Microsoft plans to let Windows 10 Insiders hop onto the official release train when the software ships to manufacturers this summer.
In response to a question on Twitter, Microsoft’s Gabriel Aul wrote that that Insiders will be able to upgrade to the RTM (Release to manufacturing) version at no charge. This is the version that PC makers load onto their machines before shipping them out to consumers.
The fact that Windows 10 Insiders will get a free upgrade to what is essentially a final version is not surprising. Microsoft already plans to offer free upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8 to the consumer version of Windows 10 within the first year of the operating system’s launch.
@tao_huan Yes— Gabriel Aul (@GabeAul) May 10, 2015
Still, Microsoft hasn’t said much about how updates to the final version will work for Windows Insiders. It's unknown if that RTM upgrade includes a true Windows 10 license or if preview testers will simply get to try out the Windows 10 RTM build when it's released to manufacturing partners, then have to switch to legitimate license when the preview period ends. And as Paul Thurrott pointed out last December, Microsoft has never officially allowed users to upgrade from preview builds to shipping versions. (He also suggested that most users will want to do a clean install anyway.)
But Windows 10 is clearly different from previous versions. Microsoft has said repeatedly that it’s transitioning to “Windows as a service,” with constant updates instead of grand releases every few years. The company is even planning more preview builds for Insiders after Windows 10 ships.
Why this matters: The preview builds for Windows 10 are starting to get a lot more polished, as promised features and much-needed fixes fall into place. If you’ve wanted to try out the software but were worried about how upgrades to the final version would work, it might help to know that you can jump to the RTM version for free in a couple months or so.