This is kind of a big deal. Microsoft is letting customers (or rather users) with non-legit Windows installations to legally upgrade to the newly released Windows 8 operating system. What’s more special is the fact that they are letting the pirates upgrade to Windows 8 Pro at the offer price of $39.99!
Update: Another loophole detected. Windows 8 Promo Code Gaffe Lets Anyone to Upgrade for $14.99
Yes, it does make business sense to rope in as many genuine buyers as possible, but it’s still surprising that Microsoft is willing to sell them the latest OS version at a nominal price of $39.99, a huge discount of $130 over the final retail price.
Users in several underground forums are reporting that they were able to upgrade and activate Windows 8 Pro after legally purchasing it for $39.99 (or local equivalent cost) through the Windows 8 upgrade assistant. Ideally, we’d expect the upgrade assistant to catch the pirated copies, but it seems that the tool doesn’t bother to check the genuineness of the Windows copy or if it is validated nor activated. This is supposedly true for all three versions – Windows 7, Vista and XP.
I personally wanted to validate this, but didn’t have access to a pirated copy of Windows 7. Instead, I created a bootcamp partition on my Macbook Air and installed Windows 7 Ultimate on it. I gave a publicly available license key during installation, downloaded the Windows 8 upgrade assistant and followed the procedure to purchase a genuine license key for Windows 8 Pro for INR 1,999. Everything went smoothly and I could download, install and activate Windows 8 without issues. It never asked for the old Windows 7 product key, but just the new Windows 8 license key which was sent via email immediately after the purchase. The best part about Upgrade assistant is, it provides options to either create a bootable USB or save as a ISO file for a clean install.
At the launch event in New York yesterday, Microsoft revealed that there are more than 670 million Windows 7 users with ‘genuine licenses’. But then, there are millions of users who have pirated the most popular desktop operating system in the world. The piracy is so rampant in some countries like India and China, that IDC believes that more than 80% of Windows 7 copies sold in China are pirated versions. This makes a perfect business sense for Microsoft to turn non-legit users to legit ones, at least during the promotional offer period (which expires on Jan 31st 2013).
Note: This information is not official. We are reaching out to Microsoft for confirmation. We ourselves have tried the process successfully on a clean install, but we’re relying on reports of users on several forums that the upgrade works just fine on non-legit installations as well.