With Windows 10's release looming ahead on July 29, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has answered most questions about the highly anticipated (mostly) free operating system upgrade. But one unanswered question has been what fate will await those with Windows XP and Vista.
The official party line from Microsoft is that you will have to buy an individual license, or an OEM license resold in bulk. But for those with a Windows XP or Vista machine who don't want to spend $100 USD or more, it appears there's a clever workaround -- but only if you act immediately. The workaround begins with a Windows 10 Insider Preview ISO. Ordinarily, you can't install Windows 10 on a Windows XP or Windows Vista PC. But since at least Insider Preview Build 10130, consumer available ISOs have been offered direct from Microsoft. Once burned to a DVD, these ISOs can offer a clean install. Does Microsoft officially approve of this loophole? Obviously not. Technically speaking these clean installs are not intended for Windows XP or Vista computers as that would arguably be bad or wrong. You're supposed to upgrade to Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 and then install the Preview Build.
But the problem is that if Microsoft goofed up and somehow bricked your existing Windows 10 install, and you were testing on a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 machine and forgot the license key (or weren't given it properly by your OEM) you'd essentially be left with nothing unless Microsoft gave you a recovery option. Being a good sport, Microsoft has done precisely that, via the clean install ISOs. But their existence also creates an interesting loophole as you can use them for a fresh install on a machine currently running Windows XP or Vista. It's worth noting, as well, that this loophole isn't particularly new. Users with an enterprise subscription could get preview ISOs for the Technical Preview for Enterprise builds (the enterprise equivalent of Insider Preview builds) for some time now.
Now Microsoft has already said that ALL users running official Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds will receive an update to the full licensed Windows 10. But it's also said that you need a Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 license to get a free upgrade to Windows 10. So what happens if you do a clean install over a Windows XP or Vista license? Will you be frozen on the Insider Preview?