What Happens If You Don’t Activate Windows 10?

Ah, the days of purchasing your operating system and having to buy a product key before you could even install it are gone. These days, you can simply download the latest version of Windows, the most significant desktop operating system, from Microsoft’s website and install it. The catch is that it will require activation, which requires a product key, which requires paying.

After some time of using an unactivated version of Windows, you may find out that you need to activate your version of the OS. So you might be wondering, what happens if you don’t activate Windows 10? Will you get blocked off from using your computer? Are some features going to be limited? Will it suddenly stop booting up again? 

There are so many questions that you might have about Windows 10 activation, so I’m glad to tell you that you’ve come to the right place. All your questions will be answered here, so fret not! Plus, if you do decide to activate at the end, it’s really easy to get done.

Do you have a particular question about the consequences of not activating Windows 10? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the black arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page. 

What does activating Windows do?

Windows is one of the most popular software products globally, but it is important not to forget that they are a business. By activating your Windows 10, you are marking that copy of Windows as being a genuine one. In a way, successful activation links that copy of Windows to the specific computer you are using it on, preventing one copy from being installed on multiple systems.

Do you need to activate Windows 10?

Well, do you need to activate Windows 10? Is it an absolute necessity? The answer is no. You can go along without activating your copy of Windows 10, and your computer won’t run into any issues or anything distressing. However, there are many reasons why you should activate Windows 10, which we will discuss in the next section.

Why activate Windows 10?

The number one reason to activate Windows 10, in my book, is to support the developers – in this case, Microsoft. It is a software product, and Microsoft is running a business. Even though your copy of Windows 10 can survive ages without being activated, the amount of productivity, entertainment. And general utility that one copy provides is more than enough to be worth the price for a once-off, lifetime activation of the operating system.

Plus, you’ll be able to use the OS unhindered, without any annoying watermarks or limitations, which we will talk about in the section about to come up. Stick around with me!

What happens if you don’t activate Windows 10?

Aha! This is the question that you have very likely been waiting for. What exactly happens if your copy of Windows is not activated?

The short answer? Nothing major. The feds won’t pull up to your door, Microsoft won’t send you angry emails, and your computer won’t blow up. However, you will have to fend off some minor inconveniences and annoyances.

For starters, there will be a watermark in the corner of the screen. This watermark is “above all” other programs that you may have, so no matter what, the watermark will show through, whether you’re watching a movie, playing a game, or browsing the web.

Besides that, you’ll also see text reminding you to activate your Windows version anytime you enter Settings. If that’s not a way to keep it on your mind, we don’t know what is.

And, perhaps the biggest annoyance for most people who choose the path of not activating Windows 10. You will be completely locked out of any customization or personalization features. It means you have to use your computer exactly the way they give it to you. There’s no option to spice it up in a way that shows off your personality. Well, not until you activate Windows.

Can you use Windows 10 without activation?

Absolutely! The last section says that you can use your computer mostly fine even when Windows is not activated. The only difference is that you don’t get access to cosmetic features. You’ll have to deal with the aesthetic blight that is the famous watermark that they serve you.

Unactivated Windows 10 Restrictions

So, when you choose not to activate Windows 10 as your decision, you should know by now that you have to deal with a lot of aesthetic headaches and annoying reminders. But that personalization part, that’s what you really want to know about.

Well then, if you have a copy of Windows which has been used without being activated for a long enough amount of time, you lose your access to some options. These are the following:

  • Changing your desktop background. (This is the single most-used personalization option. Especially as the default backgrounds have never been as good as that masterpiece from Windows XP. Here is the story behind what is likely the most popular desktop background of all time).
  • Changing title bar and taskbar colors.
  • Changing the theme.
  • Customizing your lock screen.
  • The option to change the Start menu style.

For those who love to make their PCs look their very own, running a version of Windows 10 that is not activated will be a major blow to them. 

How long will Windows 10 work without activation?

When you download Windows 10 for the first time and install it, you will be prompted for the product key. Unlike older versions of Windows where it was essential to proceed with the installation process, there is now a “Skip for now” button.

If you choose to click that button, you have only 30 days from the point Windows 10 is installed to use it without any restrictions. If it is still not activated after those 30 days, then that is when the numerous restrictions kick in.

Even without activation, Windows will retain all its core functionality forever. It is only the cosmetic benefits that get dropped after the first month.

From me though, if you have the means to activate Windows 10, do it. But there will be no problems if you don’t.

Credits: Thanks for the photo to Canva.

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