Will Windows 10 Insiders get a free upgrade after all?

Will you be able to upgrade from a Windows 10 Insider build to the RTM? A week or two ago, I asked UK Windows boss Robert Epstein that very question.

Will Windows 10 Insiders get a free upgrade after all?

His answer was clear. He told me that if the Insider Preview had been installed as an upgrade from Windows 7 or 8, that would be recognised and you’d get the option to stop receiving Insider builds and switch to the RTM track.

If you’d carried out a clean installation, however, you wouldn’t get that option. In this case, you’d need to reinstall your qualifying older edition of Windows and upgrade from there. Yes, it would be a bit of a pain, he admitted, but it was no different to what had happened with previous Consumer Preview editions of the OS.

Having myself performed a clean installation of Windows 10, I was therefore a little surprised when, in the very next update, a new button appeared in the Settings app inviting me to “Stop Insider builds”. I clicked it in curiosity – and saw a notification advising me I would need to roll back to a previous version of Windows. It seemed everything was as I had been told.

Enter the RTM

Then, this morning, Windows 10 hit a milestone as build 10240 came down the tubes. Microsoft hasn’t officially said that this is the final RTM build, but other sources have reported that this is the intention – and there are several tell-tale clues, including the fact that the “Insider Preview” watermark is gone from the desktop, and that it hasn’t been made available as an ISO. So if you want to get off the Insider track, this is probably the point at which you’re going to want to do it.

Again, in curiosity, I went back and clicked the “Stop Insider builds”, just to see what would happen. And this time, the notice that I’d need to reinstall my old OS was gone, replaced by a simple request to restart my PC. I clicked, and ten seconds later, I was – according to the OS itself – running Windows 10 Professional. No “preview”, no nothing. I’m still getting Windows Updates, but I’m no longer on the Insider track.

Just to be sure, I tried a different PC, which I had also given a fresh installation of Windows 10: again, I was able to opt out of receiving new Insider builds and stick with the RTM.

Windows 10 registered to Darien

A legitimate upgrade?

Downloading and installing the RTM as an Insider doesn’t necessarily give you the same rights as an official upgrade. The terms of the Windows 10 Insider Programme explicitly prohibit you from using Insider software in a “live operating environment”, among other things. But in practice, Microsoft has very much not cared about that so far.

Similarly, the Insider agreement warns: “You have no right to use the Software after its expiration date.” But when is that date? When I ask the Windows Software Licensing Manager for the status of my Build 10240 installation, an alert pops up saying: “This machine is permanently activated.”

Based on what Microsoft was saying a few weeks ago, I suspect there are a lot of Windows 10 Insiders out there who’ve been preparing to wipe their Insider installations and roll back to Windows 7 or 8 in order to get onto Windows 10 RTM. If that’s you, I suggest you hold fire.

Naturally, I can’t promise that opting out now will allow you to stay on the RTM track forever, and I can’t say it’s strictly legal to use the OS for real work. All the same, it looks very much as if Microsoft is trying to make it easy for you to do just that, by providing an easy shortcut around the hurdles of product licensing. It’s hard to think of a more striking proof that this is no longer the company of Ballmer.

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