When it comes to Windows 10 for your PC should you buy it for full price or at a discount?

Windows 10 Home licenses are available from Microsoft in three forms: Retail, OEM, and Volume license packages. For most individuals, the option that they will use is to buy Windows from a retailer which is licensed to be installed on one PC at a time.

OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) licenses are commonly used by PC makers. The OEM license attaches to the PC it belongs to when the windows key is activated. It is a little more cost friendly than the retail version and can usually be found on Amazon or other online sellers for about $100.00.

Corporations, schools, and large organizations may purchase volume Windows 10 Home licenses in bulk that allow them to use the software license multiple times up to the maximum number of machines allowed in their agreement.

You should have a genuine Microsoft Windows 10 license because you’ll get support and access to the latest feature and security updates.  Our standard custom PCs come with Windows 10 Home preinstalled and a genuine license key either included or as an option to add during checkout.

According to social media comments and posts, it seems to be a popular opinion that $100 is too much to spend on Windows 10 Home because there are $29-$30 Windows 10 license keys available from various online sellers. We did a bit of research on these keys to find out why the price is so low compared to the genuine keys sold through Microsoft and to understand the source of these keys.

From what we could tell there are a few different possible sources that range from genuine keys from other countries (aka – Gray Market keys), invalid/expired keys, completely fake keys, or even possibly volume keys that have made it into the hands of people who want to sell them. All of these are risky options even at the low price. Even if you avoid getting your sensitive information stolen and get a key that works, there is no guarantee that it will continue to work. We found an interesting article on How-To Geek where they describe their experience with a $12 key that stopped working after about a year.

Cheap keys are risky and although we don’t recommend it, if you are going to use them, do your research and try to understand who it is that is taking your money and the source of their keys.

In our opinion, if you are just determined not to spend that $100 on the genuine, valid key, then you are better off to run Windows 10 Home without activating it than you are to buy a cheap key. Without being activated, Windows will still work although some features will be disabled like personalized options such as the color theme, background, taskbar, etc. and you will see an activation watermark and messages urging you to activate windows but some people choose to use Windows this way for years.

So what are your best options?

If you are lucky enough to have a Windows 7 or Windows 8 license, you can use that and upgrade to Windows 10 for no additional cost.

If you don’t have Windows 7 or 8, then our recommendation is just to purchase a PC with a license or purchase a genuine retail license. You’ll encounter less issues and problems and face it; you’ve probably just spent hundreds to thousands of dollars on your new PC – you wouldn’t buy illegitimate parts like suspiciously cheap top of the line CPUs, graphics cards, or RAM so why skimp on Windows 10 Home?

Check out a few helpful and interesting resources that we found about this topic:

Windows Retail vs. OEM on Microsoft Community

Windows without activation from Into Windows

Cheap Windows 10 Keys from How-To Geek

Windows 10 Home from Microsoft