The Windows 10 free upgrade program has so far concentrated on those Windows 7 and 8 users who reserved their copy in the weeks leading up to the operating system's release. Over the coming months, Microsoft will start to spread the operating system to a wider audience. The Windows 10 upgrade will soon be posted as an "Optional Update" in Windows Update, advertising it to anyone who examines that list of updates.
Then, early next year, it will be categorized as a "Recommended Update." This is significant, because it means that systems that are configured to download and install recommended updates—which for most people is the safest option—will automatically fetch the upgrade and start its installer. The installer will still require human intervention to actually complete — you won't wake up to find your PC with a different operating system—but Windows users will no longer need to actively seek the upgrade.
This mirrors an accidental change that Microsoft did earlier this month. The Windows 10 upgrade was showing up for some people as a recommended update and the installer started automatically.
That surprise change wasn't very popular, so why is Microsoft going to do the same thing again? Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices group, told us that Microsoft has fielded a huge number of support requests from people running Windows 7 and Windows 8 who want the upgrade but for one reason or another did not opt in to the reservation system. Pushing the upgrade out through Windows Update for everyone will make it a lot more accessible. The upgrade notifications will also be made clearer and more compelling. Myerson's belief is that by communicating this plan before the change is made, the unhappiness that the accidental change provoked can be avoided. Anyone who doesn't want the upgrade will have plenty of time to disable automatic updates between now and the new year.
Microsoft is also going to release an improved version of its Media Creation Tool that's used for creating bootable DVDs and USB keys to install Windows 10. The tool will soon support the creation of universal install media, capable of installing both the 32- and 64-bit versions of the operating system, in both its Home and Pro versions. This will allow people with multiple systems to use a single USB stick to upgrade all of them, regardless of their configuration.
Finally, Redmond will soon start what it calls an "experiment" to bring users of pirated Windows (or "non-Genuine" Windows, in Microsoft's terminology) into the fold. Myerson writes that Microsoft has seen many efforts by non-Genuine users to try to upgrade to Windows 10, and claims that in many cases the users have resorted to buying Windows 10 online. To embrace these users, Microsoft will add easy access to the Windows Store to provide a streamlined route to buy Windows 10. If this experiment is successful, it will be expanded to other markets.