Still Waiting…

The teacher PC in our school computer lab, like every other PC in the room, is a free-range machine.  The whole lab runs on the newest Windows we can get (beta if it’s out) and are open to allow students to install and test various software in order to stay current with technology.  We extensively use Microsoft’s Developer tools to test software and hardware.

On the teacher PC I purchased Windows 7.  Then I purchased a Windows 8.1 Pro upgrade key a year later in order to keep up with student machines using Windows 8.  The next year I was led into Windows 10 by Microsoft’s persistent upgrade messages.  The lab was migrating to Windows 10 beta at that point so it made sense that I’d be seeing the same software as my students.

All was good until yesterday.  My old motherboard only had 4 usb ports and couldn’t handle the number of peripherals I was needing plugged in.  I installed a new motherboard, everything else stayed the same.  The old motherboard got pressed into lab work and no longer had Windows on it.

Suddenly Windows 10 was plastered with activate warnings, so I contacted Microsoft.  Here is the transcript.

I’m still waiting, they aren’t going to contact me.

After purchasing Windows 7, and purchasing 8.1 Pro, I’m told that they don’t hand out free Windows 10 keys?  I’m not asking for a free key, I’m asking Microsoft to honour the multiple keys I’ve already purchased.  I’m not purchasing another one, especially not at nearly $300 Canadian!  It feels like extortion.

I’ve updated hardware before.  It was a quick matter of the Microsoft admin updating the new hardware to match the old key.  Apparently this is no longer possible.  Windows 10 (a much needed improvement after getting me to buy the awkward Windows 8), will not let you migrate with hardware updates, something PC users do quite a lot.  The PC that had Windows on it has been wiped and is no longer using it, so this isn’t a matter of getting ‘free’ Windows – it’s the same install on the same hard drive.  Migration shouldn’t be difficult, but then why do it if you can force people into buying something they’ve already purchased (twice) over again?

If I’d purchased a Microsoft car and then had a new transmission installed, they’d tell me they no longer acknowledge the car and that I have to buy a new one.  Were I running the old motherboard on the old hard drive with Windows and demanding a new key for a new machine, I’d agree that they shouldn’t give free licenses, but this isn’t that.

I’m a fan of Microsoft.  I’ve been buying Windows since it was single digits and Microsoft OSes since they were DOS, but this whole thing has left a bad taste in my mouth.  I expected better, especially from a company so committed to supporting education.  

Unfortunately, this is turning into a teachable moment for the dozens of students I’m teaching I.T. to.  That Microsoft’s support thinks the best solution is to simply walk away from a long time customer is pretty baffling too.

Followup:  I’ve got Windows 10 reinstalled on that PC.  I had to wipe the disk, reinstall Windows 7 (and download several gigs of downloads from Microsoft) before I updated to Windows 8.1 (followed by several more gigs of downloads), followed by the WIndows 10 update.

The Microsoft roadmap is this:  we’ll give you Windows 10 ‘for free’, but we won’t let you reinstall it.  If you make any hardware changes or need to reinstall, we’ll make it such a pain that we can then force you to re-buy Windows even though you already have.

The problem is that this process requires Microsoft to maintain drivers and support for two stale OSes (Win7, Win8+8.1), and pay for the bandwidth to allow owners of their software to reinstall and update what they own (even though they’ll never use it because they’re heading for 10).  It’s like Microsoft is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

Anyone who has updated to Windows 10 should have a Windows 10 key that allows them to reinstall it.  Their previous Windows keys should then go stale.  Keeping everyone on the most current OS means better security for everyone and less overhead for Microsoft (who can then focus on making Windows 10 as bullet proof as possible).

I’m not sure which MBA wizard convinced them that their current approach is the best one.  I can tell you that the engineers who have to make it happen wouldn’t be thrilled with it.