Up to 85% off: The Windows 7 Academic Offer
Expires: [Update: This offer expired on January 3, 2010]
Who's eligible: College/university students (international)
If you are a an eligible university student who attends an educational institution in the United States, you can purchase an upgrade edition of Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional for $29.99. (That's a huge savings from the regular price of $119.99 or $199.99, respectively.) You must be "actively enrolled in at least 0.5 course credit." Full terms for the U.S. offer are here. Any college or university that gives you a .edu address qualifies, as do the eligible institutions on this list. If you don't have a qualifying e-mail address, you can still apply by following these instructions. To apply in the United States, start here.
According to Microsoft, similar offers are also available in Japan, Canada, Germany, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Sweden.
Limitations? The deal is one copy per student. Digital download is fulfilled through Digital River, or you can pay $13 extra for a physical disk. The offer is non-transferable, but the terms are curiously vague about whether you can sell or give away the software itself. This is not an academic or otherwise restricted license; it is the same upgrade package available via retail outlets.
Free: MSDN Academic Alliance
Expires: No expiration date
Who's eligible: College/university students in technical departments (international)
If you are enrolled in a science, technology, engineering, or math department at an educational institution that belongs to the MSDN Academic Alliance, you can get free software for use in your studies. (There are also similar offers for students in visual, illustration, design, and art departments.) The program also extends to members of IEEE and ACM. The list of available titles originally included Windows 7 Professional, but when word spread of this benefit, both organizations suddenly had a flood of new membership requests, virtually all of them from non-students looking for a freebie. That inspired this announcement from Microsoft's Academic Care blog.
The release of Windows 7 through these subscriptions triggered an unanticipated situation that put the program at risk: We saw signs that non-students were joining ACM and IEEE as student members solely to obtain Windows 7 through MSDN AA. This infringed on the intent of the program and the conditions of the MSDN AA license. As a result, we decided to remove Windows 7 from the association MSDN AA memberships while we evaluate approaches to ensure that the offering is reaching only the target audience: students and educators. While we expect to have a final position on the matter resolved in the near future, we cannot guarantee that Windows 7 will be available through this associations due to the complexity of student enrollment verification.
So, here's the bottom line: If you want to join IEEE or ACM, you won't get a free copy of Windows 7. But if you're a student in a technical or design course of studies, you might qualify and you should aggressively pursue your right to this benefit. You can find out whether your school is eligible by searching here. If you're an English or Political Science major or a non-student, you should look elsewhere.