How to Get Windows 10 for Free or Cheap

Tina Sieber Updated 28-02-2020

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 You Can Still Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free! Here's How Microsoft has ended support for Windows 7, but you can still bag a free upgrade to Windows 10. Read on to find out how! Read More . 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.

Windows 10 Licenses from Microsoft Store

But what can you do if you need Windows (maybe you want to remove the “activate Windows 10” watermark How to Remove the Activate Windows 10 Watermark Wondering how to remove the "activate Windows 10" watermark? We show both ways to activate Windows and workarounds to remove this. Read More ) 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.

Microsoft Student Deals

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.

OnTheHub free software for students.

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.

Download Windows 10 Media Creation Tool Upgrade Now Create Installation Media

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.

Great deal on Windows 10 Professional OEM Key at Kinguin

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 How to Create Windows 10 Installation Media Regardless of how you arrived at Windows 10, there's a way to create your own installation media. Sooner or later you might need it. Let us show you how to be prepared. Read More 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 License Advisor

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.

Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation download

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.

Windows 10 License Ebay

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 Everything You Should Know About Windows Product Keys 25 characters govern your Windows system. Your product key is worth $100 or more, whether or not you upgraded to Windows 10. We explain what you can and can't do with your Windows license. Read More , rather than to a product key.

Related topics: Buying Tips, Legal Issues, Software Licenses, Windows 10, Windows Tips.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Robin
    March 14, 2020 at 3:12 am

    Kinguin is a lousy place to shop. There are mandatory "contributions" and processing fees added to each order. Plus, I ordered two copies of Windows 10 Pro and both copies had the same activation key.

  2. Anonymous
    July 22, 2016 at 2:00 am

    Recently i got a Office 2016 Product Key from a page. The key is working properly and it's genuine. Shared to you:

  3. Anonymous
    August 8, 2015 at 7:58 am

    This website is a scam. Sells product keys that can be found freely on the internet. They activate but are not genuine. Microsoft has blocked the codes. The product does not update.
    They do not respond to emails and refuse to refund.
    Do not use.

  4. vfvfvf
    March 17, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    I just have trial forever ( i don't use fake and stupid softwares)
    bcs i know way to be "free", so if you want to have free windows 8.1 just find way
    -Softwares "activators" are infected i just know and it's no legally

  5. Stephen Rakonza
    March 14, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I really want to share this. The best place to buy inexpensive Windows 8.1 Pro is
    I know people feel suspicious about posts like this, but this place delivers!

  6. Zarah
    February 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Awesome Nathan
    you are really the great and real comparing person.

  7. sone
    February 19, 2015 at 12:46 am

    don't make me install osx

  8. jacysmile
    February 5, 2015 at 3:55 am

    To activate is amazingly simple, you can install by just follow the steps, I already started to use it, it is perfect. You can have it by just search for @@@windows8key online ^^^from google.

  9. Nathan
    December 29, 2014 at 8:26 am

    First of all, for those suggesting Linux, I think Linux is great and all, but it can be a real pain to work with often. You've ever had a driver problem in Linux vs. Windows? Seriously, the difference is quite obvious. Unless you're a total Linux nerd, which, sorry, hate to break it to you, not everyone will be, the pain of Linux drivers (particularly for graphics cards for gamers) is alone worth full retail for a copy of Windows. And don't tell me that those problems are ancient history.

    Second of all, as far as cheap copies of Windows, there are quite a few deep discounts around the internet that are sold by legitimate retailers. As far as reselling keys, prohibitions of resale for items where the license is fully transferred are notoriously difficult to enforce. If you have a copy of Windows that is entirely yours to use wherever and whenever, then any prohibition on resale in any ToS is likely null and void in any legal dispute, unless it was conspicuously shown to you (i.e., not in that stupid long agreement no one reads before clicking next). This is different if you received a key from an organization (like school or enterprise keys), but then the key isn't yours, it's the institution's key. The injured party in that case isn't Microsoft, but the institution whose key was illegally resold.

  10. Emily Dicson
    December 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Microsoft product all product genuine license, But a student like me cannot buy it at all, So I thought to buy a license for my notebook, Where installed windows 8.1 professional. I searched at Google and at the first page, I found a site with the name "ODosta Store"
    I bought a license at very cheat price, Activate and use. Now its working from 6 months without any issue.

  11. John Williams
    November 8, 2014 at 12:31 am

    It's still a bargain in the long run. I mean I really, really got my money's worth with XP!
    I think we're all getting lulled by silly 99 pence "apps" to do little bits of things and play games. Many people spend lots of money on games, mega graphics cards, powerful i7 machines and many Gb of RAM.
    Windows runs "programs", monumental tomes of code like Adobe CS5 which also cost big bucks. The real world runs on Windows, things like traffic lights and power stations and the stock exchange. If you only want the internet for Facetube all you need is Linux and Firefox or a Chromebook. Yet many people own a Mac Powerbook to do that.
    If you want to run proper programs, the latest games or just run country sized control systems then pay MS its due. It really is a small fraction of the cost of all the other stuff you buy and you will hammer Windows 24 - 7 - 365. At the end of the day it's actually more important than your fridge!

    • Jack Dores
      November 10, 2014 at 8:44 pm

      What a load of codswallop. Linux is on the up & up

    • Jack Dores
      November 10, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      P.S. I suppose I could live without a fridge. I can definitely live without windows.

    • Tiffany
      December 9, 2014 at 3:01 am

      whats facetube?

    • HappySpaceInvader
      February 9, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      "The real world runs on Windows, things like traffic lights and power stations and the stock exchange. "

      THE Stock Exchange? There are hundreds across the world. But here are two examples that spring to mind:

      The London Stock Exchange's Windows-based system was a famously unmitigated disaster and a custard pie in the face to Accenture and Microsoft who boasted about its supposed reliability. After 2 years of numerous unplanned outages and maintenance downtime, it was replaced by a Linux-based system.

      The New York Stock Exchange, has run on Red Hat Linux since 2007. Prior to that, it ran on Sun Solaris... before that, IBM AIX and before that, HP UX and before that, Mainframes. It has never run on Windows.

      So I ask you to name a single Stock Exchange that is powered by Windows, please.

    • HappySpaceInvader
      February 9, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      The problem with Windows is to do with its simplistic origins. It was invented as a standalone fancy typewriter and spreadsheet machine, nothing more. In essence, it was invented for secretaries and accountants. It had little to no networking capability, no concept of multiple programs running at once (multi-tasking), no concept of multiple user accounts and many using the same computer simultaneously. The other problem is the way in which the graphical UI is so tightly bound to the operating system. There is no way to run Windows in a "headless" configuration like you can with a Unix or Linux system. Even if you could, the Windows command line is incredibly primitive and cannot perform all administrative tasks. The networking, multi-user, multi-tasking you see in Windows today was bolted on as an afterthought.

      By contrast, Unix was invented from day one as a network-based, multi-user, multi-tasking operating system. Consequently, Unix had been tackling the fundamental security problems associated with many people sharing the same resources years before Windows was even born.

      On a Unix System, there isn't a single task you cannot accomplish from the command line. In fact, it's the opposite to Windows, in that some of the most advanced tasks can ONLY be carried out at the command line. Why is this an advantage? Well, in the business world, you might be carrying out maintenance on a system the other side of the World, over a relatively poor link. A command-line interface that only has to send ascii characters back and forth is orders of magnitude more efficient than one where you have to send graphical artifacts.

      No wonder then, that Unix is actually the platform of choice for industry.

    • Nozgo
      February 17, 2015 at 6:17 pm

      As an IT worker and PC builder of 30+ years I have witnessed the amazing growth of an industry. I have no idea why people still try and hold onto Linux/unix/Osx. I currently work for one of the largest Data Storage companies in the world. While 75% of what we manage is built on Linux/Unix OS, 95%+ of these systems are managed with Windows boxes.

    • Robert Hardy
      June 2, 2018 at 11:44 am

      A huge number of very substantial and highly professional systems run on Linex distributions or on Linux derived operating systems, including all of the World's 500 fastest supercomputers. Windows is great for consumer level use, it's ubiquity, and user familiarity ensure it's popularity in systems with non specialist users as it keeps training costs low and so higher costs elsewhere are balanced out.

  12. HenryCrun
    November 4, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Go Linux!!

  13. likefunbutnot
    October 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Overall, I think Windows pricing would be completely within the bounds of sanity at about half the price that it normally commands. It's actually fairly typical for me to deploy new business machines with a higher portion of their value found in software licenses than hardware.

    I also think that the majority of home PC users, given Linux configured for their hardware and access to a modern web browser, probably wouldn't give a second thought to what OS they may or may not be using as long as they could get to Facebook and Youtube.

    I do understand the pricing for the business versions of Windows. Getting remote desktop and simple server-based management tools really are worth substantially more than just being able to play games. I'd like those features to be cheaper as well, but it's the cost the market will bear.

  14. Tim
    October 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I thought windows wasn't even worth considering anymore because the Apple software was so magical?

    • Tiffany
      December 9, 2014 at 3:00 am

      well ya but if you bought a computer say, 4 or 5 years ago and dont want to buy a new one, upgrading is the only solution

  15. Richard
    October 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Always check eBay! I got 2 8.1 pro licenses for $25 each.

    • Hawkeye
      March 5, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Too expensive mate.
      I got 5 W8.1Pro licenses for US$25 total (yep, that's 5 bucks each) from China

  16. Dave Parrack
    October 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    OS X is more expensive than Windows because you have to buy a Mac to begin with. No wonder Apple can afford to give their latest updates away for free when they're forcing consumers to pay through the nose for hardware.

    • Steven Employs
      November 16, 2014 at 6:51 am

      It's free.

    • Watson S
      December 22, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      Exactly, you pay $500 or more extra for identical hardware to a PC. Hardly a free OS.

    • Charlie
      February 3, 2015 at 3:05 am

      You don't have to buy a mac to use OSX. You can install it on most intel based PCs. I believe they are called Hackintoshs. Installing OSX is pretty similar to installing windows on an Hackintosh just without the requirement of of adding a product key. But I do concede for the non technical folk it does seem like the only way to use OSX is to buy a mac.

    • HappySpaceInvader
      February 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Apple is a hardware vendor, first and foremost, and they don't force anyone to buy their products. OS X is written specifically to work on that hardware, the advantage being that it's very easy to guarantee a certain level of quality. If you want easy, frustration free home computing, then Macs are an attractive choice, but what you sacrifice is the ability to upgrade or tinker with the hardware - if you're that kind of hobbyist, a Mac is completely the wrong thing to buy. Think of it more like buying a PlayStation or Xbox. You switch it on, and it just works, but to get the latest hardware has to offer, you're going to have to buy another complete computer. Console yourself with the fact that the resale value of Macs is very high... after as much as 5 years, you can still get around 40-50% of the original price back on eBay.

      Microsoft are a software vendor first and foremost - they certainly don't manufacture desktop PCs. Windows is expensive because it's one of Microsoft's primary revenue streams, and the effort involved in trying to get a decent level of quality across almost infinite possible combinations of hardware is enormous. The fact that Microsoft get Windows to work as well as it does is little short of miraculous. The advantage with PCs is that you can tinker around with the hardware to your heart's content... if you're the sort of person who likes to keep up to date with the very latest graphics cards, sound cards, upgrade Bluetooth modules, SSD Drives etc., then a PC is the better choice. However, resale value is almost non-existent.

    • HappySpaceInvader
      February 9, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Also worth noting, if you're a small business, you can lease an Apple Mac for a monthly fee, and they will replace your machine every two years with the latest model. The monthly fee is equivalent to the total cost of the machine split over 24 months, with 0% interest. As a freelance software developer, this is how I afford the top of the range models, as I can charge the cost to my private company, tax free.

    • Ted
      March 14, 2015 at 1:45 am

      So true, I've studied Macs vs PC for years. 3 years ago I bought a Toshiba laptop with great 4 core processor, 4 gigs, win 7, dvd lots of great stuff, still use it everyday cost about $520 shipped from Amazon. I used to travel everywhere too, It has been to over a dozen counties. Similar Mac laptop in specs was about $1500! This is typical, tablets (android) and desktops are the same way. You pay 2-3 times as much for Apple products but Apple Sheep buy them!! I've had pretty much zero problems on my windows based PCs in YEARS and ditto for other non -Apple electronics. My family of 5 has saved about $7000 by NOT buying Apple. We have 4 desktops, 3 laptops, 3 smartphones, 4 tablets....and we spent less than HALF if we bought Apple products. They all work excellent. I don't mind paying for windows if needed. Heck I could buy one of the latest super slim PC laptops AND buy a $200 full support package for a top of line PC laptop and still pay $600 less than MAC laptop. People who continue to buy Apple are simply crazy or out of touch or really don't mind wasting hundreds if not thousands of dollars! I have TONS of free cloud storage, free software, etc... I pay donations for the software I like. Why do people buy apple again??? Funny, is I'm a long time Unix and Linux Sysadmin, I love Apple under the hood ,but they should cost at least 1/2. Funny thing, but my daugter a $288 Ipod touch 32G 3 years ago and it has been TONS of trouble from her getting locked out, and tacking FOREVER to fix it. To hundreds of dollars in HIDDEN in app purchases, that were impossible to fight, had to lock Itunes account. Luckily years later Apple was about to lost, or lost Class action lawsuit on Itunes in-app purchase scams, and offered refunds! I'll stick with Windows/Linux/Android thank you....with TONS of well designed and HUNDREDS of options of hardware and software.