I want to point out that the implication of your question is that humans have free will and consciousness. Modern thinking in astrophysics & cosmology is calling that into question.
Put simply; if the universe is algorithmic in nature (as posited by Hawking in particular) then if you know the algorithm, and the state of the universe at any point, you can not only infer all previous states, but all future states. This is a very important point because what this implies is that
1) If you know enough about how the universe works, you can accurately predict the future from the present state of the universe.
2) There's nothing you can do to change it.
This in turn implies that free will and our sense of consciousness is an illusion. It also underpins the concept of Formalism and Strong AI theory that states (paraphrasing here) that the illusion of consciousness is a byproduct of a sufficiently complex algorithm. Put another way, the more complex we are, the more keenly we will feel our consciousness, even though we have absolutely no power to change the future as we what we choose to do is a result of our present configuration rather than our ability to consider our present situation.
Let's say for a moment however that Roger Penrose's (as discussed in the Emperor's New Mind) view is more correct and the universe permits free will through the application of Insight; mathematically, this would mean that the universe is largely algorithmic but can be impacted by our choices and actions along the way. If that is the case, the computers (by definition) cannot ever possess insight or free will, because they are algorithmic in nature.
What this shows is that the answer to your question HAS to be no, computers cannot exercise free will or be conscious in the same way humans are, because;
1) If the universe permits non-algorithmic activity, then humans may have free will but computers won't because they exist purely within the mathematical framework of algorithms, and algorithms allow you to predict outcomes in BOTH temporal directions.
2) If the universe is algorithmic in nature, then human free will and consciousness is an illusion anyway.
We really are safe from the moral and ethical questions of machine awareness, I'm afraid.