Linux is a viable option, but most prefer Windows because it runs all their favorite software, including the latest games. This is profoundly unfair to PC builders, because large OEMs such as Dell and Lenovo likely pay a tiny fraction of that to put Windows on prebuilt systems though these costs are not made public.
No matter how or whether you pay for it, you can download Windows 10 opens in new tab or download Windows 11 opens in new tab for free from Microsoft.
And, in fact, you should only download it from Microsoft, as grabbing it from any other site or from a P2P network could give you malware. Microsoft offers a free media creation tool, which grabs the latest code from the Internet and then burns itself to a USB Flash drive or outputs a Windows 10 or Windows 11 ISO file you can write to a drive yourself.
Once that's done, you can boot from your installation media and start the process. During installation, Microsoft asks you to enter a Windows 10 or 11 product key.
If you are still on Windows 7 or 8, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. If you have an old, retail non-OEM copy of Windows 7, 8 or 10 you are no longer using on another PC, you can likely use the product key when you do a fresh install of Windows on your new PC. If you need help finding the product key on your old computer, there are several ways to find it, but using Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder , a free download, is probably the easiest.
Note that if the product key comes from a prebuilt computer that came from the factory with Windows on it, it has an OEM key that may not work on a different new PC. Feel free to try it, though, because if it works you have Windows 10 or 11 for free.
The good news is that you only have two serious disadvantages from not activating Windows 10 or However, if you are using a Microsoft account that syncs with another computer on which you have custom wallpaper, that wallpaper will appear on your unactivated Windows. But come on; does anyone actually do that? Other than those inconveniences, unactivated Windows should work just fine and receive automatic updates too.
You can see if your school is eligible and download your free Windows 11 key here. These are all OEM keys and likely can't be used on another computer after you activate them on the first one. Now, let's address the elephant in the room. While we can't vouch for all of them, websites selling cheap Windows 10 or 11 keys are likely offering legitimate codes. Kinguin has more than three dozen merchants worldwide selling Windows keys.
It's just another marketplace. So we tried calling the number and waited on hold for a few minutes. We thought activating via phone would be an automated process where we just punched in the key and got an approval code, but instead we got a live representative who immediately asked for our Microsoft account ID.
However, both sites play host to a number of third-party sellers whose product keys may or may not be legit. The easiest but most expensive way to get Windows is to buy your key directly from Microsoft.
You can get these either as downloads or on USB drives. If you have an old Windows key you can carry over from a previous build, that's your best option and effectively gives you Windows 10 or Windows 11 for free. If you don't have a key on hand, you need to decide whether you're comfortable using an unactivated version of Windows 10 or 11, 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. We've even seen well-known vendors and Microsoft partners do press presentations with watermarks on their desktop. Scharon Harding has a special affinity for gaming peripherals especially monitors , laptops and virtual reality.
Previously, she covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK. Tom's Hardware Tom's Hardware.
Scharon Harding opens in new tab. Topics Software. See all comments I bought a key on ebay and it turned out to be a VL key volume. Which works but shouldn't be sold. I contacted the seller and he refunded me. Very good breakdown of the ways to activate Windows Most people don't even realize you can still use a windows 7 key to activate, only after you get into windows, and not during the setup process.
I believe this will probably stop working Jan 1, , when Microsoft stops support for windows 7. One thing that I was hoping for some explanation on key activations, I have seen how some Youtuber's have tied their windows 10 keys to their Microsoft account. Then they only need a handfull of keys, like one for each motherboard vendor, and during setup, then sign into their Microsoft account, and select the key that corresponds to the motherboard their are reviewing.
So they can move the keys around, and as long as it was the same brand of motherboard it would activate for that computer, and no longer be active on the old system. Any thoughts on how this works? Any limitations on how many moves, is this method valid for years so you would never have to buy another key if you stayed with one particular favorite motherboard vendor?
On the forums, we see MANY tales of woe concerning aftermarket, 3rd-party, or otherwise dicey Windows keys. Of course, using an old version's key essentially amounts to a free upgrade, which once upon a time was often provided by software vendors, so if you can use that method, great.
Any attempt to connect to www. Sorry, not getting my business. Thanks for this article. I've been struggling with the idea of buying another copy of Windows 10 for my media machine. It's a PC built from old parts and is currently running Linux.
Has anyone had a good experience with this? Wait a sec TH is legitimizing kinquin? While they might activate today there is no guarantee they will activate a month from now or whenever you decide to reinstall windows from scratch.
This article is causing multiple conniptions among the Moderation team. There are very good reasons why, although tolerated from a couple of well-known sources like Kinguin, none of us ever encourage people to obtain keys this way. It isn't illegal, so we don't sanction for it, but like I said, the tales of woe are too numerous to go unnoticed. At least the article makes no mention of "activators," which in most cases do represent outright piracy, not to mention the viruses and malware with which they are often laden.
Discussions of those are not allowed and are deleted, and sometimes offenders knuckles get rapped with a hammer. Yes, doing this definitely constitutes a "Do at your own risk". If money is tight, run Win 10 unlicensed, until you can a get known legit key from someone like Newegg. Microsoft allows this, so it is perfectly fine to so, and you don't have to risk losing your hard earned cash.
Access to all personalization options; Microsoft support access; Equivalent to Windows 10 Enterprise; Free.