How to Get Windows 10 for Free or Cheap
A new Windows 10 license can cost a pretty dime unless you know how to get a good deal. If you still have an old Windows 7 license or can find a used one, you could try to upgrade to Windows 10 for free . But let us show you all your legal options to get Windows 10 for free or cheap.
How Much Does a Windows 10 License Cost?
Before we talk discounts, let’s talk about MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price).
In its early days, you could get Windows 10 for free, if you upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1. This helped Windows 10 gain a significant market share. While Microsoft officially retired this option, it still works. For now.
Today, if you pay the full retail price, the basic Windows 10 Home license will cost you $139, plus tax. And should you later need to upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Pro, you have to pay an additional $99, meaning it would have been cheaper to buy a Pro license, to begin with.
But what can you do if you need Windows (maybe you want to remove the “activate Windows 10” watermark ) and don’t want to pay that much? Happily, you can still get cheap copies of Windows 10. Here are your options.
How to Get a Free or Cheap Windows 10 License
1. Get a Discount From Microsoft
If you are a student, parent of a student, a faculty member, or a US military member, Microsoft will give you a 10% discount on select Microsoft Store products. Unfortunately, you can’t get the discount on Windows 10 license keys anymore, but the devices included in the offer come with Windows preinstalled.
Note that your school must be listed in Microsoft’s database or you need to call Microsoft to verify your eligibility.
If you’re a student or faculty member, you might want to hold off on this offer, because our next option might be a much better deal for you.
2. Get Windows 10 Free or Cheap Through OnTheHub
OnTheHub largely replaces Microsoft Azure for Education (formerly known as Imagine Premium and DreamSpark Premium). This new service provides students with free software, including Windows 10 Education. Faculty members have to pay a small fee.
Visit OnTheHub, choose whether you’re a student or faculty member, then enter your country, state/province, and school to find out which software you have access to. If your school has its own web store, you might need to obtain separate login credentials.
Not all schools are part of this program, nor do they all offer a free Windows 10 Education license. If you’re out of luck, try one of the other options below.
3. Download Windows 10 From a Genuine Windows 7/8/8.1 PC
When the free Windows 10 upgrade expired, we reported that Microsoft had left a backdoor. Windows 7 and 8.1 users using assistive technologies, like the magnifier, narrator, or closed captions found in the Ease of Access menu, could still upgrade to Windows 10 for free. Meanwhile, Microsoft has removed this option.
But there’s another loophole that’s still working: Use a PC with a genuinely licensed and activated copy of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 to download Windows 10.
When you run the Windows 10 Media Creation tool, you can either create installation media for another PC or—if you’re running it on the machine you want to upgrade already—select upgrade this PC now.
ZDNet writes that Windows will not ask you for the actual product key.
4. Find Deep Discount Deals for Windows 10 Product Keys
Microsoft will charge you an arm and a leg for a Windows 10 license. But many retailers can offer cheaper Windows 10 product keys. Amazon and Newegg frequently sell the full edition of Windows 10—albeit the Original Equipment Manufacturer version—for as little as $85.
That’s not bad, but you can get even better deals. On Kinguin, you can currently get a Windows 10 Professional OEM key for as little as $31.66.
Note that in many cases, you’ll only pay for the key and you won’t receive the actual installation files on a storage drive. When that’s the case, you can either purchase a repair/recovery drive or download the respective Windows version from Microsoft and create Windows 10 installation media yourself.
5. Negotiate Windows 10 Volume Licensing
Microsoft doesn’t sell Windows to large organizations the same way it sells to individuals. Instead, it uses “volume licensing” which involves bulk distribution of Enterprise Edition keys for a set price that’s often much lower than a normal installation. You can buy copies under a volume deal for organizations as small as 5 computers, but you have to call into Microsoft’s volume licensing center to get the deal. Use the Microsoft License Advisor tool to generate a quote without calling the hotline.
Microsoft’s low minimum organization size means most small businesses qualify. Microsoft also offers deals for governments, charities, and non-profits. It’s entirely possible, in fact, that your employer already has a volume license deal. Check with the IT department to see if they offer discounts on Windows and other Microsoft programs to employees.
6. Download Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation
Microsoft offers free evaluation copies of Windows Enterprise for businesses seeking to switch to Windows or upgrade older machines. All you need to get is a free evaluation license for Windows 10 Enterprise and a Microsoft account.
The catch? Each license is only valid for 90 days. When the evaluation period expires, your computer will begin to shut down automatically every hour. This isn’t a long-term solution, but it’s a good option if you’re saving money to buy the full version or only need Windows for a few months.
7. Buy Used Windows Keys or Computers
You can find deals on used keys in the usual places like Craigslist or eBay but proceed with caution. Many cut-rate keys are actually from volume licensing deals and re-sold illegally. People with access to these free or low-cost sources for Windows keys flip them for profit.
That’s against the license agreement. Microsoft does not aggressively patrol its licenses, but buying a key from an illegal reseller means you run the risk of having your Windows installation deactivated without notice.
If you do buy from an individual, and you want to stay legit, carefully evaluate your purchase. A sealed, boxed copy is your best bet because it guarantees the key hasn’t already been used. Product key cards are also legitimate, but there’s no way to verify the key hasn’t already been used. Only buy those from a business or person you trust.
Note that repair drives or disks, like the one shown above, don’t come with a Windows license.
The Last Resort: Don’t Activate Windows 10
If all else fails, try this: Download Windows 10 from Microsoft, install it on the desired computer, and just don’t activate it.
It’s completely free, buys you some time until you can afford to buy a Windows 10 license, and the downsides are negligible.
You’ll have to live with an “Activate Windows” watermark on your desktop, you won’t be able to personalize Windows 10 with custom background or themes, and you won’t receive support from Microsoft. That’s a small price to pay for a free Windows 10 license.
Tom’s Hardware reports that some people have used this method for years without Microsoft cracking down on them. This means they’ve received security updates and were able to use all other Windows features, except for personalization options.
Buy Your Windows 10 License With Care
When you desire a genuine and fully activated Windows license, the only way to significantly lower the price is if you qualify for a specific plan or discount. For most people, the least expensive option will be a Windows 10 product key from an online retailer.
Alternatively, you could try to transfer an old Windows 7 or 8.1 installation to your current machine, then upgrade to Windows 10 for free as described above.
Note that the same won’t work for Windows 10, meaning you can’t transfer the installation. Your Windows 10 license is tied to the actual hardware , rather than to a product key.