TMCnet Feature
January 22, 2021

Do cheap, OEM Windows 10 keys work?



Most of us would prefer to pay less for an OS. However, no one would decide to pay less or even nothing for an OS that doesn’t work, works just for a moment, or comes with many technical issues. That’s why there are so many questions out there about whether a cheap Windows 10 key has a right to work. And so we answer.



OEM license – what it is and how does it work?

So you were shopping online and came across this amazingly cheap offer for a Windows 10 key, whether that’s on eBay (News - Alert) or other online shopping platforms. It’s almost too good to be true. Why is it that cheap and is it possible that it actually works?

Many of those very cheap offers you can see online will be a version called an OEM. That acronym stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. What does it mean? To put it simply, manufacturers want you to be able to use your laptop or a desktop the moment you walk out of the store with it, or it’s delivered to your house. It makes things easier for you, it makes the product more attractive, and it’s just overall better, and most people never buy the OS separately, unless they want to use a different OS from the one installed by default.

Now, the vast majority of the OEM versions end up being installed on devices put up for sale, but some of them can be found online, sold as license keys. It’s nothing uncommon, and a good option for someone who already has a device, but without any system installed, or they would simply like to build their own computer from scratch.

OEM or retail Windows 10 key?

The suggested retail price for Windows 10 Home is around $139, while Windows 10 Pro product key will usually cost you $199. Meanwhile, prices for the OEM keys circle around $25 for Home edition, and $35 for the Pro one. Many would say that if something is that cheap, it can’t be real or it’s simply illegal. But the truth is, as long as those Windows 10 product keys come from a legal source, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing them, and the most that could happen is a lack of support when some technical difficulties on your way, and that, apart from the huge difference in pricing, is where OEM keys and retail keys differ the most. What does that mean?

When it comes to actual use of the operating system, you couldn’t really between OEM or retail versions. They both are fully functioning versions of the Windows 10 system, with all the functions and features that you would expect it to have. They can also both be updated. However, if you come across some problems and need Microsoft’s (News - Alert) support, you won’t be able to get it and here is why.

If you decide on purchasing the OEM copy of a Windows 10 key, you take on yourself the role of the manufacturer. If any technical issues come your way, you can’t reach out to Microsoft’s support team and simply ask for advice, no matter what the issue is. It can be issues with activation, problems with hardware compatibility and many more. After contacting Microsoft, you most probably will be told to contact the device’s manufacturer, and because you bought and installed a OEM copy of Windows 10 licence key, you took on the role of the manufacturer yourself. That can be too much for some people, and if you think it would be too much for you and you would need Microsoft’s support, it’s better if you choose retail.

Another thing is that if you think you’ll want to use your Windows 10 key on many different devices (but not at once), you should also consider paying a bit more, and going for the retail copy. That is because the OEM version will allow you to install it only on one device and nothing can be done about it. This version gets tied up with the hardware you used to first activate it, and it won’t work with any other. This means that yes, it’s cheaper, but it’s not reusable, the way the retail version is.

To buy, or not to buy?

As with many things, it depends. If you’re worried about the legitness of the key and its origin, the OEM option doesn’t have to be out of the question, however, you’ll need to be careful with what you’re doing and who you are purchasing the license from. That being said, as long as the key was obtained in a legal way, and the seller isn’t violating nor the law, nor Microsoft’s policy, there is nothing illegal in you purchasing it. You can find many websites offering OEM copies of Windows 10 activation keys, with legitimate sellers, but still, always watch out for scammers or just straight up thieves.

Not only while shopping for a cheap Windows 10 key, but for anything in general, always carefully read the description, check the seller’s ratings and reviews, maybe ask around about them on forums or Facebook (News - Alert) groups, and only after you know what and who you’re dealing with, make a decision about spending your money. Another thing you need to take into consideration, is the aforementioned technical support, or lack thereof. If you’re comfortable with resolving any potential technical issues yourself, go ahead and purchase that OEM key.



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