Much has been said about the Windows 10 free upgrade for consumers that will release on July 29, but very little has been uncovered about what the process might be for clean installs after the upgrade. Richard covered this topic just a couple weeks ago, but there were burning questions remaining even then.
Here's a little more clarification from Microsoft. More and more of the free upgrade pieces are falling into place.
Clean install activation
Once your device upgrades to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer it will activate online automatically. This information will be stored as a record so when you perform subsequent installations, the activation code will be automatically applied, as long as it’s the same computer and the exact same Windows 10 edition. As long as you take advantage of the free upgrade offer time period (1 year from July 29), you will be able to clean install the same edition of Windows 10 that you upgraded to on the same device during and after the free upgrade offer. A new license will not be required for purchase since activation is automatic.
Clean install options
Installation media will be made available for you to download (ISO) so that you can create installation media on a USB drive or DVD. Product key information will not be required and Windows 10 will activate online automatically. The online activation will happen automatically after a clean install of Windows 10 if the device has already been upgraded and activated online the same Edition of Windows 10.
Clean installs for hardware changes
If something major happens to the device that requires something as monumental such as a motherboard change (basically turning it into a new computer), Windows 10 will require re-activation – which will require you to purchase a license. This is what Microsoft means when it says "life of the device." Additionally, you can't transfer a license to a new device. But, if something disastrous does happen, it's usually more cost-effective to just buy a replacement device anyway and that should come pre-loaded with Windows 10. However, if you happen to buy a new device with an older OS installed, you can get the free Windows 10 upgrade as long as it falls in the free upgrade offer period.
Upgrade options per OS
Not every OS version will get options for clean installation media. Here's the breakdown…