Microsoft expands its lineup of free Windows and Office evaluation packages

Microsoft expands its lineup of free Windows and Office evaluation packages

Summary: Need a copy of Windows 7, Office 2010, or Windows Server 2008 R2 for internal testing? Microsoft is now offering free evaluation versions of those products in addition to its current editions. Just watch out for the time bomb.

TOPICS: Software, Microsoft

What’s a TechNet subscriber to do? If you’ve been using software from Microsoft’s low-cost subscription service for evaluation and testing purposes, your life’s about to get more complicated.

TechNet’s paid subscriptions end for good late next year. For considerably more money, you can sign up for an MSDN subscription that offers many of the options that were available in TechNet. But if your needs are straightforward, the free TechNet Evaluation Center might be a better alternative.

Microsoft is aggressively pushing this program, which offers Microsoft products as free downloads. Everything you’ll find here is a full-featured evaluation version, with no feature limitations. The software can be installed and run on physical hardware or in a VM. And this week Microsoft announced that it is now offering older versions of Windows and Office as free evaluations in addition to the current lineup, with the goal of allowing IT pros to install the software and use it for pilot projects and compatibility testing.

So what’s the catch? All of these downloads are time-bombed. When the clock runs out, they stop working or shift into reduced functionality mode. But the evaluation periods, which range from 30 days to six months, are long enough to do some very thorough testing.

This week’s additions are on a new page, titled “Previous versions.” The lineup includes professional products (no Home Premium or Home and Student SKUs) that are still in the mainstream support phase:

  • Windows 7 Enterprise Evaluation (90 days)
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Evaluation (180 days)
  • Office Professional Plus 2010 (60 days)
  • Project Professional 2010 (60 days)
  • Visio Premium 2010 (60 days)

Products that are in extended support are not on the list. That means no Windows XP or Windows Vista, no Server 2008, and no versions of Office before 2010.

Getting the download link and product key requires that you sign in to TechNet with a Microsoft account and agree to receive a few emails from Microsoft during the trial period "to enhance your evaluation experience."

The new additions join the lineup of current products available on the TechNet Evaluation Center:

You’ll also find trial versions of products in the System Center family, Office Servers (including Exchange Server 2013, Lync Server 2013, and SharePoint Server 2013), SQL Server, and a number of cloud-based services.

If you’re looking for more flexibility, you have a wide range of subscription options. Some are restricted to registered partners, others are aimed  at developers, and still others are restricted to students and startups. Depending on your qualifications, you can find some excellent deals. For details, see my post at TechProResearch (paid subscription required): TechNet subscriptions are going away: Here are the best low-cost alternatives.

Topics: Software, Microsoft

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  • Not good enough

    Scenario: need to test and develop a custom routing rule for Microsoft Exchange. To do this I need an AD domain, Exchange setup with 3 servers minimum. Other servers to mimick the customer environment OWA, ISA, etc. client computers...

    After said eval period MS will send me an email requiring I deinstalled the environment (you know thy will). Later another test needs to be done or a new rule created. I now have to rebuild the environment exactly the way it was to validate anything.

    Microsoft needs to have a viable solution for scenarios like this and more. Their current suggestion is far too simple minded. They have a lab, figure it out.
    • Do you have a volume license agreement with SA?

      If you have VL with SA, you should have eval rights. And if you're doing that kind of testing, you should be large enough to qualify for VL/SA.
      Ed Bott
      • Pfft - sounds just like a quote from MS

        It might not be but I'm giving you the benefit of plausible deniability. I do hope you give them my feedback. I think they are really missing the boat and should rethink their position because it is going to hurt them in the long run but there is probably not a metric that could be captured to show it definitively. {Sigh}
      • Small Consultancy with no SA

        To comply with their changes Consultants will have to rely solely on the customers environment and destroy all existing environments of their own. With complex advanced configurations this will be a significant loss.

        Perhaps we will have to automate the constructs in the cloud and then destroy them on a demand use basis. Hey on the bright side at least we will have cloud expertise... Of course MS will figure out some licensing restriction to thwart our efforts.
        • MSDN also include testing space/time on azure.

          So yeah MSDN seems to be what you want, it gives you more of what you need than you were used to with technet.
          • MSDN licensing restrictions already a factor

            Not going down the rabbit hole a second time on this one.
        • This is all about MS pushing as much as possible to Azure.

          Microsoft would be happiest if everyone is running out of Azure and all private datacenters were redeployed as conference rooms.
    • MSDN

      Yes expensive and I don't know what kind of development you are doing but I can't live without my MSDN account and access to all of the servers and OSs etc. And the free courses and training, the access to help instantly and all of the online discussion. Access to MVPs also helps and did you know they added achievements to programming? (Interrupting cow!!)
      Everyone on your team will need MSDN but if you can't spend a few hundred dollars a year on your programmers so they have the proper tools to work with then how do you expect them to be able to make software for your constantly evolving environment. MSDN includes updates for Visual Studio, so it's not just access to servers but also the upgrade for your development environment yearly now.
      Now if any of you know me you will realize that I am a vocal Open Source advocate but I also know that Windows is here and not going away. It has it's flaws as everything else does and the right tool for the job means the tool your users require not the tool you want to make. On Windows the tool is Visual Studio and without MSDN it's like a hammer with no handle.
  • Ed, you are missing the points...

    1. We need access to old software to help with migrations and complex scenarios. Ed, how about YOU try to set up a lab involving 6 different forests, Exchange services, Lync Services, ADMT processes, Load Balancers, SAN, FIM, and all the other set up.

    Go on Ed, I DARE you to set up a lab like that and then be really happy when your 90 days are up and you are not complete with your testing.

    Beyond all the numerous technical and logical reasons why the current offerings are insufficient, the worst things of all - is that Microsoft refused to talk, discuss, negotiate, or work with any of us on solutions. Offering additional time-bombed packages and limited testing environments is in NO WAY WHATSOEVER a solution to the problem of Technet being discontinued.

    The fact of the matter is Microsoft has given all of it's MCSE's, MCT's, MVP's, MCM's, and others the big fat middle finger with this announcement and degradation of services.
    • LOL

      Corporation USA and Microsofts NSA spyware - that performs office functions.....

      Well aside that it never improved much since Office 2003, means that this process represents that Microsoft has reached the small end of the candle.
      Wroger Wroger
  • But...

    What do I do to buy the older versions at a reasonable price?
  • Downward Spiral.....

    There will be various opinions as to how this will affect the various individuals who use this technology, but as I see it, this is just another "failure" from Microsoft,...who has been on a downward spiral since Windows 8 first hit the scene.
    • Jumped the Shark

      The term Jumped the Shark is the point at which an entity reached its peak and begins to decline. Usually accompanied by a classic blunder. That point occurred somewhere after the release of Windows XP and the arrival of Vista.

      Although from an organizational perspective I think this was bound to happen er continually happens over and over because they use fresh blood all the time so they never learn from their mistakes.

      This decision in particular is a classic example of people with a simple minded view of the service not understanding what they have and totally missing the value of it.
      • They got rid of it for a very good reason:

        Non-IT people bought Technet to get the software and used it for them and their family/friends PCs and/or sold the licenses.

        If the people constantly resubscribed, then that wasn't really a problem, but if you sign up once, get licenses for every version of windows (i.e. 10 licenses for each of these WinXP Home, XP Pro (plus EU versions), Vista Home, Pro, Enterprise, Ultimate (and their EU versions), 7 Home, Pro (or was there no Pro 7), Enterprise, and Ultimate (plus EU versions) and whatever they offered for 8. Rinse and repeat for Office licenses.

        Each license was good for 10 activations. Servers (typically came with a single license).

        I get your side, but I also understand their POV. I watched individuals jump all over Technet subs for the last 5 years simply to get Windows and Office for cheap (as little as $99 for Technet). You may be an IT pro complaining, but 99% of the complaints I read are from individuals that technically misused the service.

        That's really why it's gone. MS, I'm sure, will try to find a way to make it work for IT testing while keeping everyone else out. MSDN does that. It's way too much for most non-business use.
  • User Rearm with a reminder to yourself.

    I'm responding to the folks who have issues with this in lab environments.

    I don't usually post, but the rearm option is a great feature. I had a virtual lab for learning purposes which allowed me to have a Windows Server for almost a year. The clients are good for about 120 days with rearming, you may be able to get away with creating image copies of VM clients, but I don't know if brought back live if it will reset. If this doesn't work, reinstalling the client is quick and easy for Vista and newer and you will still have the servers to readd them to your environment.

    Please don't hit me if this doesn't suit your needs :-p
  • Why Not Just...

    ....install your test environment as Virtual Machines and then as soon as the install is done, archive your VHD files somewhere so they can be re-used? Perhaps I am assuming too much, but doesn't the evaluation time bomb start ticking when the software is activated?
  • RE: Evaluation version vs Trail version

    Still running Office 2003 on Vista at home, Interested in giving Office 2010 a spin to polish my own skill set and start to get ready for support running out. Trail versions of 2010 are unavailable only 2013 and 365. Will I be forced to give them a detailed evaluation. Can I custom install just Outlook, Excel, Word or will I be forced to install the whole suite?
  • The best thing about Microsoft is

    The ALTERNTIVES!!!!!!



    Wroger Wroger
    • "Don't touch my machine"

      If people like the XP look with the "old" Office, there's Zorin with LibreOffice.