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August 25, 2019 1 min read

You can spend thousands of dollars on components when building a PC, but it won’t boot without an operating system (OS). Though Linux is a viable option, most people prefer Windows because it runs all of their favorite software, including the latest games. Fortunately, you can get Windows 10 for free or cheap, if you know where to look.

Getting hold of the Windows installer is as easy as visiting Whether you've paid for it or not, Microsoft allows anyone to download a Windows 10 ISO file and burn it to a DVD, or create installation media on a USB drive for free. Once that's done, you can boot from your installation media and load Windows 10 onto your PC. During the installation process, Microsoft asks for an activation key. You can skip it, but eventually, Windows will start alerting you that your install isn't activated.

There are many ways to get a Windows 10 activation / product key, and they range in price from totally free to $399 (£339, $340 AU) depending on which flavor of Windows 10 you're after. You can of course buy a key from Microsoft online, but there are other websites selling Windows 10 keys for less. There’s also the option of downloading Windows 10 without a key and never activating the OS. But are you missing out on anything important if you don’t activate Windows 10? And does your carefully crafted rig face any risks?

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