Windows 10 launched in July 29th to the world, since then over 53 million computers have been upgraded to the new operating system. However, this doesn’t mean the Insider program has concluded, the program is alive and well. On August 18th, Microsoft rolled out Windows 10 build 10525 to the Fast ring of updates with a number of improvements and changes, including the ability to automatically set the accent color of the title bar on File Explorer and traditional desktop apps.
But things are changing with this new release. Microsoft is changing the activation rules for Insiders. In the past, Windows Insiders were able to download the ISO files to install Windows 10, and remain activated with a pre-release product key supplied by Microsoft.
On Windows 10 build 10525 and later builds is no longer the case. Now to download the Windows 10 ISO files you’re redirected to the official Windows 10 download website to grab the installation files and create an ISO file that you can burn into disc or to create a bootable USB drive, but after installing the operating system, it won’t be activated anymore.
Now, if you’re upgrading your genuine version of Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 with Update that’s another story. In this case, Windows 10 will activate properly, and you will never have to enter the product key in future installs.
During the Microsoft announcement for the new Insiders’ build, Gabriel Aul, head of the Windows Insider program, said:
“Windows 10 Insider Preview is intended to be installed on genuine Windows 10 devices – before upgrading to Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds or reinstalling Windows 10 please ensure your device is activated. […]. With the launch of Windows 10 we introduced device based activation. If you’ve previously activated a genuine copy of Windows 10 on your device, you’ll be able to activate Windows 10 Insider Preview builds of the same edition without the need to enter a product key.”
So, how do you get new Insider builds and remain activated? Now, after July 29th, you need to buy and install a fresh copy of Windows 10 or upgrade for free your genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8 via Windows Update.
Then you need to go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced options and under “Get Insider builds” click the Get started button and follow the on-screen instructions. Once, you opted-in to the Windows Insider program, make sure to switch to the Fast lane to get builds faster.
If you have done this previously, you’ll be upgraded to the latest and future builds of Windows 10.
Update, October 14th, 2015: Microsoft makes activation easier starting Windows 10 build 10565, as users will be able to use their Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 product key to do a clean install of Windows 10 without having to do the upgrade first — full details on the changes here.