Microsoft: 'Genuine' OS Required for Free Windows 10 Upgrade

Microsoft will allow machines running pirated versions of Windows to upgrade to the latest OS, but there will be no free rides for users of non-genuine versions.

Windows 10

Microsoft is clarifying its stance on upgrading pirated versions of the company's flagship operating system to Windows 10.

In March, after announcing that the new OS would launch this summer, Microsoft caused a stir in tech circles by revealing that Windows 10 upgrades can be applied to copies of the software that were attained by less than reputable means. "Anyone with a qualified device can upgrade to Windows 10, including those with pirated copies of Windows," the Microsoft spokesperson told eWEEK at the time. "We believe customers over time will realize the value of properly licensing Windows, and we will make it easy for them to move to legitimate copies."

Now, Microsoft is signaling that there will be no free rides for users of older, pirated versions of Windows 10.

Microsoft is planning to release several versions of Windows 10 this summer. From the consumer-friendly Home edition to the productivity-focused Windows 10 Mobile OS. The latter will support the company's advanced Continuum UI-switching technology, enabling devices running the OS to double as a PC when connected to a larger screen.

Terry Myerson, head of the software giant's operating systems group, took to the official company blog to outline the company's policy. "While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we've always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state," he wrote, before dangling the possibility of low-cost upgrade options.

"In addition, in partnership with some of our valued OEM partners, we are planning very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers for their customers running one of their older devices in a Non-Genuine state," Myerson continued.

The company is falling back on its strategy of using on-screen notices to alert users that their Windows software isn't the real deal. "When we can't verify that Windows is properly installed, licensed, and not tampered with, we create a desktop watermark to notify the user," Myerson said. "If you ever encounter this watermark on a new machine, I encourage you to return the device immediately to the retailer from whom you purchased it and request a Genuine Windows device."

Some users turn to pirated software to avoid paying for genuine software. But some PC buyers may be the unwitting victims, Myerson added. The danger for both types of users is that illicitly-obtained software may have been tampered with, posing a security risk, he said.

"Non-Genuine Windows has a high risk of malware, fraud, public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions," Myerson stated. "Non-Genuine Windows is not supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is looking to provide a smooth upgrade process for owners of legitimate copies, according to Myerson. "We are working hard to make the in-place upgrade experience from Windows 7 or Windows 8, to Windows 10, seamless for the customer."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...