Updated October 30, , 1: Why Are They So Cheap? Some of these keys just come from other countries where Windows licenses are cheaper. They may be legitimate, but they were sold for cheaper in other countries. For example, Windows keys were once much cheaper in China.
Other keys could have been purchased with stolen credit card numbers. A criminal acquires some credit card numbers, purchases a bunch of Windows keys online, and sells them through third-party websites at a cut rate.
When the credit cards are reported as stolen and the chargebacks occur, Microsoft deactivates the keys, and those Windows installations are no longer activated—but the criminal gets away with the money people paid for them. Some keys may be education keys intended for students but obtained fraudulently. On really sketchy websites, you may just be purchasing a completely fake key or an already-known key that was used to pirate Windows on multiple systems that has been blocked by Microsoft.
An especially bad website might even steal the credit card number you use to buy the key and use it to start the credit card fraud game anew. But Do They Work? Do they work? Well, maybe. They often do work…for a while. We stuck it in a virtual machine , and it worked for about a year. Your key may never work in the first place, it may work for a month, or it may never be blacklisted at all.
By purchasing them, you may be supporting criminals who steal credit card numbers. Or, you may be rewarding people who abuse programs set up to help students and encouraging the shutdown of these programs. We all know it: Even if you luck out and your new key does work forever, purchasing these keys is unethical. These sites also sell gray-market video game keys, which are also of questionable origin and may be revoked in the future. Polygon, a gaming website, has a good look at the problem with gray market game keys.
However, you could run into this problem on many websites. Websites like Amazon. You may have an easier time filing a dispute after buying a shady key from Amazon. Amazon is a huge marketplace, and it has a problem with counterfeiters. Amazon may not want to help you if your key works for a year before being revoked, either. I Got Scammed by a Counterfeiter on Amazon. You can install and use Windows 10 without a product key.
It will show you a watermark and nag you a bit, but you can use it without ever paying anything or providing a product key. This is a good solution for installing Windows in an occasional virtual machine to test software. We mean it: You may also be eligible for a program that helps you get a key for cheaper. For example, students may be eligible for cheaper or free Windows 10 product keys through their universities.
However, Microsoft has changed its license back and forth over the years, and its messaging has been very confused. In fact, Microsoft continues selling OEM licenses to people building their own PCs through stores like Amazon without much up-front warning about the licensing issues.
Can you get it for free? You can, but only if you buy a new PC or device with Windows preinstalled. What if you want to purchase Windows 10 for your existing computers? Where can you buy it and how much will it cost you? Also, which edition of Windows 10 should you purchase? The answers to these questions are not that obvious, and you need to do a bit of research to answer them.