Expert Guide: What Happens If You Don’t Activate Windows 10

Since its initial launch, the Windows operating system has been prone to piracy, similar to other software products. To curb piracy breaches, Windows introduced the Windows activation security feature, which required you to enter a licensed activation key to continue using genuine Windows. Some users might think about what happens if they don’t activate Windows 10 since their license keys are too expensive for everyone to afford.

What happens if you don't activate Windows 10 on your PC/laptop?

Our article focuses on this question and others revolving around it. Head over to the next section to learn more about it.

What Happens if You Don’t activate Windows 10?

Being the most popular operating system on the Internet, using pirated versions of Windows had increased a lot, due to which its market sales decreased. It introduced an activation key feature to prevent itself from being pirated online.

Prompt screen to enter Windows product key
  • The activation key feature was introduced in Windows Vista and XP and has continued to the recent versions of Windows.
  • Soon after you finish the installation of the Microsoft products, the operating system’s installation window asks for a license key (or an activation key)
  • The product key (or license key) is a unique combination of 25 numbers or letters from the alphabet. Its purpose was to activate Windows, register it with the Windows servers, and mark your computer as genuine.
  • After entering a proper combination, you access tons of Windows features and personalization options.

The activation feature and the consequences of not activating Windows have changed over the years for different Windows versions, the details of which are given below:

Popup screen showing Windows license will expire soon if not activated
  • In Windows Vista and XP, if you failed to activate the product after the given trial period of 30 days, your Windows copy would be crippled.
  • If you didn’t purchase Windows, all the functionings of Windows would stop, and you won’t be able to get past the Windows not activated screen.
  • Such crippling was done to dissuade pirates from cracking Windows. But even after such efforts, Windows remained the most extensive pirated operating system owing to the application of cracked license keys.
  • According to a survey conducted by Microsoft in Asia, 92 percent of computers were running pirated versions of Windows, and there was no sale of genuine software.
  • Microsoft concluded that they would harvest significant profit if they let users run cracked versions of Windows (or unactivated Windows) on their computers rather than stopping service since Microsoft can still make money from unlicensed copies of Windows OS as running the product largely depended on Windows services.
  • Therefore, from Windows 10, Microsoft has been lenient towards users who don’t activate Windows or use cracked software. They even made users of pirated Windows 7/8/8.1 eligible for updating to a genuine copy of Windows 10 free of cost.

If you are not a die-hard fan of personalization choices offered to your operating system, nothing much happens if you don’t activate Windows 10 on your PC. Here are the restrictions and problems you will face if you don’t activate Windows 10:

  • A pesky watermark indicating that “Your Windows is not activated” is at the bottom right corner of your desktop.
  • Windows will remind you constantly to activate the genuine Windows product.
  • Personalization settings are disabled in unactivated Windows.

If you are okay with the above issues, you can run Windows without paying for a product activation key. Now let us dive deep into the Windows activation process.

After installing Windows without inserting an activation key, Windows will remind you to activate Windows in 30 days. Let us know more about it.

What Happens If You Don’t Activate Windows 10 After 30 Days?

  • After you freshly install any copy of Windows on your computer without a license key, Microsoft will provide you with a trial of 30 days.
  • Within these 30 days, you will be able to use every Windows features that come through a genuine Windows experience.
  • Even if you install Windows 10 using an unauthorized or unlicensed copy, you will still be able to purchase a product activation key and activate your operating system.
  • You will also be able to get software updates and change the look of the operating system interface during the initial trial period of 30 days.
  • If you don’t activate Windows within 30 days, all your visual and internal modifications will be lost. After removing all of your customized settings, Windows will boot into a fairly generic version.
  • After 30 days, you will start receiving a watermark, and Windows will display irritating messages urging you to activate the Windows software. The personalization setting will be disabled, and you cannot perform necessary software updates.

Not activating Windows after 30 days has minor inconveniences, but the lack of control over your computer’s appearance might make it a little awkward to operate. Moreover, you may ask whether you can get away with it without activating Windows, and the next question answers that.

How Long Can You Use Windows 10 Without Activation?

  • Previously, after the 30-day trial period for Windows editions like XP and Vista expired, the operating system would enter a reduced-functionality mode (RFM for short).
  • You will be unable to play Windows games in this mode, and you will also be unable to use premium features such as Aero Glass, ReadyBoost, and BitLocker.
  • On the other hand, Microsoft has taken a far more permissive stance with Windows 10. There is no time restriction for activating Windows, so you don’t have to worry about losing any essential functions.
  • If you don’t want to activate Windows on your personal computer, you may still use it. If you opt never to activate Windows, nothing will stop you from using it.

Windows can’t entirely prevent piracy. To get around this, they’ll enable illegal individuals to join their user base and then sell additional Microsoft products like Word through them. These methods allow them to profit from unlicensed users even if they refuse to pay for the activation key.

Installing an unlicensed version of Windows on your computer is simple, but activating it without a valid key is far more complicated. Microsoft has done a fantastic job of keeping the activation key from being bypassed and allowing full access to Windows.

Disadvantages Of Not Activating Windows 10

The limits and restrictions of not activating Windows 10 may cause you to reconsider your decision to use the operating system without activation. Since Windows 10 is not a free operating system, Microsoft has locked off several vital functions to the free unactivated edition of the system.

1. Limited Features inside Unactivated Windows 10

Failure of Activation because no valid key found
  • You cannot use the Dark Mode: Windows 10 introduced many new features, including the well-known ‘Dark mode.’ Although Dark mode is not a required option, it may enhance your surfing experience, mainly if you spend a lot of time behind a computer for business or amusement.
  • However, if you don’t activate Windows 10, you will not have access to this essential feature. Windows will only enable you to tweak the brightness of your screen but will not allow you to make system-wide modifications utilizing the Dark mode.

2. Restrictions from Crucial Security Updates and Feature Previews

  • Unlike its predecessors, Windows 10 requires regular obligatory updates. Even though most people find these updates unpleasant, they perform a critical function in keeping hackers and other harmful users at bay.
  • If you have a licensed copy of Windows 10, you’re likely eligible for security upgrades that can help protect your computer from malware and other cyber dangers.
  • As a result, if you’re running an unactivated copy of Windows 10, you may not receive all of these critical updates, leaving you vulnerable to security threats.
  • Windows 10 activation is the best way to keep your PC safe and secure, while third-party antivirus software can still be used as an additional layer of protection.

3. Infrequent Bug patches and Fixes

  • Windows 10 is unquestionably Microsoft’s finest operating system ever. Microsoft’s operating system updates are released automatically to update the OS and work at peak performance levels.
  • Most of the updates and patches are only available to those who have activated Windows 10.
  • Unactivated versions of Windows 10 may not receive bug fixes and updates as regularly as those who have activated their operating systems.
  • If you have issues with Microsoft programs or the entire operating system, this can impact your user experience.

4. Limitation of Personalization Settings

Even though Windows 10 allows users to modify and tweak a wide range of settings, you won’t be able to perform much personalization if you’re running an unactivated OS. When you’re using an unactivated version of Windows 10, you won’t get the option to utilize these customization options.

Windows personalization changes cannot be accessed if you don't activate Windows 10
  • Unchangeable background and wallpaper: When you’re using an unactivated version of Windows 10, you’ll only be able to use the stock wallpapers
  • Unmodifiable system-wide color scheme: Taskbar and App colors cannot be customized in Windows 10 if you have an unactivated copy installed. Instead, Windows will choose a classic hue for the desktop (blue).
  • You cannot modify your Lock Screen: An unactivated copy of Windows 10 won’t let you adjust the lock screen to your liking, so you’ll have to put up with Windows’ automatic lock screen modifications as you can with background photographs or screenshots.
  • You cannot change the default theme: Themes for Windows allow users to customize the look and feel of the Windows interface. With Windows Themes, you can customize the look and feel of your operating system by altering the color scheme, wallpaper, cursor, sound, and more. With an unactivated version of Windows 10, you won’t be able to remove the custom theme from your computer screen.
  • You cannot change the default font: Fonts are the visual representations of your computer’s letters, numbers, and other symbols. You won’t be able to play around with different fonts if you’re running an unactivated version of Windows 10.
  • You cannot configure Start Menu Settings: Through the Start Menu, Windows 10 lets you do multiple tasks, from shutting down your computer to accessing your most commonly used applications. However, if you don’t have Windows 10 activated, you won’t be able to customize the start menu’s minor settings, such as showing suggested programs or the most frequently used apps for quick access.
  • You cannot configure the Taskbar: The taskbar is an essential feature of Windows 10 and has been the most adaptable taskbar since Microsoft released the first operating system in 1991. You can access the start menu, save apps, search your computer, and open them all from the taskbar at the bottom of your screen. If you don’t activate Windows 10, you cannot use taskbar customization options like hiding the taskbar or reducing icon sizes.

5. Persistent Activate Windows Watermark

Activate Windows Watermark visible everytime

If you do not activate your Windows 10 once the trial expires, Windows will display a semi-transparent watermark at the bottom of the screen.

  • The watermark’s goal is to remind you to activate your Windows to fully access all of Microsoft’s services. Not only does the watermark take up a reasonable amount of space towards the bottom-right corner, but it is always visible on top of other applications.

6. Interrupting Popup Reminders to Activate Windows 10

Popup Window that reminds you to activate Windows 10
  • Microsoft will not compel you to use Windows 10 if you do not want to. You will, however, get several potentially inappropriate messages reminding you to activate the operating system.
  • Most people can adapt to this obstacle, but for some, it can be a distraction from your work or ability to concentrate, mainly because you will not have access to Focus assist when running an unactivated Windows 10 installation.