I keep hearing the same questions over and over again about Windows 10 and the free* upgrade, so I have decided to put together a set of frequently asked questions about the Windows 10 promotion.
Who gets it?
Q: Is Windows 10 really free?
Yes. It is free. Completely free. But only if you meet the qualifications and take Microsoft up on the offer from a qualified PC before July 29th, 2016.
You must have Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 installed on your x86 or x64 system, and it cannot be an Enterprise edition of Windows (only Home, Pro/Professional, Ultimate, or similar. See the bottom of this page for a significant disclaimer.
Q: Can I get the free upgrade if I have some version of Windows RT?
No free upgrade for you. Microsoft has indicated there’s a little something coming in the pipeline for you at some point, but haven’t indicated what that would be. It won’t be Windows 10, and won’t be the full Windows 10 for smartphones and small tablets either. MHO: Expect something more akin to Windows Phone 7.8.
Q: Can I get it for free if I have Enterprise edition of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1?
No. Enterprise edition must be purchased through the Volume Licensing channel, as it always has had to be. Talk to the people in your organization who handle Windows volume licensing.
Q: Can I get it for free if I’m in the Windows Insider program?
No. There’s no magic program rewarding Windows Insiders with a completely free full product. You have to have upgraded the system from a valid license for 7, 8, or 8.1. (See this tweet from @GabeAul.)
Q: Can I get it for free if I have Windows XP or Windows Vista?
No. You’ll need to either buy a legal copy of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, or just purchase Windows 10 when it becomes available at retail, supposedly in late August, 2015. Your install of Windows does not qualify for the offer.
Q: Can I get it for free if I pirated Windows 7, 8, or 8.1?
Not really, no. If it was “Non-Genuine” before your upgrade, or Windows 10 recognizes it as such, it will still be Non-Genuine after the fact. You may be upgraded, but expect to be nagged. Your OEM might also be able to help you get legit… Or you could always buy a copy.
Q: Can I perform a clean install of Windows 10?
Yes, but you’ll have to do it after you’ve upgraded from a qualified install of Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 first. Then you can perform clean installs on that device at any time. (See yet another tweet from @GabeAul.)
Q: Can I upgrade all of my PCs for free?
Yes, if they each have a qualifying OS version and edition installed. But installing on one device doesn’t give you rights to run Windows 10 on any other system, or move an OEM install to a virtual machine.
Q: Can I upgrade my phone?
This is all about Windows 10 for your x86 or x64 PC, not your Windows Phone. Microsoft will have more details about Windows for phones at some point later this year, when they talk about it being released. It won’t be available at the same time as Windows 10 for PCs and tablets.
What edition do I get?
Q: I have Media Center, K, N, Ultimate, or some other transient edition – what do I get?
Check out “What edition of Windows will I get as a part of this free upgrade?” on this page. If you have a K or N install, you will be upgraded to the parent edition for the K or N OS you are licensed for.
Q: When will I get the upgrade?
See “What happens when I reserve?” on this page. In general, once you reserve on that device, it’ll download automatically and you’ll be notified when it is ready to install, on or about July 29th, 2015.
What breaks if I upgrade?
Q: Can I still run Windows Media Center after I upgrade to Windows 10?
No. According to this page, if you upgrade a system that is running Media Center software to Windows 10, it will be uninstalled. If you use/love Media Center on a given system, I would strongly advise not upgrading to Windows 10 on that system, as it will be deleted.
Q: Is this thing running in my system notification area malware?
You might have malware, but the little flag running over there isn’t it. It’s just Microsoft working to get every qualified Windows install that they can to Windows 10 within a year’s time. Enjoy your free lunch.
Q: How do I stop users in my organization from installing Windows 10 on systems I manage?
If it’s a domain-joined Windows Pro system, or a Windows Enterprise system, have no fear. They aren’t getting prompted.
Q: How do I stop users in my organization from installing Windows 10 on BYOD systems I don’t manage?
If it is a system running Windows Home (or similar, like “Windows 8.1” with no suffix), or a Windows Pro/Professional) system that isn’t joined to the domain, and you don’t manage it in any way, you’re kind of up the creek on this one. This article provides info on KB3035583, which needs to be uninstalled to stop the promotion, and you’ll need to figure out a way to remove it on each of those systems.
Q: Microsoft will charge me in a year for updates, won’t they?
No. They won’t. Microsoft has stated that they will not charge for “free, ongoing security updates for the supported lifetime of the device.” Microsoft may well charge for a future upgrade to some other version of the OS. But I don’t see them going back on this as stated.