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Linux is a viable option, but most prefer Windows because it runs all their favorite software, including the latest games. Windows 11 isn’t here yet, but fortunately, you can get Windows 10 for free or cheap — if you know where to look.
Getting hold of the Windows installer is as easy as visiting support. Once that’s done, you can boot from your installation media and load Windows 10 onto your PC. During installation, Microsoft asks for an activation key. You can skip it, but eventually, Windows will start alerting you that your install isn’t activated. Of course, you can buy a key from Microsoft online, but there are other websites selling Windows 10 keys for less.
And does your carefully crafted PC build face any risks? Below we outline the top ways you can get Windows 10 — from free, to cheap, to most expensive — and the downsides of each option.
Yes, this still works, as a Microsoft rep has confirmed. If you already have a Windows 7, 8 or 8. You activate it by using the key from one of those older OSes. But note that you can only use a key on a single PC at a time, so if you use that key for a new PC build , any other PC running that key is out of luck.
To do this with a Windows compatible PC after backing up your important data, of course download Windows When asked, select ” Upgrade this PC now. Note that if you’ve recently changed your PC’s hardware, such as the motherboard , Windows may not find the license for you device. That means you’ll have to reactive the OS. Here are Microsoft’s instructions for reactivating Windows 10 after changing PC hardware.
When using an older Windows key to activate Windows 10, you may run into complications if Microsoft isn’t sure whether you’re eligible to update or not. However, that seems to be happening less in recent months and years. I have colleagues who have used non-activated versions of Windows for years without Microsoft ever shutting it down. Microsoft brands PCs running an unactivated version of Windows 10 with a watermark in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
A Microsoft spokesperson told me that activating Windows 10 ensures you have a legitimate copy of Windows 10, and the watermark is an attempt to alert consumers that their version could be false.
However, if you downloaded your ISO directly from Microsoft, there’s no way your copy can be a fake. That means you can’t choose personal desktop wallpapers, slideshow backgrounds, Start, taskbar, Action Center or title bar colors, light or dark color schemes, font choices or lock screen options.
The lack of custom aesthetics can be a downer, especially if you like to liven things up by changing colors and images. However, we checked, and you can still change your wallpaper if you right-click an image from the web or a personal photo and set it as your wallpaper. And if you have a wallpaper tied to your Microsoft account, it will appear if you sign into Windows with that account. Microsoft offers students attending certain universities and high schools the ability to get Windows 10 for free by allowing them to activate Windows 10 Education for free.
You can see if your school is eligible and download your free Windows 10 key here. The key is yours even after you graduate. But is Windows 10 Education any different from Windows 10 Home? Windows 10 Education is the same as Windows 10 Enterprise, which Microsoft calls the most robust version of Windows The OS has features targeting security, device control and management and deployment that Windows 10 Home lacks. In addition to ethical concerns, if you get caught, Microsoft can make you pay up anyway.
And while some turn to Microsoft for this purchase, there are third-party websites selling keys for much cheaper than Microsoft. Now, let’s address the elephant in the room. While we can’t vouch for all of them, websites selling lower-priced Windows keys are likely selling legitimate codes. One popular site, Kinguin, has 37 merchants worldwide selling Windows keys. It’s just another marketplace.
However, we’ve encountered reports of customer dissatisfaction, including from users who wanted a specific type of key like non-OEM only , ended up with something different like an OEM version and could only get a refund, rather than the type of key they originally tried to buy.
We’ve also heard reports of slow customer service. Kinguin hasn’t responded to requests for comment. A hint will be if that key is too cheap — i. And, as with anything else, if you haven’t heard of a seller, check their ratings or go elsewhere.
No matter where you get your product key, you shouldn’t download Windows 10 from anyone besides Microsoft. At the moment there are a limited number of sites where you can legally purchase digital downloads of Microsoft software. These non-Microsoft websites have varying return policies for software key purchases.
While Kinguin seems to have an open return policy, we’ve seen reports of the service being too slow or the company insisting on replacing the key instead of refunding it or vice versa. Amazon and Newegg both have no-refund policies for software keys. Amazon claims all keys sold on its site are genuine, and any gripes you have with your key must be handled by the individual vendors.
This final downside is only applicable if you want to equip your PC with Windows 10 Pro for Workstations. Want a version of Windows 10 where you can enjoy dynamic slideshows on your home screen and vibrant red, green, pink, or purple taskbars?
Do you enjoy the thrills of a watermark-free screen and the comfort of knowing you can call Microsoft support if you have any problems? Then you need a key, which, as discussed, you can get from various retailers. In addition to selling keys for Windows 10 Home and Pro, Microsoft is the only place you can get a key for Windows 10 Pro for Workstations.
This plan is valid for a year after activating Windows Microsoft charges the most for Windows 10 keys. If you have an old Windows key you can get Windows 10 free by carrying that key over from a previous build — that’s your best option.
If you don’t have a key on hand, you need to decide whether you’re comfortable using an unactivated version of Windows 10, which limits your customization options, has an ugly watermark and leaves you ineligible for Microsoft support. Many would argue that downloading Windows without paying for or already owning a product key is ethically wrong.
That said, Microsoft has made this process easier over various Windows iterations and lessened the limitations and nagging that happens when you don’t activate. I’ve even seen well-known vendors and Microsoft partners do press presentations with watermarks on their desktop. If you must buy a Windows 10 key, you can save a lot with a low-cost seller such as Kinguin , although customer service will likely be lacking and isn’t the best option if you only want a very specific type of Windows Still, Microsoft’s price is astronomically high.
She has a special affinity for gaming peripherals especially monitors , laptops and virtual reality. Scharon Harding. Topics Software. See all comments I bought a key on ebay and it turned out to be a VL key volume.
Which works but shouldn’t be sold. I contacted the seller and he refunded me. Very good breakdown of the ways to activate Windows Most people don’t even realize you can still use a windows 7 key to activate, only after you get into windows, and not during the setup process. I believe this will probably stop working Jan 1, , when Microsoft stops support for windows 7.
One thing that I was hoping for some explanation on key activations, I have seen how some Youtuber’s have tied their windows 10 keys to their Microsoft account.
Then they only need a handfull of keys, like one for each motherboard vendor, and during setup, then sign into their Microsoft account, and select the key that corresponds to the motherboard their are reviewing. So they can move the keys around, and as long as it was the same brand of motherboard it would activate for that computer, and no longer be active on the old system. Any thoughts on how this works? Any limitations on how many moves, is this method valid for years so you would never have to buy another key if you stayed with one particular favorite motherboard vendor?
On the forums, we see MANY tales of woe concerning aftermarket, 3rd-party, or otherwise dicey Windows keys. Of course, using an old version’s key essentially amounts to a free upgrade, which once upon a time was often provided by software vendors, so if you can use that method, great. Any attempt to connect to www. Sorry, not getting my business. Thanks for this article. I’ve been struggling with the idea of buying another copy of Windows 10 for my media machine. It’s a PC built from old parts and is currently running Linux.
Has anyone had a good experience with this? Wait a sec TH is legitimizing kinquin? While they might activate today there is no guarantee they will activate a month from now or whenever you decide to reinstall windows from scratch. This article is causing multiple conniptions among the Moderation team. There are very good reasons why, although tolerated from a couple of well-known sources like Kinguin, none of us ever encourage people to obtain keys this way.
It isn’t illegal, so we don’t sanction for it, but like I said, the tales of woe are too numerous to go unnoticed. At least the article makes no mention of “activators,” which in most cases do represent outright piracy, not to mention the viruses and malware with which they are often laden.
Discussions of those are not allowed and are deleted, and sometimes offenders knuckles get rapped with a hammer. Yes, doing this definitely constitutes a “Do at your own risk”. If money is tight, run Win 10 unlicensed, until you can a get known legit key from someone like Newegg.
Microsoft allows this, so it is perfectly fine to so, and you don’t have to risk losing your hard earned cash.