What Happens If You Don’t Activate Windows 10: Limitations and Problems

  • Here are the limitations and problems that can arise from using a copy of Windows 10 that’s not activated.
  • Ever wondered what happens if you don’t activate Windows 10 and keep using it?
  • Unlike with previous versions of its OS, Microsoft will not force you to activate Windows 10 and won’t reboot your computer every now and then.
windows 10 not activated message

I still remember the good old days of Windows 98, when I memorized the activation key since I had to reinstall the OS on test benches almost every day. I was really surprised to see that you can skip this step during the Windows 10 install procedure.

I haven’t tried this, but it seems Windows 10 can be used without being activated for a very long period of time. For this purpose, I’ve installed W10 Pro into a virtual machine and will keep updating this article once new limitations are imposed on me.

First Limitations You See When You Use Windows 10 Without Activation

The first and most obvious thing is that when visiting Activation in the Settings app you get a message with an error that says Windows is not activated. Here are more ways to check Windows activation state.

I’m not sure why we see the message that claims your computer is at risk for viruses and security threats since not activated doesn’t necessarily mean cracked or pirated, but I guess it’s more a scare tactic to force people to activate. I did check and the included antivirus was updated to the latest definition, so it was not that.

That doesn’t bother many, I’m sure, but what will surely annoy you is the fact:

1. You can’t personalize Windows, so no wallpaper or color options are available.

2. No other customization-related settings are available: pictured below are the taskbar options, but this extends to Sounds and other options too.

What Happens in Time if You Don’t Activate Windows

3. After a while a watermark saying Activate Windows. Go to Settings to activate Windows. will show up in the lower right corner of your desktop wallpaper. A bit annoying, but it doesn’t happen right away. It didn’t after a week on my test install.

4. From time to time Windows will start sending you notifications that Windows is not activated. Currently, I have no idea how often these are sent, and if they increase in frequency.

5. I’ve also heard others say that after a while some apps and features will stop working. I couldn’t find much confirmation regarding this, so don’t treat it as a fact. I assume they mean the included Windows Store apps, which Microsoft can control.

Those who are annoyed by Windows Update will be “happy” to hear these will still work, so maybe this is a reason to activate, so you can somehow control how updates work.

Update: September 7th, 2021 – all good, updates still work, no new limitations.

Using Windows 10 Without a Licence is Illegal

Don’t treat this article as a tutorial about how to use Windows without a license. Using software without a license, not just Windows is illegal in most countries. You can be prosecuted, may be forced to pay a fine, and can even go to jails, to be fair and pay for the software you use.

Avatar for Ionuț-Alexandru Popa
I'm a writer and Editor-in-Chief at BinaryFork. I am passionate about technology, science, space exploration, and movies. I started writing about tech more than 20 years ago, after graduating in Computer Science.
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