How to Get Windows 10 for Free (or Under $30)

How to Get Windows 10 for Free (or Under $30)

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Pointing to ways to get Windows 10 for free — or least cheaper.  (Image credit: Anton Watman/Shutterstock)

You can spend thousands on components for building a PC, but it won’t boot without an operating system (OS). Linux is a viable option, but most prefer Windows because it runs all their favorite software, including the latest games. Obtaining a copy of Windows 11 or 10 for a built-from-scratch computer can be costly – if you don’t know what you’re doing. Microsoft charges consumers a whopping $139 for a Windows 10 (opens in new tab) or 11 Home license (opens in new tab) and $199 for Windows 10 (opens in new tab) or 11 Pro (opens in new tab)

This is profoundly unfair to PC builders, because large OEMs such as Dell and Lenovo likely pay a tiny fraction of that to put Windows on prebuilt systems (though these costs are not made public). Fortunately, there are many ways to get Windows 10 or 11 for free or for as little as $18 (opens in new tab), depending on what flavor of Windows you want, what you already have and what caveats you’re willing to accept. 

 How to Download Windows 10 or 11 For Free 

No matter how or whether you pay for it, you can download Windows 10 (opens in new tab) or download Windows 11 (opens in new tab) for free from And, in fact, you should only download it from Microsoft, as grabbing it from any other site or from a P2P network could give you malware. Microsoft offers a free media creation tool, which grabs the latest code from the Internet and then burns itself to a USB Flash drive or outputs a Windows 10 or Windows 11 ISO file you can write to a drive yourself. 

Windows 11 Media Creation Tool

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Once that’s done, you can boot from your installation media and start the process. During installation, Microsoft asks you to enter a Windows 10 or 11 product key. If you don’t have a key, you can skip past this step by clicking “I don’t have a product key,” but there are drawbacks to using an unactivated copy of Windows, which we’ll talk about below. 

Windows 11 or 10 Setup Asks for a Product Key

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Below, we’ll also show you the different methods for saving money on Windows and compare them. If you need a product key and don’t have one available already from an existing build or copy, you’ll want to check out method 5, which involves using a low-cost key marketplace.

1.  Upgrade from a Prior Windows Version: Free 

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