Personally, I think Windows 10 license keys are way too expensive and a multi-million-dollar company such as Microsoft could surely afford to sell them for much less money. I guess that’s the price consumers pay for Windows’ domination in the operating system market place.
Numerous sites have popped up selling Windows license keys at heavily discounted prices, including on eBay, and I’m guessing many of you will have come across these cheap keys at some time or another. The question is– will these keys work? The answer is not so simple and can be yes, no, but mostly maybe. The reason there is no definitive answer is because the unknown origin of these license keys can create different scenarios. While most might activate fine, there is often a good chance they will expire within a relatively short period of time. Here are the likely main sources for cheap license keys:
- Volume License Keys: Volume licensing is when an organization, government department, or corporation needs to install and activate Windows on multiple PCs. Rather than purchasing dozens, or even hundreds, of separate Windows licenses they will instead purchase a single product key for all their computers. These types of product keys can quite easily be leaked to the public domain and subsequently sold online. Someone could sell one of these product keys hundreds of times, and while they might successfully activate, there is also a high degree of risk that, at some point, Microsoft will terminate said volume license and… voilà… that key is then instantly rendered invalid. On the other hand, there are situations where surplus keys might be sold off and then resold to the general public at a low price. In these cases, you’ve got yourself a legitimate license key at a very good price.
- License Keys from Other Countries: License key prices vary from country to country and can be quite a bit cheaper in some countries. While keys purchased from a foreign source are not exactly legitimate, there is a fair chance they will not only activate but will also remain activated.
- Expired or Illegitimate Keys: This represents the worst-case scenario; you have purchased a license key that has expired or never existed in the first place. Many of the expired product keys are gleaned from stickers on old, now abandoned hardware and have been previously activated. In these cases, you have been scammed and there is not a lot you can do about it– you’ve probably done your money cold.
So, you see, purchasing these heavily discounted license keys can be very much hit and miss.
What You Should NEVER Do!
There are some users who believe that, because these keys can be purchased at such a low price, it is well worth the risk. Even when some do not work, if you eventually find a key that activates okay and stays activated, you are often still dollars in front. Personally, I do not subscribe to that school of thought. However, if you are prepared to take the risk, here are a couple of things you should never do:
- Never purchase one of these cheap keys via a credit card. Never, under any circumstances, should you provide these sites with your credit card details. Always look for a PayPal option or some other established online system of payment. If the site doesn’t offer these safe alternatives, I would advise you to stay well clear.
- Don’t Trust the Guarantees: Most of these sites will guarantee a working key but, as explained earlier, while these keys might often activate fine, there is still a fair chance they will expire at some time down the track. Most vendors will also guarantee a replacement if the key you purchase does not work. This is a very easy promise to make but doesn’t always hold true in practice. Besides, if you’ve already purchased one key that doesn’t work, are you going to trust that another key from the same supplier is going to be legitimate?
If you are tempted to purchase one of these super cheap license keys — and I wouldn’t blame you if you were — please be aware that there are definitely risks involved. Whether or not the money saved is worth the risk, well that, as always, is entirely up to the individual.
Also, bear in mind that Microsoft has changed the way in which Windows 10 behaves if not activated. You can install Windows 10 without activating and it will operate in much the same manner as if activated, even getting the latest updates. However, the one major restriction is extremely limited customization, including zero access to the majority of the Personalization settings. If you can live without that customization, why bother taking a risk at all?