To install Windows 10 without a product key, click “I Don’t Have a Product Key” during the installation. You won’t be able to change your desktop background through the Settings app until you activate Windows 10, however.
Microsoft allows anyone to download Windows 10 for free and install it without a product key. It’ll keep working for the foreseeable future, with only a few smallcosmetic restrictions. And you can even pay to upgrade to a licensed copy of Windows 10 after you install it.
Update, 7/18/22:We’ve reviewed this article and confirmed that it still works for the latest version of Windows 10.
How to Download Windows 10 and Install it Without a Key
First, you’ll need todownload Windows 10. You can download it directly from Microsoft, and you don’t even need a product key to download a copy.
There’s aWindows 10 download toolthat runs on Windows systems, which will help you create a USB drive to install Windows 10. If you aren’t on Windows, you can visit theWindows 10 ISO download pageto download an ISO directly (say,if you’re installing Windows 10 in Boot Camp on a Mac). If you visit that page on a Windows machine, it’ll redirect you to the download tool page instead.
Just beginthe installation process and install Windows 10 like you normally would. One of the first screens you’ll see will ask you to enter your product key so you can “Activate Windows.” However, you can just click the “I don’t have a product key” link at the bottom of the window and Windows will allow you to continue the installation process. You may be asked to enter a product key later in the process, too — if you are, just look for a similar small link to skip that screen.
If you don’t see this option, you can also provide aKMS client setup keyto continue. These keys won’t give you an activated copy of Windows unless you’re in an organization with a Key Management Service, but they will allow you to get through the Windows installation process.
When you select this option, you’ll be able to install either“Windows 10 Home” or “Windows 10 Pro.”Bear in mind that, if you plan to pay to upgrade to the paid version later, it’ll be cheaper to upgrade to Windows 10 Home, so you may want to install the Home version. Whatever version you choose, Windows 10 will install normally.
The Cosmetic Limitations
RELATED: How Does Windows Activation Work?
After you’ve installed Windows 10 without a key,it won’t actuallybe activated. However, an unactivated version of Windows 10 doesn’t have many restrictions. With Windows XP, Microsoft actually used Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) to disable access to your computer. These days, Windows just complains at you in a few minor, cosmetic ways.
Initially, you won’t notice a difference. Eventually, Windows will start nagging you a tiny bit. First, you’ll notice a watermark in the bottom-right corner of your screen. You’ll also see a “Windows isn’t activated. Activate Windows now.” link at the bottom of the Settings app. This is the only form of nag you’ll see — there are no pop-up windows, for example.
Second, you’ll be unable to change your desktop wallpaper and from the Personalization > Backgroundscreen in the Settings app. You’ll see a “You need to activate Windows before you can personalize your PC” message at the top of this window, and the options for changing your wallpaper will be grayed out.
You can still change your wallpaper in other ways, however. For example, you can right-click an image in File Explorer and select “Set as desktop background.” You could also open an image in the Photos app, click the menu button, click “Set as,” and click “Set as background.” Windows 7 eventually switched you back to a black background, but Windows 10 doesn’t seem to do this.
You’ll find Windows 10’s included wallpapers underthe C:\Windows\Web folder in File Explorer.
Aside from these basic limitations, your Windows 10 system will continue to work forever. There are no nag prompts aside from the watermark, you’ll get all the system updates, and everything else is completely functional.The only thing that could change this is a Windows 10 update, but Microsoft has become increasingly lenient since Windows 7.
How to Upgrade Windows 10 to an Activated Version
With Windows 10, you can now pay to upgrade a “non-genuine” copy of Windows to a licensed one. Open theSettings app and head to Update & Security > Activation.You’ll see a “Go to Store” button that will take you to the Windows Store if Windows isn’t licensed.
In the Store,you can purchase an official Windows license thatwill activate your PC. The Home version of Windows 10 costs $120, while the Pro version costs $200. This is a digital purchase, and it will immediately cause your current Windows installation to become activated. You don’t need to purchase a physical license.
We installed Windows 10 Professional as an example here, so the Windows Storewill only let us purchase the $200 Windows 10 Pro license.
This option may not be available in all countries. The prices here are for the US version of the Windows Store. Microsoft charges different prices in different countries and currencies.
Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 worked about the same way. Microsoft just didn’t officially allow you to download Windows without a product key, and there was no way to fully upgrade to a licensedsystem from within Windows. That makes this all the more tempting with Windows 10 — for example, you can install Windows 10 in Boot Camp on your Mac for free and, if you find yourself using it frequently, you can quickly pay to remove the watermark if that’s worth it for you. It’s like a free demo, and you canuse it to make all the virtual machines you like for testing purposes.
Sure, the license agreement may say you’re not supposed to use it without a key, but Microsoft’s license agreements say all sorts of confusing things. Microsoft’s license agreement stillforbids using the popular “OEM” copies of Windows 10on PCs you build yourself. If Microsoft doesn’t want people using unactivated copies ofWindows 10for extended periods of time, itcan release a system update that disables this.
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You can download Windows 10 without having to tell Microsoft anything: neither your Microsoft account nor your Windows 10 serial key is needed. To get Windows 10, you can use any web browser to download the Media Creation Tool from Microsoft's website, here: Download Windows 10.Can you install Windows 10 without a product key? ›
Here's the real secret: You don't need to provide a product key to install Windows 10. You can download Windows 10 installation media from Microsoft and install it on a PC, in Boot Camp on a Mac, or in a virtual machine without providing a product key.How to activate Windows 10 without any product key permanently? ›
- You can press Windows + R key on the keyboard to open Windows Run box. ...
- After you enter into Windows 10 Command Prompt, you can copy and paste this command line: slmgr.vbs /upk, in the Command Prompt window.
A copy of Windows 10 or Windows 11 from an authorized retailer. The product key is on a label or card inside the box that Windows came in.Is Windows 10 free 2023? ›
Are there free options to upgrade to Windows 10 or Windows 11? We do not currently offer free upgrade paths from Windows 8.1 to either Windows 10 or Windows 11. If you want to purchase a copy of Windows 10 or Windows 11, please see links above or contact a retailer to find out about options.How much is Windows 10 license? ›
A Windows 10 Home download license costs $139, while Windows 10 Pro costs $199.99. However, visiting either purchase page reveals a note stating, "January 31, 2023 will be the last day this Windows 10 download is offered for sale.How much is a new product key for Windows 10? ›
Buy Windows 10 Key from Microsoft
As for the price for general users, the Windows 10 Home Edition costs $139 and Windows 10 Pro Edition costs $199.99.
A product key is a 25-character code that's used to activate Windows and helps verify that Windows hasn't been used on more PCs than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow.How much is Windows 10 lifetime? ›
Get a Lifetime Microsoft Windows 10 License for $14, Office for $26.Is Windows 10 going to expire? ›
Windows 10 Home and Pro follows the Modern Lifecycle Policy. Windows 10 will reach end of support on October 14, 2025. The current version, 22H2, will be the final version of Windows 10, and all editions will remain in support with monthly security update releases through that date.
Since the Media Creation Tool downloads system files, it requires a stable internet connection. If the connection is disruptive or unstable, it may result in the form of error code 0x80072F8F 0x20000. Therefore, ensure your internet connection is stable and delivers a decent speed.Can you skip Windows product key? ›
To install Windows 10 without a product key, click “I Don't Have a Product Key” during the installation. You won't be able to change your desktop background through the Settings app until you activate Windows 10, however. Microsoft allows anyone to download Windows 10 for free and install it without a product key.Can you activate Windows without paying? ›
You can have two choices in the Windows server without a product key. If you have previously downloaded Windows 10 to your computer and purchased a license key in the previous Windows 10 installation, you can activate it automatically for free by logging in with your Microsoft account at the time of the new download.What happens if you don't activate Windows? ›
Microsoft regularly releases updates to add new features to the operating system and make it safer. While Microsoft does make updates available to non-activated Windows, free users often don't receive security updates. This means unlicensed users will always be at risk of viruses or hackers infiltrating their systems.How to trick Windows Activation? ›
Click on the Ease of Access Center. Make sure your view mode is set to Large icons to see this menu. Click on the Make the computer easier to see link under the Explore all settings section. Scroll down until you see Remove background images (where available) and place a checkmark in the box to enable the feature.How to activate Windows 10 without product key using CMD? ›
- You have to open the command prompt on your system first. Then, click and start and simply type "CMD". Now, run it as administrator.
- Type the following command. slmgr /ipk. slmgr /skms kms.xspace.in. Slmgr /ato. Now press enter. This command will activate your Windows 10/11.
The Windows 10 product key is normally found outside the package on the Certificate of Authenticity. If you purchased your PC from a white box vendor, the sticker might be attached to the machine's chassis; so, look at the top or side of the device to find it.Why are Windows 10 keys so cheap? ›
Why Are They So Cheap? The websites selling cheap Windows 10 and Windows 7 keys aren't getting legitimate retail keys straight from Microsoft. Some of these keys just come from other countries where Windows licenses are cheaper. These are referred to as “gray market” keys.Can I find my product key in settings? ›
Get It Straight From Windows
If you've got an activated copy of Windows and just want to see what the product key is, all you have to do is go to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and then check the page. If you have a product key, it will be displayed here.
If you still don't find it, log into the Microsoft Store > Downloads > Product Keys > Subscription page. Click the Digital Content tab to see your previous purchases along with your product key. Amazon customers can visit the Your Games and Software Library section to find your product key.
Yes, you can use Windows 10 and 11 without activating, it just will not be able to be personalized with desktop backgrounds, colors and other items under Personalization settings.What happens if I lose my Windows 10 product key? ›
If you need to recover your Windows product key because you want to transfer to a new PC, you do have the option to transfer the license to a new computer. Use the Activation Troubleshooter, just like you would when replacing your motherboard. Go to “Settings -> Update & Security -> Activation” on your new computer.How long can I use Windows 10 without a key? ›
For how long can I use Windows 10 without a key? You can use an unactivated Windows 10 for one month after installation without any restrictions. Once the one-month grace period expires, you'll need to activate the OS with a product key to avoid using Windows 10 with limited features.Does Windows 10 Activation expire? ›
Question: I'm using Windows 10 that came installed on my computer and got a pop-up saying my windows license is expiring soon. What do I need to do? Answer: Windows 10 retail and OEM licenses (those that come preloaded on name brand machines) don't ever expire.What happens when Windows 10 license expires? ›
Once the license expires, Windows will reboot automatically about every three hours and anything you're working on when it reboots will be lost. After two weeks longer, Windows will stop booting at all. AT that point, you'll need to purchase another license and reinstall Windows.How long does a Windows 10 license last? ›
“January 31, 2023 will be the last day this Windows 10 download is offered for sale. Windows 10 will remain supported with security updates that help protect your PC from viruses, spyware, and other malware until October 14, 2025,” Microsoft's Windows 10 Home product page says.Will factory reset remove Windows key? ›
Is the product key required to reset Windows 10/11 PC? Windows 10/11 does not ask you to type the product key during the reset process. So, you do not need a product key to reset Windows 10/11. However, note that this applies only to a fully activated copy of Windows 10/11 installation.Does factory reset deactivate Windows? ›
1. No, you will not lose your Windows OS if your factory restores your computer. It will instead reinstall a fresh update of Windows 10.Are cheap Windows 10 licenses legal? ›
Also of note, the only time a discount Windows license is actually illegal is when it was purchased using stolen payment information or generated using crack software, both extremely rare cases. It's up to you whether you care about violating the Terms of Service.Is Windows 10 officially free? ›
To install Windows 10 without a product key, click “I Don't Have a Product Key” during the installation. You won't be able to change your desktop background through the Settings app until you activate Windows 10, however. Microsoft allows anyone to download Windows 10 for free and install it without a product key.