If you’ve recently changed your PC’s hardware, there’s a good chance there is now a watermark in the bottom-right corner of your screen saying you need to activate Windows. While it doesn’t impact your PC’s performance or prevent you from doing anything you would normally do with your PC, it is annoying. Fortunately, there is a way to remove the activation watermark permanently from your machine.
What Is Windows Activation?
Microsoft Product Activation is a DRM (digital right management) technology. Essentially, product activation acts somewhat like a “certificate of authenticity.” This works by transmitting data to Microsoft about your PC’s hardware configuration, essentially binding a copy of software to a specific computer. In this case, the software in question is the Windows 10 operating system; however, Microsoft uses product activation in a variety of products, such as its Office suite. The idea behind this is to prevent software piracy, but critics contend that product activation does little to stop this.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with product activation affects PC builders. A change in hardware necessitates reactivation. Because product activation effectively marries software to particular hardware, any change in that hardware could invalidate a license. This is problematic for users who upgrade their computer’s components, as any change in processor, motherboard or hard drive can cause the deactivation of Windows 10.
Buy a New Windows Key
The easiest way to get rid of the Activate Windows 10 watermark is to simply buy a new activation key. The Microsoft Store sells digital keys that will activate your copy of Windows straight away. That being said, the price tag may make your eyes water. The standard Home version of Windows 10 will run you $139. If you want to go Professional, you’ll have to fork over $200. That being said, you could always opt for a cheap OEM key. Just be aware that using an OEM key in a PC you built yourself violates Microsoft’s End User Agreement.
Edit the Registry
Removal of the activation watermark can be achieved by making an edit to the Windows Registry. The Windows Registry contains information and settings related to various programs and hardware installed on the Windows Operating System. As a result, you can do some damage here, so remember to back it up first before making any changes. Also, make sure you follow these directions exactly. Failure to do so can break your system.
To open the Windows Registry, place your cursor in the Search bar on the Windows 10 taskbar. Alternatively, press Win + R to open a Run dialog box. Type
regedit and press the Enter key. In most cases, a “User Account Control” box will appear and ask you if you want to allow the Registry Editor app to make changes on your PC. Click “Yes” to continue.
With the Registry Editor window open, go to the following location:
On the right pane, find the “Start” entry and double-click it.
A new window will open that will allow you to edit the DWORD value. In the field labeled “Value data,” enter “4” and click “OK.” Close the Registry Editor and reboot your PC. When your PC starts back up, the activation watermark will be gone.
Downsides to Removing the Watermark
Removing the watermark does not activate your copy of Windows. As of this writing there are a few minor downsides to running Windows 10 without activating. Most of these are cosmetic, such as not being able to apply custom wallpaper (though that can be bypassed with this technique). Additionally, you may receive periodic notifications reminding you to activate.
Aside from that, Windows 10 functions the same whether it is activated or not. This includes receiving updates and security patches. That being said, Microsoft can change this on a whim. Microsoft could choose to limit the functionality of non-activated copies of Windows 10 at any time.
Knowing that you can use Windows for free without activating it, do you plan on activating Windows 10 in the future? Let us know in the comments!