I’ve been running Windows XP, Mac OSX, and Linux. I am trying Windows 10 without upgrading from anything and it appears to be free without activation for some period of time.
Skip all the upgrade chatter. Instead, I downloaded a Windows 10 ISO from the Microsoft website. Burned it to a DVD. There is a lot of Microsoft speak-easy about Media Center or something like that to create a bootable USB or bootable DVD, but it seems to be directed at people who have no other option to burn an iso image.
I installed the Windows 10 iso image directly between two other hard drive partitions, which previously held WinXP and Linux Mint 13. The first one is a Dell diagnostic partition and the third is the Dell reinstall partition in case I want to go back to my licensed copy of Dell Windows XP.
The drive was bootable with a Grub boot screen, allowing me to boot to XP or Mint. As expected, Win10 blew that away and boots only to itself.
Initially, the Win10 installation was fully functional. After about 10 hours of operation on the network, it had successfully contacted the “mother ship” back at Microsoft and realized it was not activated. Then a “activate me” banner appeared in the lower right corner and the desktop personalization options refuse to operate. Otherwise all still seems operational.
As a future thought – I should have programmed my router to blacklist microsoft.com and then there is no way the installed operating system could have learned that it was not activated.
Deeper thought – realize that Microsoft licensing is now licensing your hardware by proxy. In other words, once that hardware box has called home to “mother Microsoft”, it will receive free updates for the life of that hardware, but you have no way of running your activated copy of Win10 on any other machine.
If I choose to not activate Win10, it will eventually cripple itself and quit working. 30 day? 1 year? I can’t find this information anywhere on the web. With Win7, there is a registry tweak to get eight 30-day free periods in a row. I can’t find anything about Win10.
*And* because mother Microsoft has memorized my hardware, I cannot blow away the Win10 installation and do another Win10 clean installation on the same hardware from scratch. It will work for about 10 hours and then as soon as it converses with Mother Microsoft, I will get a desktop notification that this hardware has already enjoyed a free trial period and that period will not be extended.
Microsoft is now licensing my hardware by proxy. All the industry chatter about “free upgrades for the lifetime of your device” or the secret internal Microsoft memo referring to “lifetime of 2-4 years” is about your hardware. YOU choose how long you keep your hardware, and Microsoft is only recognizing that consumers typically upgrade every 2-4 years, so they will terminate their Win10 license by themselves by giving up that hardware. Win10 is only a way to reach out and memorize what hardware I am using. I’m not sure yet how the software Win10 is going to make them money unless people sign up for all the ancillary services.
But remember, Microsoft is the company IBM ridiculed when Bill Gates wanted only ownership of the software rights for MS-DOS. In the early 80s, Microsoft inverted the accepted wisdom about hardware and software. Now, in 2015, they are using their software “strangle-hold” of Win10 in order to license your hardware by proxy. Interesting, isn’t it?
What this means is that the day of buying “software” is gone. Using pervasive connected-ness of networks, you will have a computer and the software will go with it. It’s a way of binding the software to the computer. Since Microsoft’s Bill Gates made a deal with IBM in the early 1980s keeping intellectual rights to the software, software was separate. Now, by precedence of Microsoft, they have gone back to the way it was before they themselves changed the landscape back in the early 1980s.