How do I get FREE Software from Microsoft?

It is common to hear students & small start-up businesses state “I use Open Source because it is free” or they download pirate Microsoft from really dodgy, spyware prone sites to get it free.

The irony is that many of these people qualify to get the software for FREE or at least heavily discounted prices but they don’t know to ask.

The following post highlights a few of the ways this is possible.

Important: Offer expires 30 June 2009;
Be a qualified “Microsoft Certified Professional” If you are a student, Microsoft will pay the cost of your MS Certification exams. See “Boost your resume” below.



Online Education for Developers

Channel 9

Online Education for Infrastructure Folks (IT Professionals)

 TechNet Edge


For Students & Teachers - DreamSpark

DreamSpark is a program set up by Microsoft to provide students with software design and development tools at no charge. Click here for full details.

Note to Teachers: This is professional grade s/w, your students will use when they leave school. No need to suffer trying to teach with really old or shareware s/w. Nor do you need to try to teach with desktop s/w that works ok on the Mac but your kids don’t have it at home. The wizards make it easy to learn. It is brilliant for teaching IT & relevant to nearly all high school IT curriculum. (I know because my kids attend High School & study IT)


What sort of s/w can I get for free?

  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition (Windows & Web, VB, C#)
  • Microsoft Expression Studio 2  (includes great graphic design tool, also powerful web design tool)
  • SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition (this is everything that ships in the Enterprise Edition)
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard
  • Robotics Developer Studio 2008
  • Xna Game Studio 3.0
  • + more

Is there a catch?
YES. Your Education institution has to validate that you are a student. In Australia, I’m told all Universities are connected & you can validate quickly via the Web site.

For School students. The process is made more complex in order to ensure the privacy of the children. The school needs to ask Microsoft for a set of keys. The school distributes the keys to its students. The student can then use the key to anonymously download any of the s/w they are interested in.
If you are a High/Primary School Student please ask your teacher for a code. If they don’t know, point them at the link below.

If you are a Primary / High School Teacher & want to register your school, Click here


Boost your resume, get a recognised Microsoft Certification FOR FREE.

Click here => Microsoft will pay for your Technical Specialist exams for any student that registers & take the exam(s) before 30th June 2009.

Australian State Education Departments

What about the other products that aren’t S/W design & Development?

Most of the Australian Dept’s of Education have signed agreements with Microsoft to provide Server & Desktop tools to all the schools.
My perception is that this is broken. The Dept appears to make the s/w available to the schools who request it. The NSW Teachers that I’ve talked to don’t know to ask for the s/w. So they don’t get it & have to make do, when they could have great solutions. As a parent, this frustrates me. I don’t know how well this process is working in the other states.


Online Education for Students



For Start-up Businesses – BizSpark Program

This has to be the sweetest deal I’ve seen … ever. Get Hundreds of Thousands of dollars worth of s/w. Get Access to people who can help sell your product, mentor you &/or assist with business advice. All just for signing up..

If you :-

  • are starting or started your business in the past 3 years,
  • actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service
  • generate less than us$1Million

You might qualify to be included in the BizSpark program. BizSpark Overview Microsoft provides nearly all of our products & a lot of support (technical & business) to help new companies get over the challenges of those early years getting a product to market. How does it work?

To see if you qualify click Do I qualify?

For a list of s/w. click What s/w do I get? 
Note that in addition to the huge list of high end server products, including Team Suite versions of the dev tools, you also get an MSDN Premium subscription. This supplies you with just about every product Microsoft makes, excluding games & H/W.

To get started, click Web based Signup Agreement

For new IT Related businesses – Empower for ISV’s

Click here => Microsoft Empower for ISVs is an initiative for independent software vendors creating new software solutions using Microsoft® technology. Membership gives you access to essential development tools, resources, and support that will help you accelerate your product development and get your application to market faster.  This program costs ~ us$375 per year.

Do I qualify?

Requirements for Microsoft Empower for ISVs
To take advantage of the valuable Empower initiative, your software development company must commit to developing one packaged and resalable custom application that supports at least one of the following Microsoft technologies:

  • Windows Vista® operating system
  • 2007 Microsoft Office system
  • Windows Server® 2008 or Windows Server 2003
  • Microsoft SQL Server® 2008 or SQL Server 2005
  • Microsoft Dynamics™ business management solutions
  • Windows Mobile software

Does Your Software Development Company Qualify?
The great benefits of Microsoft Empower for ISVs are available to any micro, small, or medium independent software development company in an intense building phase.

What Do I get?

MSDN Premium Subscription with 5 Dev & Testing Licenses

The full range of Microsoft integrated server software; all Microsoft operating systems; Microsoft productivity applications including: Microsoft Office Professional 2007, Microsoft Office Project Professional 2007, Microsoft Office Visio® 2007 drawing and diagramming software, and Microsoft MapPoint® 2009 business mapping software.

Up to 5 internal-use software licenses for:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio® 2008 Professional Edition
  • Windows Vista® Business Operating System
  • 2007 Microsoft Office System or Microsoft Office Professional 2007

One software license and up to 5 CALs for:

  • Windows Server 2008 Standard or Enterprise
  • Exchange Server 2007 Standard or Enterprise Edition
  • SQL Server 2008 Standard or Enterprise Edition
  • Office SharePoint Server 2007 Standard or Enterprise CAL

Technical Advisory Services
10 hrs of phone-based professional consulting. Select from a broad range of services, including:

    • Software development advice
    • Best-practice recommendations
    • Code samples
    • Limited technology-, architecture-, or application-
      design review

Innovate On
Training, code samples, logo certification, and go-to-market opportunities to help you complete your development process and market your solution effectively.

For Existing IT Businesses – Certified Partner Program

Who is it for?

The Microsoft Partner Program is designed for all partners who develop and market solutions based on Microsoft platforms, provide consulting or technical services on Microsoft systems, or recommend Microsoft technology purchases. Click here for details.

I will not repeat the web site here, but in summary.

There are 3 levels; Registered, Certified & Gold Certified.

Cost to join: Registered costs nothing, Certified & Gold Certified cost $3465 per site if you qualify.

This gives you access to heavily subsidised s/w. In the case of Gold Certified, Hundreds of Thousands of dollars in s/w you can use for internal staff, development, demos for your sales / consulting people etc.


This is not a complete list. But it is now 2am, I know I’ve missed something big but can’t recall what it is.

I hope this helps you to better tap into the vast array of free stuff. Thanks for reading this far.


Comments (3)

  1. If you are a Student, Teacher or anyone on a budget, don’t feel pushed to use Open Source databases like

  2. A reader says:

    BizSpark isn’t free though – you have to pay a 100$ "exit fee" when you quit (whether after a week, a month or the maximum of 3 years). Good post anyway.

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