Free Upgrades, Microsoft ‘Free’ Upgrades, And Windows 10

(With apologies to Samuel Clemens).

As part of this week’s goal to move into the 2010s, it was time to listen to the nagging Windows 10 icon and schedule an upgrade from Win7.

So I did what I’ve done for every Windows revision: Made a blank partition on my hard drive (in this case, a second hard drive), and began the install.

By the way, why is it Windows allows you to create a new logical partition in the visual Disk Management console, but to make an extended partition you need to go to DOS (sorry, Command Prompt!) and use diskpart?

Only this time, it went – odd. My first clue was that it didn’t go through the usual interrogation at the beginning for where and how I wanted Windows. No problem, says I, it’s just taking awhile copying files.

Then it started rebooting, something I wasn’t expecting until after the install had begun. By then it was dawning on me that Windows WASN’T going to ask where to place it, and that it was going to overwrite my current Windows.

Fortunately for me, the install failed (apparently MS servers were too busy). By then I had used my tablet to find out the awful truth. As stated on this page:

Warning: If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, you need to use the Upgrade this PC now option. [MY COMMENT: ‘Upgrade this PC now’ ONLY upgrades over the previous OS] If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 yet and perform a clean installation, you’ll need to enter a product key or buy a license in order to activate Windows 10.

To sum it up:

  • The upgrade IS free for previous Win7/8 Users for the most part – but only if you replace your old OS with it.
  • To install it on another partition, you need a Win10 key – and there seems to be no free upgrade key for that.

Could I be wrong? Possibly, but so far, I’ve yet to see a post after Win10 was released by someone who successfully dual booted Win10 on the ‘free’ offer.

Simply put, if I want to keep Win7, and have Win10 run as a separate bootable OS in a separate partition, I’ve seen no way to do it with the free version.

Therefore, the free upgrade is more of a free wipe and reinstall, and the separate partition upgrade I’ve counted on for decades is now no more – without even a hint of its loss (unless you dig deep on the MS site, of course.)

For most people I suppose this is fine. And for Microsoft, it moves all the sheep into a single OS pen, making tech support easier. But for me, I need to test on older Operating systems (Win7 is expected to be viable until 2020) and replacing it just won’t do. And being told I had a free upgrade when in fact I’ll now have to buy a copy for $150 or $250 is rather galling (hence the Mark Twain quote for the title).

More disturbing however was rumblings on the Internet that Win10 was the last, and versions after it were going subscription based. So sometime in the future we might only rent Windows, at a price I’m sure we’ll enjoy paying over and over.

Additionally, There is something called UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) which will control the boot system. While stated that it is to prevent boot-level viruses, it has what I’m sure is a completely unintended side effect of making dual boot systems (like Linux) difficult to create, as well as wiping Windows and installing another OS on newer hardware using UEFI.

The result: Every upgrade I’ve debated moving to Linux. Now I’m really considering it. After Steve Balmer left, the apparent opening of Microsoft (releasing .net source, for example), made me think that it was a brave new world (and friendlier) at MS. But this sly bait and switch with the install tells me it will never change. That this goes on at a time when desktop use is waning, I find incredible: I actually (and somewhat reasonably) thought they would make their OS completely free and focus on tools like Visual Studio and Office to make their money.

Therefore, I think it’s time to ask myself what will I be programming on in 20 year’s time? For paying customers, of course, Windows will always be an option (I’ll write for the Commodore 64 if the money is good…) But the idea of locking in your computer to a steadily changing OS that serves a corporation’s needs first, and yours second, is rather disturbing to me. And with the many options out there now, such as Linux, FreeBSD, and the handheld operating systems, it seems the secure money can be somewhere else.

In the near future, however, I’m staying far away from it until I can safely add it alongside my other operating systems.

Of course I may be overreacting, and perhaps I’ll soon install Win10 and be done with Linux until the next upgrade.

But then it occurs to me that if anything bad happens to MS, there’s no key validation, and no new installs of Windows – ever. And while few people plan for computing after a world-wide Armageddon, I can’t quite get that thought out of my head.

Suddenly Linux looks like a really good option…

(Update: Oct 15 – this article mentions that the latest Win10, due Nov, will allow keys from 7 and 8.1 to activate – I hope so…)

(Update: Oct 15 Success! It can be done – see here)

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