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But note that a key can only be used on one 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. Downsides of Using an Old Key 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.
But that seems to be happening less in recent months and years. Don't Activate Windows: 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. You can't access personalization options if you don't activate Windows Use the Microsoft Student Discount: Free Microsoft offers students attending certain universities and high schools the ability to activate Windows 10 Education for free.
You can see if your school is eligible and download your free 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. 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. Downsides of Cheap Keys These non-Microsoft websites have varying return policies for software key purchases.
Meanwhile, 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. Buy a Windows Key From Microsoft: 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 One caveat: What's the Best Way to Get Windows 10?
If you have an old Windows key you can carry 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, it's hard to argue against purchasing one from a low-cost seller such as Kinguin or PCDestination.
Microsoft's price is astronomically high and doesn't offer any significant benefits.