Microsoft is changing things up a bit with their Insider Preview builds. They are now requiring those who receive the Insider Preview editions of Windows 10 to link their PC with their Microsoft Account (MSA) in order to receive future updates. Looking forward to the final release on July 29th, one of the writers at the Microsoft Blog, Gabe Aul, states: 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 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.
The important part of that quote is “remain activated”. This means that anyone in the Insider Program running one of the preview builds will get the full version of the operating system for free. And if, for some reason, you need to start fresh and reinstall Windows 10 at some point in the future, those versions that started as preview editions will be eligible for a clean re-install.
Mr. Aul also makes it clear that linking your Microsoft account is not required for upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1. Some features of the new operating system do require that you have a Microsoft account, for example, access to the Microsoft Store and downloading apps from there.
If you wish to join the Insider Program to take advantage of this, best to join soon, as the full release in July is just over a month away.
You can read more on the story at the Microsoft Blog.
Update: Microsoft has done a stealth edit to the blog and removed the important “remain activated” section. They’ve made no direct comment concerning this edit. So they may be backing away from this path to a free version of the operating system as quickly as they can, trying not to cause controversy with this sleight of hand.
Update Number Two: Microsoft has added a clarification to the blog post, which you can see here. It seems the only way to get a free copy of Windows 10 without a valid Windows 7 or 8.1 license is to remain in the Insider Program past July 29th. If you opt out of the program, your copy of the operating system will expire.