In contrast to older versions of Windows such as Windows 7, Microsoft allows you to download and install Windows 10 without necessarily providing a license key. Not only that, but you can also use Windows 10 without activating it, forever. Still, there are some limitations that the company put into place, which can make the experience a bit annoying. Would you like to know more about what it means to use Windows 10 without a product key? Read on to find out how to install Windows 10 without a serial key and what happens if you use it without activating it:
No, Microsoft doesn’t ask you for a product key to let you download the Windows 10 installation kit. Actually, there are absolutely no details required from you. 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. Once you land on the page, click or tap on the “Download tool now” button from the “Create Windows 10 Installation Media” section. Then, save and run the Media Creation Tool executable file and use it to create a bootable USB memory stick or DVD with Windows 10.
If you need in-depth guidance on downloading and creating setup media with Media Creation Tool, this tutorial shows every step: Windows 10 Media Creation Tool - Create a setup USB stick or ISO.
After you’ve created the Windows 10 installation media, use it to boot your computer, device, or virtual machine. Then, start the Windows 10 installation process as you would typically do. If you want detailed instructions on that, we’ve got you covered in this guide: How to install Windows 10 from DVD, ISO, or USB.
When you get to the step where the Windows 10 setup wizard asks you to Activate Windows, click or tap “I don’t have a product key.”
Then, continue the installation process of Windows 10 normally: the setup wizard will not ask again to provide the product key.
When you install Windows 10 without providing a serial key, two scenarios can occur:
- This isn’t the first time you’ve installed Windows 10 on your computer or device, and the previous Windows 10 installation was activated, either by buying a new Windows 10 license key or by taking advantage of the free upgrade offer from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 made by Microsoft in the past. In this scenario, your new Windows 10 will automatically activate, free of charge, even if you didn’t enter a product key this time.
- This is the first time you install Windows 10 on your computer or device, in which case it never ran an activated Windows 10 operating system. In this scenario, Microsoft will not activate Windows 10 until you provide a product key. Until you do so, the operating system will run, but with a series of limitations, which we list in the following section of this article.
If you install Windows 10 without a product key and Microsoft doesn’t activate it, you will be able to use it indefinitely, but with a couple of limitations. The most important ones are as follows:
- Windows 10 will show an “Activate Windows” watermark in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
- You won’t be able to personalize your Windows 10 from the Settings app. Unfortunately, that means that you can’t change things like the background image, colors, and themes, or adjust the way your Start Menu or taskbar looks like.
- The Settings app will show notifications about your Windows 10 not being activated and recommend that you purchase a Windows 10 product key.
These are the main disadvantages of using Windows 10 without a product key. Otherwise, an unlicensed copy of Windows 10 works just like an activated one. You can use it like that for as long as you want.
So Microsoft lets you download and install Windows 10 without having a license key for it. It even lets you use it for as long as you want, without ever activating it. Still, there are some limitations if you do so. Are they enough to make you buy a Windows 10 product key? Or do you intend to use Windows 10 without activating it? Let us know in the comments section below.