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Microsoft dropped support for Windows XP. Is it legal to install Windows XP without any license?

Update:

As Wikipedia states "Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time."

So is there any chance I can use Windows 2000 or any older OS without any license?

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745 days left... goodbyemicrosoft.net/news.php?item.662.3 –  Aki Mar 23 '12 at 9:46
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If you're going to start looking at old Windows OSes purely for the sake of it being free... don't. Even if they were freely available (and they're not), their support ended quite some time ago. Many programs do not support them, Microsoft has not released security patches in some time, etc. If you absolutely must have a free OS and find Linux daunting, there are quite a few Linux distros designed specifically to look and act like Windows. Otherwise, it's time to throw in the towel and buy a (newer) version of Windows. –  Bob Mar 23 '12 at 9:56
    
@Bob I'm using linux for the past 3 years. Actually Many games are not supported on Linux. –  DragonSlay3r Mar 23 '12 at 12:33
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@DragonSlay3r There is that. At the same time, though, many games will not support anything older than XP (including 2000), partially because DirectX support stops at v8.0a for Win2000. –  Bob Mar 23 '12 at 12:39
    
Alright, Understood. Thanks. –  DragonSlay3r Mar 23 '12 at 12:54
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

No.

End of support has nothing to do with the price or availability of licences.

Besides that, Windows XP support doesn't run out for another 2 years:

On April 8, 2014, all support for Windows XP, including security updates and hotfixes, will be terminated. Users will still be able to download old updates and hotfixes from Windows Update. Microsoft recommends that users upgrade to Windows 7.

Regarding the update in your question. Copyrights are protected only for a certain time period. However that period is not related to the support duration. The publisher defines the support duration themselves. The copyright term length is defined by the government.
For the United Stated of America, the duration that seems to apply is 95 years after release.

So, in the year 2087, you'll finally be able to use Windows 3.1 free of any charge!

But in all seriousness, no, there is no Windows version you'll be able to use for free in the way you might imagine.

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Microsoft even would agree with your statement about their Core version, they admit they underestimated the features users require to make Core a money saving worthwhile investment compared to some of the versions required for "larger" servers. Windows Server 8 Core should resolve those issues. –  Ramhound Mar 23 '12 at 11:32
    
Wow: "There's no desktop!" It's like they're proud of it, having a server OS that doesn't have a desktop. –  Daniel Beck Mar 23 '12 at 18:22
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@DanielBeck: when using other operating systems (such as Linux) it is common to leave out the desktop components on servers. It improves performance and reliability, reduces the attack surface, and means you need to install fewer security updates. –  Harry Johnston Mar 24 '12 at 4:48
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@Oliver: no, you can only install one instance of Windows Server per license, regardless of whether you choose Server Core or a full installation. (Exception: certain editions of Windows Server allow you to install multiple virtual instances on a single physical server.) –  Harry Johnston Mar 24 '12 at 4:51
    
@HarryJohnston That was supposed to be my point. Still, I don't consider it an amazing accomplishment, and let's face it, Windows isn't the OS you want if you just have a command line. –  Daniel Beck Mar 24 '12 at 4:55
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The lifecycle of Windows XP has nothing to do with its legal status. The product will be protected by copyright long after Microsoft has dropped support. However, this protection does not mean the software cannot be used without a license.

First of all, 'Can I use Windows without a license?' and 'Can I install Windows without a license' are two different questions. Let's start with the first.

Generally, yes, you may use software without a license. Microsoft may disagree, but has no absolute say in this. Copyright, by its nature, covers the copying and distribution of a work, not its use. Its use is not one of the exclusive rights the author has been granted and you do not need the author's permission (i.e. license) for this.

Likewise, you do not need a musician's consent to listen when his song plays in a restaurant and you don't need your own copy of a film when a friend invites you over to watch it.

Installing the operating system is a different matter. You are making a copy and you'll need the author's permission for that, but exceptions may apply if such a copy is required for the intended use. For instance, playing a CD will load chunks of music into an audio buffer, but does not constitute copyright infringement. Making such a copy without having a legitimate one to begin with, often does.

Note that while copyright is covered extensively through a number international treaties, no two countries are the same. The above explanation may differ from local copyright law. Besides, not everything you can or cannot do is directly governed by copyright law, however. You may be bound by terms of the license agreement, granting you rights you would not normally have, conditionally.

In short, end of support does not mean Windows XP is suddenly legally available for free, but the legal status of its use is all but trivial.

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Actually copying from the hard disk in to RAM is also considered a "copy" by severial court cases and would violate copyright law do to the fact that you do not own the software, you are a licensee, hence the L in EULA, and you are not "licensed" to "copy" windows from the hard disk to ram –  Scott Chamberlain Mar 23 '12 at 17:27
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The 'closest' thing to 'free' windows might be reactos. Its very much in development and probably not suitable for anything beyond testing, but if and when it reaches a usable state, you should be able to use it without a licence.

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