Chris HoffmanEditor-in-Chief

Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He"s written about công nghệ for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The new york Times and Reader"s Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami"s NBC 6, và had his work covered by news outlets lượt thích the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that"s just here at How-To Geek. Read more...

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Nick LewisWriterNick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for trăng tròn years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to lớn the Windows registry to lớn device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python và C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree. Read more...

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UpdatedJul 20, 2022, 10:08 am EDT| 4 min read


Microsoft allows anyone to tải về Windows 10 for không tính tiền and install it without a hàng hóa key. It’ll keep working for the foreseeable future, with only a few small cosmetic restrictions. Và you can even pay to upgrade to lớn a licensed copy of Windows 10 after you install it.

Whether you want lớn install Windows 10 in Boot Camp, put it on an old computer that isn’t eligible for a miễn phí upgrade, or create one or more virtual machines, you don’t actually need lớn pay a cent.

How to tải về Windows 10 and Install it Without a Key

RELATED: Where to download Windows 10, 8.1, and 7 ISOs Legally

First, you’ll need to tải về Windows 10. You can download it directly from Microsoft, và you don’t even need a hàng hóa key to tải về a copy.

There’s a Windows 10 tải về tool that runs on Windows systems, which will help you create a USB drive khổng lồ install Windows 10. If you aren’t on Windows, you can visit the Windows 10 ISO download page to tải về 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 lớn the tải về tool page instead.


Just begin the installation process và install Windows 10 lượt thích you normally would. One of the first screens you’ll see will ask you to lớn enter your hàng hóa key so you can “Activate Windows.” However, you can just click the “I don’t have a sản phẩm key” link at the bottom of the window & Windows will allow you to continue the installation process. You may be asked lớn enter a hàng hóa key later in the process, too — if you are, just look for a similar small liên kết to skip that screen.

If you don’t see this option, you can also provide a KMS client thiết đặt key to 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 lớn get through the Windows installation process.


When you select this option, you’ll be able khổng lồ install either “Windows 10 Home” or “Windows 10 Pro.” Bear in mind that, if you plan khổng lồ pay to upgrade to lớn the paid version later, it’ll be cheaper khổng lồ upgrade to Windows 10 Home, so you may want khổng lồ 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 actually be 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 lớn 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 size of nag you’ll see — there are no pop-up windows, for example.

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Second, you’ll be unable lớn change your desktop wallpaper & from the Personalization > Background screen in the Settings app. You’ll see a “You need to lớn activate Windows before you can personalize your PC” message at the vị trí cao nhất of this window, và 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 tệp tin Explorer và select “Set as desktop background.” You could also mở cửa an image in the Photos app, click the thực đơn button, click “Set as,” and click “Set as background.” Windows 7 eventually switched you back khổng lồ a đen background, but Windows 10 doesn’t seem to vày this.

You’ll find Windows 10’s included wallpapers under the C:WindowsWeb folder in file Explorer.


Aside from these basic limitations, your Windows 10 system will continue khổng lồ work forever. There are no nag prompts aside from the watermark, you’ll get all the system updates, & 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 lớn Upgrade Windows 10 to lớn an Activated Version

With Windows 10, you can now pay to lớn upgrade a “non-genuine” copy of Windows to lớn a licensed one. Xuất hiện the Settings app & head khổng lồ Update & Security > Activation. You’ll see a “Go to lớn 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 that will activate your PC. The home version of Windows 10 costs $120, while the Pro version costs $200. This is a digital purchase, và it will immediately cause your current Windows installation khổng lồ become activated. You don’t need to lớn purchase a physical license.

We installed Windows 10 Professional as an example here, so the Windows Store will 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, & 8.1 worked about the same way. Microsoft just didn’t officially allow you to tải về Windows without a hàng hóa key, and there was no way to fully upgrade to a licensed system 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 không tính tiền 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 lượt thích a không lấy phí demo, và you can use it khổng lồ make all the virtual machines you like for testing purposes.

Sure, the license agreement may say you’re not supposed khổng lồ use it without a key, but Microsoft’s license agreements say all sorts of confusing things. Microsoft’s license agreement still forbids using the popular “OEM” copies of Windows 10 on PCs you build yourself. If Microsoft doesn’t want people using unactivated copies of Windows 10 for extended periods of time, it can release a system update that disables this.

Chris HoffmanChris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He"s written about giải pháp công nghệ for over a decade & was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The thủ đô new york Times and Reader"s Digest, been interviewed as a công nghệ expert on TV stations lượt thích Miami"s NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets lượt thích the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that"s just here at How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »
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