Pirated Windows 10 installations will rock a desktop watermark

You dirty Windows pirates will have to live with a constant reminder of your crimes come Windows 10. Pirated versions of the new operating system will be stuck with a desktop watermark reminding users of their non-genuine status, Microsoft EVP of operating systems Terry Myerson said in a blog post today. The announcement comes after Myerson confused the tech world a few months ago by declaring that pirated versions of Windows could partake in Microsoft's free upgrade offer for Windows 10. It turns out that's not exactly true: The company later said that non-genuine installations would have to go through the Windows Store to upgrade to Windows 10, which was a strong hint that it would make pirates pay. Myerson notes today that Microsoft and its partners will offer "very attractive" genuine upgrade options for pirates.

"Non-Genuine Windows has a high risk of malware, fraud, public exposure of your personal information, and a higher risk for poor performance or feature malfunctions," Myerson wrote. "Non-Genuine Windows is not supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner."

With Windows 7, pirated installations occasionally display messages reminding users of their misdeeds. Additionally, those users only have access to critical Windows updates, not optional ones. We'd expect Microsoft to use similar tactics for Windows 10.

Myerson's earlier comments made it seem like Microsoft was going to offer free Windows 10 upgrades to pirates mainly to fix the massive piracy issues it's facing in China. While that seemed a tad overly ambitious, even for Microsoft, the current plan still leaves room for an easier upgrade path. It could offer free or very low-cost upgrades for non-genuine installations going through the Windows Store in China and other Asian countries, for example, while making users elsewhere in the world pay more.