Microsoft: Pirates Can Get Windows 10 For Free

John Lister's picture

Microsoft is offering Chinese users of pirated Windows software a free upgrade to Windows 10. It appears to be a case of profit over principle that may also have security benefits.

Virtually all users of Windows 7 and 8.1 around the world will already qualify for a free upgrade to Windows 10 when it's released, something Microsoft now says will be "this summer." However, in most places that only applies to legitimate users.

Things are very different in China, however, which has a combination of an increasingly wealthy tech-loving population and loose government policing of intellectual property rights. A 2013 report by a software industry group estimated 74 percent of all software run in China is pirated, compared with 43 percent across the world as a whole. (Source:

Free Windows 10 Move Could Increase App Sales

Microsoft isn't saying much about the plans, other than that it wants to "re-engage" with Windows users in China, even those who no longer pay for the software. (Source:

While it may appear crazy to reward pirates, the move does make a lot of practical sense for Microsoft. It's unlikely to cost the firm too much money as the chances are most Chinese users who already pirate Windows would have done so again with Windows 10 and had no intention for paying for the system.

Expanding the user base by switching the pirates onto legal copies also expands the potential audience for selling software through the Windows store, which will be front and center in the system. That's particularly important given that Microsoft is now focused on the idea that operating systems should be cheap or even free, with money instead made the sale of applications.

Security Could Get A Boost

It's also possible the move could enhance security in a couple of ways. Firstly, it reduces the risk of people in China trying to find ways around Microsoft's authentication programs and as a result not installing security updates. Secondly, it could deter people from feeling the need to visit sites that host pirated software in order to upgrade to Windows 10; such sites may also have an increased risk of housing and distributing malicious software such as viruses.

One drawback may be the publicity that results from the move. Giving pirates a break in China and nowhere else may come across as unfairly rewarding users in the country specifically because piracy is so rife there.

What's Your Opinion?

Is Microsoft right to offer free upgrades to Windows pirates? Should it expand the offer to users worldwide? Or is the move unfair to legitimate users who've paid for previous editions of Windows?

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Dennis Faas's picture

The consumer PC industry is currently dead in the water, and this story proves it. Microsoft is desperate and will do everything it can to reclaim lost ground from tablet and smartphone sales over the past 5 to 7 years. Giving away Windows 10 for free to virtually anyone (including pirates) will certainly help gain market share quickly.

On the other hand, if Windows 10 isn't immediately widely adopted after it's released, I see Microsoft fading away into the sunset.

Here's hoping Windows 10 is roaring success.

darylhutchins's picture

How is giving the new OS away to users with pirate versions "rewarding" pirates? It's taking away their market.

gi7omy's picture

The only way there was a 'market' for pirate copies of Windows would be people buying and selling discs - most pirates downloaded the .iso and burnt their own and that was free (if you knew where to look, which was never very hard).

Regarding the 'security updates', anyone who has been round longer than a lunch and afternoon snack knows that there were always ways to get those - there is a very common program (I'm not naming it but it starts with 'M') that replaced the windows update .exe with one that not only bypassed the activation check on updates but also did it for 'add-on' apps from MS

People will still go to the pirate sites, even if it's only to upgrade to 7 or 8.1 in order to get 10 (seeing that MS is not releasing a 'free' upgrade for lower versions of 7 or earlier). I'm fine - I got my version of 7 Ultimate free (and legit) at the Irish launch ;)

JulieB's picture

If Microsoft can do that for the Chinese pirates, then they should offer it to everyone. I have windows 8.1, but it came preinstalled on my computer. I have heard that OEM users will not be able to get the upgrade. Is this correct?

Dennis Faas's picture

All versions of Windows 7 and 8 are upgradable to Windows 10 free of charge (including OEM), but not Enterprise and RT editions. You must have Windows 7 SP1 installed and Windows 8.1 to qualify.

blueboxer2's picture

I have a dormant desktop with Win7Pro on it, so maybe I could look at upgrading that. Or find someplace to temporarily install a fully legal copy of 8.0 Professional I have to upgrade it to 8.1 to upgrade that to 10. What I am not interested in doing is diving flat-out into the Win 10 "exchange" until I find out just how many of my cherished programs will no longer work, which hardware will not function worth spit without a pricey upgrade it maybe doesn't have the board or BIOS to support, or any of the other tricks and traps that always crop up in an operating system change. Let the other guy go down that road; when he comes back battered and bleeding get his story and see if the path is still attractive.