How Long Can You Use Windows 10 Without Activation?

Everything you need to know about using Windows 10 without a key

by Matthew Adams
Matthew Adams
Matthew Adams
Windows & Software Expert
Matthew is a freelancer who has produced a variety of articles on various topics related to technology. His main focus is the Windows OS and all the things... read more
Reviewed by Alex Serban
Alex Serban
Alex Serban
Windows Server & Networking Expert
After moving away from the corporate work-style, Alex has found rewards in a lifestyle of constant analysis, team coordination and pestering his colleagues. Holding an MCSA Windows Server... read more
Affiliate Disclosure
  • It's not really a problem to use an unactivated Windows 10 copy.
  • You can use Windows 10 without a product key for a month until some user restrictions are applied.
  • The Activation tab from Settings will include a notification to activate Windows with a product key.
  • If you want to get rid of the restrictions you will need to buy a product key from a retailer.
How long can Windows 10 be used without activation

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Microsoft launched Windows 10 in 2015 with a one-year free upgrade offer for Win 7 users. But now, you need to pay to activate Windows 10 from the start.

So, some users might assume that they can no longer freely upgrade from previous Windows platforms to Windows 10.

However, users can freely download the Windows 10 disc image (ISO) file from Microsoft’s website with the media creation utility. Users can upgrade to Win 10 with that file.

During the Win 10 installation, users will be asked to enter a product key. Then they can click I don’t have a product key to install the OS without a product key.

Users will have then upgraded to an unactivated Windows 10. The unactivated version comes with some relatively minor restrictions. For example, users can’t change desktop wallpapers or themes within the unactivated Windows 10; and some of the platform’s apps will not work.

Most users have no idea that they can still upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge. Learn how to do that from this excellent guide.

Do you need to activate Windows 10?

You can download and install Windows 10 without having an activation key. In fact, you can use the OS forever without having to activate it.

However, you need to activate it to get the best value from it and enjoy its full features.

How long can I run Windows 10 without activation?

Some users might then wonder how long they can continue to run Windows 10 without activating the OS with a product key.

Users can utilize an unactivated Windows 10 without any restrictions for one month after installing it. However, that only means the user restrictions come into effect after one month.

Thereafter, users will see some Activate Windows now notifications. Windows will send out regular notifications requesting that users activate an unactivated Windows 10.

Furthermore, the Activation tab in Settings will include a notification requesting that users activate the OS with a product key. Their users can click Change product key to activate Windows 10 or change the product key with another one.

However, users can leave Windows 10 unactivated. In fact, users can continue to utilize the unactivated Win 10 with the few restrictions it has. Thus, Windows 10 can run indefinitely without activation.

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So, users can utilize the unactivated platform for as long as they wish. Note, however, that Microsoft’s retail agreement only authorizes users to utilize Windows 10 with a valid product key.

What happens if you don’t activate Windows 10 after 30 days?

Windows 10 has a trial period of 30 days for which you can use the OS without a product key. During this period, you will have access to all its features and get a feel of what you will get in the full package.

After that trial period, you will still be able to use Windows 10 but now with restrictions. Some features and customizations will not be available to you until you activate the OS.

What happens I use Windows 10 without a product key?

Using Windows 10 without a product key is not such a big deal. You will still be able to use most of the features with the exception of few advanced ones and customizations.

Also, a permanent watermark will be displayed in bottom right corner of your screen to indicate that the OS is not activated.

Disadvantages of not activating Windows 10

Below are are some of the disadvantages of using an unactivated version of Windows 10

  • Frequent notifications to activate the OS
  • A permanent Windows not activated watermark in the bottom right corner of your screen
  • Limited security patches
  • Inability to customize and personalize your display

How many times can you activate Windows 10?

You only need to activate a Windows 10 PC once. However, if you want to reinstall Windows 10 for some reason, you will need to provide the activation key again.

Also, it should be noted that you have the liberty to use an activation key on more than one PC. But, you can’t use it simultaneously.

More and more Windows 7 users are upgrading to Windows 10 as Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 7 in 2020.

Some are probably purchasing the OS from Amazon or Microsoft, but remember that you can also use Windows 10 without a product key.

Instead, users can freely download the Windows 10 ISO to upgrade to a slightly restricted Win 10 without needing a product key.

But if you have an activation key from an older OS, check our guide on how activate Windows 10 with a Windows 7 or 8 key.

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