Why Using 'Non-Genuine' Windows Makes You Ineligible for Windows 10

Users warned that illegitimate copies put their computers at risk

A denied sign coming out of a laptop

 Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

There are two types of Windows operating systems: those that were purchased properly, and those that weren't, either at an extremely steep discount or free (that's what we call "stolen").

Typically, "Genuine" versions of Windows, as Microsoft calls them, are obtained in a couple of ways. Most often, it comes pre-installed on a new computer. The OEM, or original equipment manufacturer, has paid Microsoft for the copy of Windows on your computer and included its price in what you paid for your desktop, laptop or tablet.

Genuine vs. Non-Genuine

The other way most folks get Windows on a computer is to purchase a copy directly from Microsoft, either as packaged software (although that rarely happens anymore) or through a download. Then that copy is installed, either on a computer with no OS installed or over a previous version of Windows, e.g. an upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7. Those are legitimate ways. 

There are also illegitimate ways. These include buying a copy from a vendor on the street for $2 (this happens a lot in some Asian countries, for example), burning a new copy from an existing one, or downloading an illegal copy from a shady web site. These copies of Windows are what Microsoft calls "Non-Genuine" copies.

It's Stealing, Plain and Simple

What's important to note here is that Microsoft gets no money for it; the person getting it has basically stolen it. It's no different than downloading a movie from a streaming site that gives it away, or walking into a convenience store, stuffing a Snickers bar in your jacket, and walking out. It sounds harsh, yes, but that's exactly what it is. Microsoft and many other software companies have lost billions upon billions of dollars over the years from this piracy.

For those who have gotten Windows in a less-than-honest way, Microsoft has some news for you and some advice. First, Microsoft has marked Non-Genuine copies, so if you accidentally got one, you can return it. "When we can’t verify that Windows is properly installed, licensed, and not tampered with, we create a desktop watermark to notify the user," blogged Windows Chief Terry Myerson. He points out that these illegitimate copies are at much higher risk of malware and other negative effects, and aren't supported by Microsoft.

No Free Upgrade for You

Another problem with these Non-Genuine copies is that the upgrade to Windows 10, which is free for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 for the first year, won't apply to the pirated copies. Windows 10 upgrades are available to these illegitimate users, but they aren't free.

Myers did hint, though, that even those users may get a deal on a Windows 10 upgrade: "In addition, in partnership with some of our valued OEM partners, we are planning very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers for their customers running one of their older devices in a Non-Genuine state," he wrote. So Microsoft is extending a friendly hand and hopes you'll grasp it.

An Invitation to Be Hacked

Unpatched Windows is nothing more than an open invitation to the internet's bad guys to hijack your computer and use it for their scummy purposes. You will also be the owner of a machine that can be used as another link in the chain to spread viruses and cyber-worms around the internet, harming the experience for everyone else. You don't really want to do that, do you?