You don’t need a product key to install and use Windows 10

Microsoft allows anyone to download Windows 10 for free and install it without a product key. It will continue to operate for the foreseeable future with minor cosmetic restrictions. And you can even pay to upgrade to a licensed copy of Windows 10 after you install it.

Whether you want to install Windows 10 on Boot Camp, put it on an old PC that isn’t eligible for the free upgrade, or create one or more virtual machines, you don’t have to pay a dime.


First, you need to download Windows 10. You can download it directly from the Microsoft site and you don’t even need a product key to download a copy.

There is a Windows 10 download tool that works on Windows systems and will help you create a USB drive to install Windows 10. If you are not using Windows, you can visit the Windows 10 ISO download page to directly download the ISO (for example, if you are installing Windows 10 in Boot Camp on Mac). If you visit this page on a Windows computer, you will be redirected to the download tool page.

Start the installation process and install Windows 10 as usual. One of the first screens you will see will ask you to enter your product key in order to “activate Windows”. However, you can simply click the “I don’t have a product key” link at the bottom of the window and Windows will let you continue with the installation process. Later in the process, you may be asked to enter a product key. If so, find a small similar link to skip this screen.

If you don’t see this option, you can also provide a KMS client installation key to continue. These keys won’t give you an activated copy of Windows unless you’re part of an organization that has a key management service, but they will let you go through the Windows installation process.

Select “I don’t have a product key” during the Windows setup process.

If you select this option, you will be able to install Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro. Keep in mind that if you plan to pay to upgrade to a paid version later, upgrading to Windows 10 Home will be cheaper, so you can install Home. Whichever version you choose, Windows 10 will install just fine.

Aesthetic restrictions

Once you install Windows 10 without a key, it won’t actually activate. However, the non-activated version of Windows 10 does not have many limitations. In Windows XP, Microsoft actually used Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to disable access to your computer. Today, Windows is content to complain to you in a few minor, cosmetic ways.

At first, you won’t notice a difference. After a while, Windows will start to bother you a little. First, you will notice the watermark in the bottom right corner of the screen. You will also see a link “Windows is not activated. Activate Windows now” at the bottom of the Settings app. This is the only form of warning message you will see – no pop-ups, for example.

Windows 10 settings app.

Second, you won’t be able to change your desktop wallpaper from the Personalization > Background screen in the Settings app. You will see the message “You must activate Windows before you can set up your PC” at the top of this window, and the options to change the wallpaper will be greyed out.

Personalization options are disabled if your copy of Windows is invalid.

However, you can change the wallpaper in other ways. For example, you can right-click on an image in File Explorer and select “Set as Wallpaper”. You can also open the image in the Photos app, press the menu button, tap Set As, then Set as Background. Windows 7 eventually got you back to a black background, but Windows 10 doesn’t seem to.

You can find the wallpapers included with Windows 10 in the C:WindowsWeb folder in File Explorer.

Apart from these basic limitations, your Windows 10 system will continue to work forever. No warning messages other than a watermark, you will receive all system updates and everything else is fully functional. The only thing that could change that is an upgrade to Windows 10, but Microsoft has been getting more lenient since Windows 7.

With Windows 10, you can now pay to upgrade a “non-genuine” copy of Windows to a licensed version. Open the Settings app and go to Update & Security > Activation. You will see a “Go to Store” button which will take you to the Windows Store if Windows is not licensed.

In the activation window of the Settings application, you will be prompted to change the key or buy it in the Microsoft Store.

In the store, you can purchase an official Windows license that activates your computer. The Home version of Windows 10 costs $120, while the Pro version costs $200. This is a digital purchase that immediately activates your current Windows installation. You don’t need to buy a physical license.

We installed Windows 10 Pro as an example, so the Windows Store will only allow us to purchase a Windows 10 Pro license for $200.

This option may not be available in all countries. Prices shown here are for the US version of the Windows Store. Microsoft applies different prices depending on the country and currency.

The Microsoft Store lists the retail price of Windows 10 as $199.99.

Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 worked pretty much the same. Microsoft officially did not allow Windows to be booted without a product key, and it was not possible to fully migrate from Windows to a licensed system. This makes it even more enticing with Windows 10 – for example, you can install Windows 10 in Boot Camp for free on your Mac, and if you use it often, you can quickly pay to have the watermark removed if it’s worth it. you. It’s like a free demo and you can use it to create any virtual machines you want for testing purposes.

Sure, the license agreement might say you shouldn’t use it without a key, but Microsoft’s license agreements talk about all sorts of confusing things. The Microsoft EULA still prohibits the use of popular OEM copies of Windows 10 on PCs that you build yourself. If Microsoft doesn’t want people to use non-activated copies of Windows 10 for an extended period of time, it may release a system update that disables this feature.

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