Whether you’ve just upgraded to Windows 10 or you’ve had it for a while, you might be wondering what happens if you don’t activate the operating system. After all, Microsoft has been pretty clear that activation is required in order to enjoy all of the features that Windows 10 has to offer. Here’s everything you need to know about activating Windows 10, including what happens if you don’t do it.
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The Consequences of Not Activating Windows 10
If you choose not to activate Windows 10, you’ll still be able to use it, but your experience will be significantly less enjoyable. For starters, you’ll see a watermark in the bottom-right corner of your screen that says, “Activate Windows. Go to settings to activate Windows.” Clicking on that message will take you to the Activation page in Settings, where you can enter a valid product key or attempt to activate it over the Internet.
Aside from the watermark, you’ll also be bothered by regular popup messages asking you to activate your copy of Windows 10. These messages will appear every four hours, and they’ll become progressively harder to dismiss over time.
In addition, your personalization options will be limited until you activate Windows 10. You won’t be able to change your desktop background or lock screen picture, for example, and certain other personalization settings will be disabled as well. And if you have multiple monitors connected to your PC, only your primary display will show an image. The others will just show a black screen.
You’ll also miss out on helpful security features like Microsoft’s SmartScreen filter, which helps protect you from phishing attacks and malicious websites. If you try to download a program that SmartScreen believes is unsafe, you’ll see a warning message letting you know that the app has been blocked for your protection. However, with SmartScreen turned off, those warnings won’t appear, and you could end up inadvertently downloading malware onto your PC.
Finally, if you use assistive technologies like a magnifier tool or a high contrast theme aimed at making text easier to read, those features will continue working for the first 30 days after the installation without requiring activation. After that point, though, they’ll be disabled until activation occurs.
How to Activate Windows 10?
Thankfully, activating Windows 10 isn’t terribly difficult or time-consuming. In most cases, it can be done right from within the operating system’s Settings app without having to jump through any hoops. Just open up Settings and go to Update & Security > Activation. You should see one of two things here: either “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account” or “Windows is activated with a product key.”
If it says the latter—or if there’s no mention of activation at all—just click on “Go To Store” and purchase a digital license for Windows 10 directly from Microsoft. This will set things right and get rid of that pesky watermark once and for all.
In the end
If you’re running an unactivated copy of Windows 10, sooner or later, you’re going to learn first-hand what happens when Microsoft doesn’t approve of how you’re using its software. It’s not a pleasant experience, so if at all possible, make sure that your copy of Windows 10 is activated before the 30-day grace period expires!