6 Disadvantages of Not Activating Windows 10

Windows XP, 7, and 8 were easy targets for pirates and merchants of cracked versions, so in a move to curb the rampant piracy of Windows’ operating systems, Microsoft elected to flip the script when launching Windows 10. While users can easily install Windows 10 without the need to activate it immediately, using an unactivated Windows 10 comes with its own limitations. What are some of the disadvantages of not activating Windows 10?

The disadvantages of not activating Windows 10 include having limited access to some basic features and not being able to customize your display. Users of unactivated Windows 10 aren’t eligible for crucial security updates, bug fixes, or patches. You also won’t get to personalize your lock screen.

This article will discuss some of the various disadvantages of not activating Windows 10 and provide a guide on how to activate Windows 10 to make the most of Microsoft’s latest OS. Let’s get started.

Cons of not activating Windows 10

1. Unactivated Windows 10 has limited features

Perhaps the most important reason to activate Windows 10 is to gain access to its premium features. While you can still perform basic functions with a ‘freemium’ Windows 10, you’ll need to contend without several useful features like those listed below. 

You can’t use Dark Mode

windows 10 dark mode
Windows 10 Dark Mode Reduces the Amount Blue Light

Windows 10 came with a host of new features, including the popular ‘Dark mode‘. Although Dark mode isn’t a mandatory setting, it can help improve your browsing experience, especially if you’re the type that spends hours on end behind a PC either for work or entertainment.

However, this useful setting isn’t available to you if you don’t activate Windows 10. Windows will only allow you to modify your screen’s brightness but won’t allow you to make system-wide changes using the Dark mode. 

2. You won’t get crucial security updates

Windows 10 is different from its predecessors in that it requires regular mandatory updates. Although these updates can prove annoying for most users, they play a pivotal role in keeping hackers and malicious users at bay.

Users with a licensed copy of Windows 10 are usually eligible for security updates that help prevent malware, viruses, and a host of other cyber threats from attacking their respective systems.  

However, when using an unactivated copy of Windows 10, you won’t receive all of these critical updates, meaning you might miss out on the latest security updates.

While you can still run third-party antiviruses to supplement your semi-protected OS, activating Windows 10 is the surest way to keep your PC safe and fully protected. 

3. Bug fixes and patches

Windows 10 is undoubtedly Microsoft’s best OS yet. Microsoft tends to release automatic updates to improve the OS to keep the powerhouse OS running as expected.

Unfortunately, only users with activated Windows 10 can benefit from the frequent bug fixes and patches. 

If you’re using an unactivated OS, chances are you won’t receive bug fixes and patches as frequently as users running activated versions of Windows 10 do.

This can affect your user experience, especially if you encounter problems with Microsoft apps or the entire operating system.  

4. Limited personalization settings

windows 10 not activated prohibits changes to personalization

While Windows 10 allows clients to customize and configure a host of settings, you won’t be able to do much in personalization when using an unactivated OS.

Windows 10 is a bit strict on its personalization settings as it only allows users with activated Windows 10 to tweak and modify the display settings. 

Below are some of the personalization settings that you won’t be able to access when using an unactivated Windows 10. 

Background and wallpaper settings

When operating an unactivated Windows 10, you’ll be limited to the default wallpapers that come with Windows.

However, you can easily navigate past this hurdle by selecting your preferred image file and right-clicking on it.

After right-clicking, a drop-down menu with several options will appear. Choose the ‘Set as desktop background’ option to have the image as your background. 

You can’t modify the colors of your applications

When using an unactivated version, Windows 10 won’t allow you to modify the colors of your taskbar, Windows, and several other applications. Instead, Windows will automatically pick a default color (blue).

While most users don’t mind the default color, you’ll need to activate your Windows if you want to switch to a different color.  

You’ll have an impersonal Lock Screen

Similar to the limitation in setting background photos, an unactivated Windows 10 won’t allow you to modify the lock screen to suit your preferences, meaning you’ll have to settle for Windows’ automatic lock screen changes.

However, the good thing is that you can set your preferred lock screen by right-clicking an image and selecting the ‘Set as lock screen’ button. 

You can’t remove the default theme

Windows Themes allows users to modify the Windows interface and alter the general appearance and overall feel. Windows Themes allows you to change your OS’s color, background, cursor, sound, and several features.

However, with an unactivated Windows 10, you won’t have the capacity to remove the custom theme. Only users with activated versions can choose their preferred themes. 

You’ll have default fonts only

Fonts can be described as the appearance of text, numbers, and characters on your PC. Changing from the default font will change how the numbers, text, and characters appear on your Microsoft 10-powered device.

Although not a commonly used feature, you still won’t get to try out different fonts when using an unactivated Windows 10. 

Your Start Menu settings can’t be configured

The start menu is an important feature in Windows 10 that grants you easy access to several applications and features.

It also allows you to perform several functions, from turning off your PC to accessing frequently used applications. 

However, when Windows 10 isn’t activated, you won’t be able to configure the minor settings in the start menu, which means you’ll not be able to view suggestions or view the most used apps for easy access.

To make proper use of the start menu, you’ll need to activate your Windows 10. 

You can’t customize your taskbar

windows 10 not activated stops you from personalizing your taskbar

The taskbar is a vital part of Windows 10 and is the most versatile of all taskbars since Microsoft’s release of the first OS.

On the taskbar (located at the bottom), you can open the start menu, pin applications, search your PC, and open applications. 

If you’re using an unactivated Windows 10, chances are you won’t be able to customize your taskbar, which means you’ll have to forgo taskbar modification features like hiding the taskbar or minimizing icon sizes. 

5. Activate Windows watermark

If you fail to activate your Windows 10 after the trial period expires, Windows will automatically place a semi-transparent watermark on the screen’s bottom part.

The purpose of the watermark is to remind you to activate your Windows to get full access to all of Microsoft’s features. 

For most people, the watermark can be annoying as it takes away from the experience of using your laptop or PC. 

The Activate Windows watermark is perhaps Microsoft’s way to coerce clients into activating their Windows 10.

Not only does the watermark take up a relatively good amount of space towards the bottom-right side, but it’s also impossible to remove regardless of the applications that are running. 

6. You’ll get persistent notifications to activate Windows 10

Microsoft won’t force you to activate Windows 10. However, you’ll receive several potentially annoying notifications reminding you to activate the OS.

While most people can get used to this hurdle, it can interfere with your work or concentration, especially since you won’t have access to Focus assist when running an unactivated Windows 10.

How to activate Windows 10 using a product key

If your free trial has expired and you’re prompted to activate Windows, you can easily do so by completing the following steps. 

1. Go to Settings Page

windows 10 settings app with activate windows link

The first step to activating your Windows 10 is to access the settings page. To get to this page, you can either type settings on the search button towards the left side of the taskbar or press the start menu and click on the Settings button. 

2. Click on the Update and Security Option

select update and security

On the settings page, you’ll spot several options, including: 

  • System.
  • Apps.
  • Devices.
  • Cortana. 
  • Privacy.
  • Ease of access and update.
  • Security, and more.

Clicking on the Update and Security button will allow Windows to redirect you to the update page. 

select activation option in settings

On the page, click on activation. Head over to the right side of the page and click on the Change product key. You’ll then need to key in the licensed product key before pressing next. Once done, click on activate to complete the process. 

What are the consequences of not activating Windows 10?

Windows 10 is Microsoft’s safest and most user-friendly OS release yet. Unlike previous versions that were updated occasionally, Windows 10 is constantly updated, which helps enhance overall security and user experience. 

While it’s true that an unactivated Windows 10 will work just fine, activating the OS will allow you to capitalize on a host of features. 

You’ll get frequent security updates, which can go a long way in improving your security, especially if you’re an avid streamer, downloader, or user of internet services.

Although an unactivated Windows 10 will benefit from basic security updates, the unlicensed systems don’t get updated nearly as much as their activated counterparts. 

Activating Windows 10 allows you to access customization settings and other features like Windows Hello and Focus assist that help to improve your overall experience when browsing or working.

This means you can access your device faster (Windows Hello) and customize it to suit your personal preferences. 

Another benefit of activating Windows 10 is that no new updates will hinder or interfere with how your system operates.

Microsoft has made no secret of its intentions to continuously update and review the OS, meaning they can initiate further limitations if they want free users to switch to the premium versions. 

Activating Windows 10 on your PC or laptop gives you the peace of mind that you’re safe, regardless of whatever updates Microsoft comes up with. 

FAQs About Windows 10 activation

Can I use Windows 10 without activation?

Microsoft allows for the use of Microsoft 10 without activation. However, users will be required to activate the OS once the trial period expires. While failure to activate won’t affect the PC or laptop running, it will limit some features. You can continue to use Windows 10 without activation. 

For how long can I use Windows 10 without a key?

You can use an unactivated Windows 10 for one month after installation without any restrictions. Once the one-month grace period expires, you’ll need to activate the OS with a product key to avoid using Windows 10 with limited features. The Activate Windows watermark will appear immediately after your free trial period concludes. 

What happens when Windows 10 isn’t activated?

If you don’t activate Windows 10, some features will be disabled upon the expiry of the trial period. For instance, you won’t be able to customize your PC or laptop, meaning features like themes, lock screen, colors, fonts, and taskbar will return to their default settings (if you customized them). 
A persistent watermark will also appear towards the bottom of the screen, requesting you to activate the OS. Windows will also send you constant notifications reminding you to activate your Windows 10 to make the most of the OS. 
In addition to limited customization, some features will also be disabled, such as Dark Mode, Focus assist, and Windows Hello. Your updates will also be limited as you won’t receive as many updates as you would when using an activated OS. 

Will activating Windows 10 delete my files?

Activating Windows 10 won’t harm your files, as all your files and stored data will remain safe before and after activating Windows 10. The Windows 10 activation process is fairly simple as you’ll only need to enter the key and complete the process. 
While nothing much will change in terms of files, apps, settings, and software after activating the OS, you’ll gain access to features that were initially inaccessible. 

Is it advisable to use cracked keys?

Although once a popular way to avoid the purchase of genuine Windows versions, the use of cracked keys is both unadvisable and outdated. They’re rarely functional and will, on most occasions, expose clients to the risk of viruses, trojans, and unnecessary ads. 
Most online merchants selling cracked keys request upfront Paypal or Bitcoin payments, claiming to give you unbelievable discounts. On almost all occasions, innocent buyers end up getting scammed when buying cracked keys. Because of this, you’ll want to purchase product keys directly from Microsoft or through authorized dealers. 
You can also use the free Windows 10 version as it only has a few limitations compared to the activated version. 

Can I download Windows 10 and install it without a key?

Microsoft allows users to download Windows 10 directly from the official website. Even better, you can use the OS on a trial basis for one month, and you won’t need an activation key within the first month of using the product. However, you’ll need to use an activation key or other accepted methods to activate Windows 10 once the trial period elapses. 

Is it illegal to install Windows 10 without a license?

Installing Windows 10 without having a license isn’t illegal. What’s illegal, however, is activating Windows 10 through dubious means without using the officially recognized methods. Therefore, in case you opt to activate Windows 10 after the trial period, you’ll want to use methods approved by Microsoft like the KMS key, Microsoft Toolkit, Product key, and KMSpico.  

How can I know my product key?

Finding the Windows product key isn’t as simple as most people think it is. You’ll need to go through several registry scripts before finding your key manually, but you can also use third-party software like ProduKey to know your Windows product key. 
Alternatively, you can retrieve your product key from Microsoft Support or your hardware manufacturer, especially if you purchased a new PC or laptop with preinstalled Windows. However, if you purchased Windows 10 directly from the official Microsoft website, you can find the product key in the confirmation email sent by Microsoft. 

Wrapping up

As we’ve established throughout the article, using an unactivated version of Windows 10 comes with several disadvantages, the top of the list being limited features.

You won’t get access to features like Windows Hello, Focus Assist, and Dark Mode.

The reduced updates mean your device might be at increased risk of viruses, malware, and a host of other online attacks.

While these disadvantages won’t interfere with how your device works, they might take away from the overall user experience you’d otherwise get when using an activated OS.