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No, Microsoft Isn't Giving Free, Legitimate Windows 10 Upgrades to Pirates

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Yahoo Tech

(Thinkstock & Microsoft/Illustration by Yahoo Tech)

Earlier this week, Microsoft told Reuters that it would provide free Windows 10 upgrades to people running “genuine and non-genuine” versions of Windows when the new operating system comes out this summer.

Translated from geek speak, it sounded as if Microsoft would be giving everyone, even people running pirated versions of Windows, the option to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Many publications, including Yahoo Tech, reported that pirates would be given amnesty for their stolen versions of Windows and be given, for free, a licensed version of Windows 10.

If that sounds too good to be true, it is.

When Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft’s Operating Systems group, made the announcement, he left out a specific but important caveat, which is that any upgrade from a pirated version of Windows would be registered as non-genuine. In other words, the upgrades won’t be legit in Microsoft’s books.

If you’ve ever used a non-genuine version of Windows and tried to upgrade it, you’ve likely noticed that as soon as Microsoft’s servers see that your copy of Windows is illegitimate, the desktop flashes black and adds bars that tell you your Windows install is non-genuine. You also get a ton of annoying notifications telling you to upgrade to genuine Windows.

Obviously, pirated versions of Windows are apt to carry malicious software, given that they usually come from unknown sources via peer-to-peer networks.

If you’re running a non-genuine version of Windows 7 or 8, Microsoft still lets you download critical security updates — better to keep everyone safe — but you can’t get optional updates or use Microsoft’s built-in Windows Defender security software.

Microsoft hasn’t said how it will handle non-genuine versions of Windows 10, which means that we don’t know if those using non-genuine versions will have access to security updates.

Here’s what Microsoft told us about the matter:

“We have always been committed to ensuring that customers have the best Windows experience possible. With Windows 10, although non-Genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license. Non-Genuine Windows is not published by Microsoft. It is not properly licensed, or supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner. If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade. According to industry experts, use of pirated software, including Non-Genuine Windows, results in a higher risk of malware, fraud (identity theft, credit card theft, etc), public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions.”

So, yes, you’ll be able to upgrade your pirated version of Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10, but it’s not going to be a full-on legitimate upgrade, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll still be able to get all of the important software updates you’ll need.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+.