Should You Buy Cheap Windows 10 Keys?


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?

Closing Words

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?

About the Author

Jim Hillier

Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at DCT. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele... as well as writing for DCT, of course.

16 Comments

  1. I actually bought a W10 PDK from Ebay, just to see if it would work. To my surprise the damn thing actually did a digital activation, call me LUCKY.
    Like you, I would not encourage this, but some of the old PC I work on just isn’t worth the money, if a license has to be purchased.
    One can always or, usually, install Linux and leave Windows where it is. Linux is more than capable of running a PC, I am using Linux Mint on an old Acer PC I have recently setup. Linux and Vista are purring right along.

  2. The ad on this page for the Windows 10 Pro keys is blocked and reported as a malware site by AdGuard even though that AdBlocking is turned off for your site. It says that the site has been marked as a malware site.

    • Hey Donald,

      I appreciate your concerns. However, we have absolutely zero control over what ads Google chooses to display. Out of interest, I scanned allkey4u’s URL through Virus Total and it was flagged by just one out of 70 AV engines. So I doubt the site is hosting malware.

  3. You should extend the warning to cheap Microsoft Office products as well.
    In my case they worked -activated- but as soon as I called Microsoft for tech support, they checked the product activation code. In one case , they said it had been activated 9 times, and promptly deleted it from my PC. In another case, the product activated OK, but again, when contacting tech support, the activation code was reserved for DEVELOPERS only. They deleted that too. Contacting the company that I got the code from – THEY SAID IT WAS legitimate. Microsoft tech support deleted that one too. Money well spent?? You were warned!

    • “THEY SAID IT WAS legitimate.”, who are THEY?

      In your browser check the small print under the heading, many sites purport to be a Microsoft site, and several of my clients purchased cheap keys from ‘non-genuine Microsoft sites’, some include a ‘phone number for assistance when they have your money.

      • “They” was the company that it was purchased from. ( They are from the USA) My experience is that the product may work, buying from one of these companies, and as long as Microsoft doesn’t check it, it may continue to work. But try to get tech support from Microsoft and as soon as they check your activation number, you are toast.
        I actually phoned Microsoft 3 times, and got 3 different people to check for authenticity, and all 3 condemned them as pirated.

        Some of these companies sell “OEM” software, which can only be installed on one PC, no transfers, and NO TECH SUPPORT from MS.
        Tech Support is sometimes offered by the company that sold it, but you never know how good that is.

        As Jim said above, it may work, but for how long??

        On the win 10 side, I upgraded from win 7 to win 10, no cost in December 2019. . Why pay if you can get it free from MS??

  4. If I were using a cheap W10 PDK, and it was working, the last thing I would do is check the authenticity, and call MS tech support. My tech support is Google search.

  5. Just to clarify, It was tech support for Office 2016. I’ve got a pretty good handle on Win10 now.
    I was having problems inserting a picture into Word, which is not normally an issue. I looked all over the internet , Google included , for a FIX. Nothing worked. So I decided to call Microsoft. Well, first thing they do , before answering any question, Office or Windows, is to check authenticity. You do NOT have a choice.
    Google search was of NO help at all in this instance. Any potential solutions came up empty, even checking Microsoft FORUMS.

  6. Put a picture in Word.
    With Word open, find a picture in computer, right click, look on the menu for Copy and left click it, go to Word, right click on the Word page, see Paste options and left click paste.

  7. That is what you normally do. BUT, That did NOT work at all in this instance. Even deleting Office and re-installing did not work.
    The issue, as it turns out, was when I converted win 7 to win 10, it didn’t convert Office 2016, and left remnants in the registry. (It Corrupted the Registry)
    1st level support from Microsoft failed to correct the issue. 2nd level Tech support spent at least 10 minutes purging the registry ( they knew where to look) and cleaning it of every instance of any part of Office. After that Office was re-installed, and inserting a picture worked as it should.

    I included some detail as to how it was rectified, to show you that not every instance is clear and easy to fix. I have over 30 years experience in IT, and I’ve taken the Word Advanced course, many times as Word/Office kept changing. Normal stuff I would figure out on my own, and don’t need Microsoft to fix things. This was NOt normal as it took MS 2nd level support to figure it out.

  8. I am pleased that a ‘fix’ solved the problem.
    As we know, many programs leave dregs in the registry and I have 40 years computer & IT experience.

    The best cleaner of all, better than CCleaner which has problems, AdWcleaner has problems since it was tied into MalWareBytes which has problems.
    Privazer free, always free and one $5 small donation provides automatic updates on a regular basis, I have been using Privazer for many years and it is faultless.

    I use Iobit or Geek Pro Uninstall tools to trace and log every programI download.

  9. I use or have used all the programs you suggested!! And I agree with your comments! I use Privazer always. AdWcleaner used to be the best, but its not as good any more. I try to use stand alone apps, as each one does something well, and catches something the other app doesn’t. Then run them periodically. Don’t want apps to run in the background. Slows things down too much.
    Haven’t tried Iobit or Geek Pro, but will look into them now.

    And I no longer use Microsoft Office. I use WPS Office and it does what I need it to do. After installing & checking all the Office substitutes, it came up as the best. I just didn’t like the idea of renting Office 365 for $80 CDN per year.
    Thanks!!

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