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Windows 10 will be a free upgrade even if you pirated Windows (update)

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Microsoft is offering an olive branch to software pirates with Windows 10, extending its free upgrade promotion to any computer that qualifies — regardless of whether the user is running a genuine copy of Windows, reports Reuters.

"We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10," said Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft's operating systems division, in an interview with Reuters. A Microsoft representative confirmed the announcement in a statement to The Verge, saying, "We believe customers over time will realize the value of properly licensing Windows and we will make it easy for them to move to legitimate copies."

Myerson announced in January that all users running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows Phone 8.1 will be able to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. The free offer will be valid for one year following Windows 10's launch date; after that period, customers will have to pay for the operating system as usual.

Software piracy is a worldwide problem, but it's particularly bad in China, where studies show that three-quarters of all PC software is pirated, according to Reuters. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in 2011 that Microsoft estimated that 9 out of 10 users of Microsoft products in China had pirated them.

Windows 10 will be released globally this summer, Microsoft announced today.

Update: A Microsoft spokesperson clarified in a statement to Polygon that the upgrade to Windows 10 will "not change the genuine state of the license," meaning non-genuine copies of the operating system will continue to be non-genuine.

The consumer free upgrade offer for Windows 10 applies to qualified new and existing devices running Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1. Some editions are excluded from the consumer free upgrade — including Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise, and Windows RT/RT 8.1. Active Software Assurance customers in volume licensing have the benefit to upgrade to other Windows 10 enterprise offerings.

We have always been committed to ensuring that customers have the best Windows experience possible. With Windows 10, although non-Genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license. Non-Genuine Windows is not published by Microsoft. It is not properly licensed, or supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner. If a device was considered non-genuine or mislicensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mislicensed after the upgrade. According to industry experts, use of pirated software, including Non-Genuine Windows, results in a higher risk of malware, fraud (identity theft, credit card theft, etc), public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions.