Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you. For more information, please visit our Disclaimer Page.
Like many other software-based products, Windows is also prone to piracy. Therefore, Microsoft introduced windows activation as a defense mechanism to ensure all personal computers running Windows only run the genuine version. But what if you don’t activate windows?
Not activating windows will not cripple your ability to use the software. In fact, the only difference between an activated and unactivated Windows operating system is the ability to customize the look and feel of your user interface.
Windows is very persistent and often requests you to activate your windows if it has not been activated. Therefore, you may wonder if there are any significant drawbacks to not activating your windows operating system.
Table of Contents
Since Windows is one of the most popular operating systems in the world, it is often the victim of piracy. So, Microsoft came up with a solution to this problem. The answer came in the form of an activation key.
Once you install Windows on your computer, you will be asked for an activation key.
The activation key, otherwise known as a product key is a combination of 25 unique series of numbers that can activate windows products. Once you enter the correct key, your version of Windows will be completely unlocked for your device.
Microsoft used to cripple Windows after a certain period with Windows XP and Vista if Windows was not activated on time. The idea was to remove all piracy copy users from the market.
But then Microsoft quickly realized that they are better off with letting people use the unactivated windows as long as they use other Windows services. In this way, they can still make money from unlicensed copies of Windows. So starting from Windows 10, Microsoft has been far more generous about the usage of their software.
These days, there is very little penalty for not activating windows on your personal computer. The only feature you are deprived of is the ability to customize options such as the taskbar, accent colors icons, etc.
If customization is not important to you, there are virtually no other drawbacks of not activating Windows.
Another thing to keep in mind is that an unactivated Windows operating system will always have a permanent watermark on the bottom right of your display telling you to activate Windows.
Not only that, but Windows will also consistently remind you that you have not activated the software yet. This could get very annoying.
Thus, if customization is important to you and you dislike being consistently pestered by watermarks and reminders, it is best for you to pay for the activation key and run a genuine version.
Now, on installing Windows, your computer will regularly insist you activate it within 30 days. But what could happen if you don’t do so?
On installing a fresh copy of windows, you will be provided with a 30 days free trial of the windows product you are using.
During this 30 days trial period, you will be able to use all the available features without any restrictions. The entire Windows experience will be available to you.
Even if you installed an unauthorized or illegal copy of Windows 10, you will still have the option of buying a product activation key and activating your operating system. Software updates and user interface personalization will also be available to you within the first 30 days of installation.
However, if 30 days pass and you still do not activate Windows, all your customizations will go away. You will be greeted with a very generic version of Windows with the operating system embracing a stock look after undoing all your personalization.
A watermark will also appear telling you to activate Windows on your computer. You will also receive reminders requesting you to activate your Windows after 30 days are over.
Your personalization settings will also be deactivated and you won’t have the opportunity to access these settings.
The drawbacks to not activating Windows after 30 days is not too great but it can feel slightly uncomfortable and uneasy to use due to the lack of control over how your computer looks.
Since it is clear that you can use Windows without activation for over 30 days, you may wonder if you can get away with not activating windows at all.
In the past, when the 30 days trial period was over with Windows versions like XP and Vista, the operating system would enter a Reduced Functionality Mode (RFM for short).
You will be deprived of Windows games in this mode and lose access to Aero Glass, ReadyBoost, and BitLocker which are all considered premium features.
But with Windows 10, Microsoft has embraced a much more lenient approach. Not only do you not lose access to any of the necessary features that window has to offer, but there is literally no time limit for you to activate Windows.
If you wish to not activate Windows on your personal computer at all, you can still access it for as long as you want. In other words, you will not be stopped from using Windows even if you choose to never activate the software.
I know it seems like a bad idea on Microsoft’s end to allow users to continue using Windows without an activation key. But to be fair, it makes the most sense for them from a business perspective.
Windows can’t prevent piracy completely. So their next best approach is to allow unauthorized users to be a part of their user base and sell them other Microsoft services such as Microsoft Office. This way they can still make money off of unauthorized users even if they choose to not pay for the activation key.
It may be easy to install an unauthorized copy of Windows on your computer but it is very difficult to activate it without obtaining a legitimate key. Microsoft has done an excellent job at preventing people from bypassing the activation key and accessing the full version of Windows.
If you updated to Windows 10 via a free upgrade or purchased and downloaded a copy from the store, you may download and install the activated version of Windows 10 on that specific PC as many times as you want based on Digital Entitlement.
This activation is permanent and the copy of Windows you purchased is yours.
But before you install Windows 10, make sure the current software that your computer is running on is updated as well. To do that, click the Windows start button, then go to Settings > Update & security > Activation. If Windows isn’t activated, contact Microsoft by clicking here.
Now, if you do not know what version you are running or if your Windows is permanently activated or not, follow these steps to find out:
- Click Start and then enter Command Prompt.
- Type: slmgr/xpr and press Enter. This will tell you what software you are running.
- Then type smlgr/dli and press Enter. This will tell you if your Windows is activated or not.
- Finally, right-click start and then press run. Type: winver ok and it will tell you what you are running and if it is permanently activated or not.
Considering you paid for Windows once, you will be able to install Windows 10 as many times as you want as long as it is on the same device. Paying for a product key and activating it once means that you now own that copy of Windows 10 according to Digital Entitlement. This means you do not have to activate Windows a second time on your device.
However, if you wish to activate Windows on a different device, you will need to buy another activation key for the other device.
It is not possible to transfer one copy of Windows 10 from one computer to another. It is necessary to have a new product key for every new device.
So, in other words, if you wish to use Windows 10 on multiple devices, you will need to activate Windows multiple times. However, if you wish to use only one device, you can activate Windows unlimited times as long as you pay for it once.
If you have already purchased a copy of Windows 10 before but reinstallation still asks you for a product key, simply press skips, and Windows 10 will automatically be installed on your computer.
Activating Windows might seem unnecessary at this point but there are a few disadvantages of not purchasing a product key for your computer.
The difference between the authorized and unauthorized installation of Windows 10 has shrunk significantly over the years. However, there are still a few disadvantages of not activating Windows. Some of them are:
There is a permanent “Activate Windows” watermark on the bottom right of your PC constantly if you do not activate Windows. This watermark looks unattractive and lets other people looking at your screen know you have not activated Windows.
While this is not a major problem in itself, it could be embarrassing if it appeared during a work presentation or during a group call where you may need to share your screen. People may think of you as a cheapskate or a freeloader. It is not a very professional look.
Not activating Windows blocks all options of customizing your PC and you will be stuck using a generic version of Windows until you activate the software. Here’s a list of thing you cannot customize without activating Windows:
You are not allowed to change your background wallpaper without activating Windows.
Windows offers a myriad of accent colors that you are incapable of changing.
You cannot change what your lock screen looks like on the unauthorized version.
There are hundreds of themes on the windows store that allow you to personalize your PC. However, without activation, you cannot use them.
There are multiple choices of fonts but there will be unavailable for you.
It is something you interact with a lot in Windows. Without customization, it may feel uncomfortable to use.
There is no severe penalty for not activating Windows 10. However, you will have to live with the inconvenience of an unattractive watermark and the lack of personalization.
Should you choose to purchase an activation key, the copy of Windows you purchase will be yours forever. But you may also choose to use Windows 10 without activating it for as long as you want.