Microsoft charges $ 200 for a Windows 10 Professional product key. But with a quick online search, you can find websites that promise Windows 10 Pro keys for $ 12 or even less. That's a huge savings – but do not fall for it.
Why are they so cheap?
Websites selling cheap Windows 1
Other keys might have been bought with stolen credit card numbers. A criminal acquires some credit card numbers, purchases a number of Windows keys online, and sells them through third-party websites at a discounted price. If the credit cards are reported as stolen and the chargebacks occur, Microsoft disables the keys and these Windows installations stop working – but the criminal gets away with the money people have paid for them.
Some keys may be educational but fraudulent for students. Other keys may be "volume license" keys, which should not be sold separately.
On really sketchy websites, you may buy a completely wrong key or key that was used to steal Windows on several Microsoft blocked systems. A particularly bad website could even steal the credit card number that you use to buy the key and restart the credit card fraud game.
But do they work?
Okay, okay, so these buttons are sketchy. But you ask yourself: are you working?
Well, maybe. They often work … for a while.
We once bought a Windows 7 key for about $ 15 from one of these sites. We put it in a virtual machine and it worked for about a year. After that, Windows started saying that we could be "victims of software piracy." Our windows license was no longer "real".
In other words, sometime this year, the key we bought was labeled as bad Microsoft. It was probably bought with a stolen credit card number and was eventually blacklisted on Microsoft's servers. So it stopped working and we had to buy a new key.
This is just an anecdote, but it is our experience. Your key may never work first, it may work for a month, or it may never be blacklisted. It all depends on where the key originally came from and you will never know where it was.
These keys are not legitimate
These keys are simply not legitimate. The purchase may help criminals steal credit card numbers. Or reward people who abuse programs, help students, and promote the shutdown of these programs.
We all know that there is no way to legitimately obtain a Windows 12 product key. It's just not possible. Even if you're lucky and your new key works forever, buying these keys is unethical.
Be suspicious wherever you see a cheap key
The keys we are talking about are often found on key marketplaces like G2A (G2deal), Kinguin and many other smaller sites. These sites also sell gray market video game keys that are also of questionable origin and can be revoked in the future. Polygon, a gaming website, has studied the problem with the game keys for the gray market.
However, this problem might occur on many websites. Websites like Amazon.com, eBay and Craigslist are user marketplaces, and it is often possible for sellers with Windows 10 or Windows 7 product keys to find much too cheap on these websites.
You Can Easier After Having a Dispute Buying a Shady Key from Amazon.com, But Just Because You Buy Someone's 40 Euro Windows 10 Product Key on Amazon Does Not Means It's Legitimate. Amazon is a huge market and it has a problem with counterfeiters. Amazon may not want to help you if your key works for a year before it is revoked.
RELATED: I was cheated on Amazon by a counterfeiter. Here's How You Can Avoid Them
How to Get Windows 10 for Free
Okay, let's assume you need a Windows 10 license and the cheap keys are Everything you can afford. Here's what we recommend: Do not buy Windows 10.
We are serious. You can install and use Windows 10 without a product key. It will show you a watermark and tease you a little, but you can use it without ever paying anything or providing a product key.
This is a good solution for installing Windows in an occasional virtual machine for testing software. It's also a good stopgap if you've just built a PC and can not afford a full Windows 10 retail license.
We Mean: You Do not Buy Windows Better Than Buy It Through One of These Websites
If you're ready to buy Windows 10, you can pay for it directly from the Windows 10 Store or by upgrading purchase a legitimate product key and enter it into the Windows 10 app settings.
You do not need a product key to install and use Windows 10
How To Save On Windows 10 Keys
You can still Real money will save Windows licenses too! For example, we just searched and Newegg is selling legitimate OEM Windows 10 Professional licenses directly from Microsoft for $ 150 compared to the $ 200 Microsoft Store retail price. That's far from $ 12, but authorized stores that sell genuine, legitimate licenses often undercut Microsoft's prices, so you'll find legitimate savings if you look around.
Better yet, if you have an old Windows 7 or Windows 8 key, Windows 10 can still install with this old key. Microsoft will give your PC a free "digital license" of Windows 10. Microsoft is smart and continues the free upgrade offer of Windows 10 with this method.
And assuming that you already have a Windows 10 license, you can now use the Windows 10 app to help move it between different PCs. So, if you switch to a new PC, you may be able to take your current license with you.
You may also be eligible for a program that will give you a cheaper key. For example, students may be eligible for cheaper (or free) Windows 10 product keys through their universities.
RELATED: You can get Windows 10 for free with a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 key
What about OEM copies of Windows?
When you purchase Windows keys, you see both "Full Version" or "Retail" licenses as well as "System Builder" or "OEM" licenses. Many of the legitimate keys sold in online stores like Newegg and Amazon are "OEM" or "System Builder" keys that lock up on a single PC. Retail or "full-version" licenses are usually a little more expensive.
Unfortunately, Microsoft's obscure licensing regulations seem to ban the use of OEM licenses on their own personal computers. OEM licenses should only be used when you sell the PC, do not use it yourself. However, Microsoft has changed its license back and forth over the years, and its messaging was very confused.
Many average freaks who build their own PCs continue to buy OEM copies of Windows for them, and we do not blame them. Microsoft has never tried to stop it, even though the OEM license prohibits it technically. In fact, Microsoft continues to sell OEM licenses to people who build their own personal computers through businesses like Newegg, without much warning about licensing issues.
CONNECTED: What is the difference between the "System Builder" and "Full Version" editions of Windows?