A month or two ago Terry Myerson from Microsoft's OS unit claimed the firm planned to tackle Windows piracy in China by offering free upgrades to Windows 10, even if you're running a pirated version of the OS. Little details were revealed on how this would work and what it would mean for the rest of the world but it seems the narrative has changed since then.
In a new post on the Windows Blog, Myerson explains that when the firm can't verify that you're running a genuine version of Windows, you will receive a watermarked version of Windows 10. To get a legal version of Windows 10 for free, you will need a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
When we can’t verify that Windows is properly installed, licensed, and not tampered with, we create a desktop watermark to notify the user. If you ever encounter this watermark on a new machine, I encourage you to return the device immediately to the retailer from whom you purchased it and request a Genuine Windows device. Non-Genuine Windows has a high risk of malware, fraud, public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions. Non-Genuine Windows is not supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner.
The software giant does promise it will cooperate with OEM partners to offer attractive upgrade bundles for users of pirated Windows copies:
Microsoft and our OEM partners know that many consumers are unwitting victims of piracy, and with Windows 10, we would like all of our customers to move forward with us together. While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we’ve always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state. 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. Please stay tuned to learn more from our partners on the specifics of their offers.