much you are willing to pay to get to your data as the cloud storms 2015. So whats the next version of Windows .. I’m bored w 10 already.

  9. We have been running Windows 10 Beta with all our many programs installed on a few test machines (not high end or new) and everything has run perfectly.

    1. 64/32. There is no such thing as a 128-bit standard in conventional business or consumer computing yet. 64-bit addressing spaces more than satisfy the current and near-future needs of both.

      1. AES 256/RSA-512/SSL/TLS have become the go-to standards. Not sure why people would still be looking at 128-bit cryptographic algorithms, especially in an OS as new as Win 10.

  10. To bad when you shell out more money to get the pro version they don’t appreciate it and treat you less than someonethat just used the basic system.

  11. I need to ask a rather naive question:

    My current PC was bought with Win 7.0 installed, I upgraded to 8.0 pro , then upgraded again to
    Win 8.1 pro. When Win 10 comes around then I’ll re-upgrade yet again to Win 10 pro.

    Now what happens should I want/need to install Win 10 pro from start. Does one need to install
    the whole Win 7 (install DVD ) + Win 8 (download) again? No exactly a happy prospect.
    If so, buying the new Win 10 and install everything again — I have the time – I’m retired – but I will not like it.


    1. OK, 2 things.

      1. There should only be 2 “versions” of Win10 the full, normal version and the enterprise version. The main idea behind Win10 is to create a single OS that runs on any hardware platform. So the same version will run on a phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop. For the enterprise market (AIG, Dell, Govt., etc.) there will be additional software added to the overall main effort.

      2. MS is aiming for a clean upgrade. Unless something goes horribly wrong you should not need to install Win10 from the start. A feature in Win8/8.1 is to refresh you computer which will not touch your programs(unless one is the cause of the issue) or your data. I have found that running that makes the upgrade easier and more stable. (I used the Tech Preview in my test…. it should be even easier in the finished product.)

      I would recommend that you back up your data, (General precaution and something you should do anyway) and the download file of your Win8 and Win10 before upgrading if at all possible.

  12. As said before, without touchscreen it’s a pain to use Windows 8. Even with the desktop mode thing on i find it alot harder to do simple things which i do on Windows 7. My only problem is that i think they’re going to focus on the tablet PC side of things more than the PC side of things. I think this because every advert I’ve seen for something like MS Office or Windows 8 has been shown of a tablet PC. It put me off Windows 8 and is putting me off Windows 10 (Someone please also tell me what happened to 9) where as Apple and Linux are focusing on computer OS’s and not trying to merge them with tablet OS’s. I think everyone could prefer it if they were separate, where the PC’s get a PC OS and the tablets get a tablet OS. I’m kinda thinking about it as they’re trying to update it so it’s an all-in-one thing. Ya’know. One of those updates which aren’t needed but added anyways and do more bad than what they do good.

  13. The real answer? It’s offered free, to more rapidly get M$ fully immersed in the world of “SaaS”.

    Yeah, I know i’m not “buying” software now, just “licensing” it. Been that way for way over a decade. But having to continuously pay for its use forever? It’s adding injury to insult! Must be a commie plot.

    However, since I cannot simply stop using computers (work, surf, social, etc.), I have the same 2 options as everyone else: 1) Embrace the horror, or 2) Get the bleep over it (And be ready to look for an alternative. Somebody mention Linux Mint…?).

  14. My thoughts here are that Microsoft is attempting to get every windows user under the same platform. This will make it much easier and more economical for Microsoft to deal with security updates. It will also will make it easier for Microsoft to later charge an annual licence fee for using their product once the support for all the older versions runs out. It just makes good business sense.

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