Windows 10 is finally here, and users in the Windows Insider program are already test driving the finished operating systems, while everyone else looks on with envy. But apparently, you don't have to. Anyone can download a program (opens in new tab) that will place the Windows 10 installation media on a DVD or flash drive of your choosing.
Microsoft has told us many times that Windows Insiders will get the new OS first, while other users will get it at a later date. The company seems to have made a mistake while pushing out the OS to Windows Insiders, as the webpage hosting the download for Windows Insiders is publicly available, and anyone can download the OS.
After downloading and running the program, you have two options. You can either upgrade your Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 system to Windows 10, maintaining your current programs and files, or you can create installation media. You will note that the tool used is identical to the one used throughout Windows 8's life.
We tried to figure out to what extent this tool was available to the public, and talked with a few moderators here at Tom's Hardware about who upgraded last night using this method. From what we were able to gather, there aren't any limitations as to who can access and use this tool.
In the long run, however, installing Windows 10 with this method could prove problematic. The installation will ask multiple times for a Windows 10 activation key, but you can click a button to skip putting this in until later. After installation you will be able to use Windows 10, even though it's not activated. Microsoft will likely lock down these unactivated systems later. If your copy is not activated, you will see this in the bottom right corner, and it stays on top of all Windows you might open.
However, a wrinkle here is that Windows Insiders are expected to keep a free copy of Windows 10, and unless Microsoft sends out keys via email to guaranteed Windows Insiders, those Insiders would also lose access to their Windows 10 OS when Microsoft locks out the other unauthorized users.
Whatever the case, if you want to try Windows 10 out, you and anyone else can download and try it for the time being.
Update, 7/29/15, 12:25pm PT: Microsoft replied to our query about this issue with the following statement:
"We want to make sure everyone has a great upgrade experience, so weare rolling-out Windows 10 in phases to help manage the demand. For those who are eligible for the free upgrade, the optimal path to Windows 10 is through the Get Windows 10 (opens in new tab) app. If customers feel comfortable, they can also use the Media Creation Tool to download ISO files for purposes such as installing Windows 10 on multiple devices or having the ability to clean install Windows 10 after they upgrade. Visit Windows.com (opens in new tab) for additional information."
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