If you’re a student, or able to prove that you’re a student, it’s time to rejoice, as Microsoft is giving away for free various software program primarily from category of software developer and design tools. The offer, called Microsoft Imagine (previously known as DreamSpark and MSDN-AA when launched in 2008), is a long term promotion, currently provides free licenses, product keys and downloads of to the following list of full version of commercial Microsoft products with no charge, fee or payment required.

  • Visual Studio Community 2017
  • Visual Studio Community 2015
  • Visual Studio for Mac
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2014
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2016
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition 64-bit
  • Windows Server 2012 Datacenter and Standard Editions 64-bit
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and Standard Editions 64-bit
  • Windows Server 2016
  • Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry Pro
  • Microsoft R Server, formally Revolution R Enterprise (RRE)
  • PHP Tools for Visual Studio
  • Free Pluralsight developer training courses
  • Free WintellectNow developer training courses
  • Free developer account for publishing in Windows Store
  • Microsoft Azure for Students
  • Free access to XNA Creators Club Online

Microsoft Imagine also has a Microsoft Imagine Premium subscription plan, which requires subscription from each eligible department of the academic institutions, but includes additional software for qualified higher-education science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) departments, such as Windows client software (e.g. Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7), selected Office products (e.g. Visio, Project, and OneNote), BizTalk Server, SharePoint Server, and etc.

The software available for free download is constantly updated to reflect latest version available, while some older versions are removed. The past products that were available on Imagine or DreamSpark include:

  • Expression Studio 1 (included Web, Blend, Design, Encoder and Media)
  • Expression Studio 2 (includes Web, Blend, Design, Encoder and Media)
  • Expression Studio 3 (includes Web, Blend, Design and Encoder)
  • Expression Studio 4 Ultimate
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition (x86 only)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Developer Edition (x86 and x64)
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • SQL Server Express 2008
  • SQL Server Express 2012
  • Visual Studio 2005 Express
  • Visual Studio 2008 Express
  • Visual Studio 2010 Express
  • Visual Studio 2012 Express
  • Visual Studio 2013 Express
  • Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition (additional Microsoft Visual J++/Microsoft Visual J# and Visual SourceSafe)
  • Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition (JScript 8.0, Visual Basic 2008, Visual C# 2008 and Visual C++ 2008)
  • Visual Studio 2010 Professional Edition
  • Visual Studio 2012 Professional Edition
  • Visual Studio 2013 Professional Edition
  • XNA Game Studio 2.0
  • XNA Game Studio 3.1
  • XNA Game Studio 4.0
  • Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition (x86 only)
  • Windows NT 4.0 Workstation
  • Windows 2000 Professional
  • Windows XP Professional
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition 32-bit
  • Windows Embedded CE 6.0
  • Windows Embedded Standard 7
  • Windows Embedded 8 Industry Pro
  • Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011
  • Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio 2008 R3 and Microsoft CCR and DSS Toolkit 2008
  • Virtual PC 2007
  • Windows Phone Developer Tools
  • Windows MultiPoint Mouse SDK
  • Microsoft Small Basic
  • Kodu Game Lab
  • Microsoft Mathematics

The Imagine giveaway software can only be downloaded by student, and each registrants must verified via Online Student Status Verification process that he or she is and still is a student of a accredited school, college, university or higher tertiary institutions during initial access and once a year subsequently. Initially, DreamSpark is only available to students from 11 countries and regions, i.e. the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Germany, France, Finland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium, but now students from more than 80 countries can download setup files for free from Imagine, and more countries will be added in future, with Microsoft plans to extend the availability to all countries all over the world.

Online Student Status Verification process of Microsoft Imagine is linked to schools and organizations around the world that can confirm student status, but not all is linked. Those who not locating in one of the countries listed, not attending an accredited university or the studied organizations is not already connected with DreamSpark will have to wait until the verification source is listed, or get an alternate student identity providers (IDPs), such as the International Student Identity Card (ISIC), or by uploading a proof such as an ID card.

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Bill Gates also has an interview with Channel 8 (dead link), where he talks about free software, students, and technology.

Microsoft has always offered significantly discounted and cheaper student price for most of its products, and the move to completely free giveaway its development and design tools is probably due to motive to maintain and gain its market share and acceptance among younger and future generation, which will hopefully always consider Microsoft products on future purchase due to familiarity.

Go to Microsoft Imagine to enroll and download free Microsoft products. As usual with all Microsoft offers, Windows Live ID required in addition student status verification.