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A mysterious Windows 10 .EXE hints subscriptions are coming, but don’t worry yet

windows 10 subscription enterprise home screen 16 9
When Build 14376 rolled out just days ago, a mysterious file called “UpgradeSubscription.exe” seemingly pointed to the possibility that Microsoft could introduce a paid subscription scheme for Windows 10. After all, there’s no sure bet that Microsoft will continue to hand out free updates over the next ten years, right?

When right-clicking on the file, the Properties window labels the description as “Windows Upgrade to Subscription tool.” There’s nothing else in the Details panel that offers any additional clues as to the file’s main purpose other than the file version, the date it was modified, and its copyright information. The security panel shows that it’s only allowed “Read & Execute” and “Read” permissions for all restricted and unrestricted application packages, and so on. Full permissions are only given to the Trusted Installer.

That said, when the file is executed, absolutely nothing happens. The file in question was actually made public by Ed Bott of ZDNet, who figured out that it’s related to enterprise licensing. Clues left behind in the latest Insider Preview build include a registry value called AllowWindowsSubscription, and references to servicing packages labeled as Microsoft-Client-License-Platform-Upgrade-Subscription-Package.

Wanting to know the story behind this new executable, Bott reached out to Microsoft and received a small statement with no further elaboration.

“The Windows Upgrade to Subscription tool, found in the latest Windows Insider builds, helps to manage certain volume licensing upgrades from Windows 10 Pro Anniversary Update to Windows 10 Enterprise,” the company said. “This binary file is not associated with the free consumer upgrade offering nor is it applicable to consumer Windows editions.”

That seemingly nails the lid closed in regards to Microsoft possibly introducing a subscription service to consumers using Windows 10. What the statement seems to point out is that small businesses running Windows 10 Pro after the Anniversary Update is installed may be able to grab features from the Enterprise version through a subscription.

But why wouldn’t a company just upgrade using a conventional Windows 10 Enterprise license? As Bott points out, there are small companies that just don’t have the size to justify paying for a Windows Enterprise Agreement. The program is meant for organizations with 250 or more devices, that want a single agreement for buying cloud services and software licenses. Thus, perhaps Microsoft plans to offer a simpler, cheaper solution for small businesses in the coming months.

Regardless, for now there’s no indication the new executable is meant to impact the consumer version. That said, we’ll likely hear more news about the executable over the next month – unofficially or officially – before Anniversary Update lands on Windows 10 in the consumer and professional markets in early August.

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