After Microsoft's surprising revelation that users of pirated versions of Windows would be eligible for a free upgrade to Win10, there has been understandable confusion as to whether this opportunity constitutes a grandfathering for those who didn't pay for their OS. Amidst this clamor, Microsoft issued a statement to ZDNet yesterday clarifying what the Windows 10 update means for illegitimate copies of Windows:
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.
So, there we have it. Upgrading a pirated OS to Windows 10 won't result in a legitimate license.
What's it like running pirated versions of Windows? According to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage page, illegitimate installs can still download critical security updates, but a warning message about the OS's unlicensed status will appear periodically, and the desktop will turn black every hour to emphasize the point. Furthermore, some free Microsoft applications, like Security Essentials, require validation of Windows' genuine status. The solution, of course, is to pony up for a legitimate license.