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Microsoft backtracks on free Windows 10 update for pirates

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People running pirated copies of Windows are going to have to pay — or keep pirating — if they want to update their computers to Windows 10. That may sound painfully obvious, but there's actually been quite a bit of confusion up until now.

Read next: Our Windows 10 review.

The confusion has revolved around Microsoft's offer to give free Windows 10 updates to people running Windows 7 and 8.1. In a statement last March, Windows chief Terry Myerson was reported to have said that the offer would extend to pirated copies, too. Microsoft quickly began issuing vague clarifications, while still implying that there would be a way to upgrade at no cost, even if pirates would be required to pay eventually. Now, we're finally getting a full clarification: there's no free upgrade at all. Pirates just have to pay.

Microsoft is hoping to convert pirated copies to properly licensed ones

Microsoft says that it's planning to run some "very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers" that will allow people with pirated copies to move to an official version. Specific details of that haven't been announced yet, but that likely won't come until we actually hear about when Windows 10 will arrive. For now, it's still targeted for this summer.

There are a handful of good reasons that Microsoft remains willing to work with pirates. The major one is that they're potential customers, but the other reason is that some customers really may not know — they could have been sold a computer running a pirated copy of Windows without realizing it. On Windows 10, Microsoft says that it will display a watermark on the desktop informing people when they're running a pirated copy, but there don't appear to be major obstacles to using it. In the past, Microsoft has even issued security updates to pirated instances of Windows.