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How to activate Windows 11 legally for less

The best places to get your Windows keys for a discount, plus how to activate them
Last Updated on April 15, 2024
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If you’ve recently upgraded to Windows 11, or you’re thinking about it, one thing you will need to do is to activate it. Once you activate Windows 11, you’ll get full and unfettered access to everything the OS has to offer. So in this article we’ll tell you all you need to know about your Windows 11 activation key, some potential ways you can do this for less money (perhaps even for free if you’re lucky), and put you in the right direction for offers too.

Why activate Windows 11?

Why not? If you’re wondering why you should activate Windows 11 well the short answer is you get full access to the features it offers and full access to updates. The longer answer is two-fold. While you certainly do get access to features by using your Windows 11 activation key, if you don’t activate you may only get access to critical updates to Windows. So you’ll not only miss out on features in Windows, but you’ll miss out on some new additions too.

When we talk about features being restricted, what we’re really focused on is personalization. So unless you’re happy with a Windows watermark on your desktop, a constant ‘Activate Windows’ notification and no personalization, then activating makes sense. From Microsoft’s perspective, a Windows 11 activation means that the user has a genuine copy and that system can get everything intended for it.

windows 11 activation key

Today’s best Windows 11 activation key deals

The below are our picks for the best Windows 11 activation key deals. So if you need to activate your copy of Windows, check these out so you can get Windows at its best! 

Price is important for getting a Windows 11 activation key – so is trust and user satisfaction. This is also true for a Windows 11 Pro activation key. While there are a lot of sellers available, you’ll want to find a trustworthy seller, providing legitimate activation keys and with customer support too. And we’ve got two options for you: 

Mr Key Shop is a top-rated seller, offering official Windows 11 activation keys and keys for other Microsoft software too. At Mr Key Shop you can get a cheap Windows 11 key, or a Windows 10 activation key. You can also pick up an Office 2021 Key as well as Microsoft Office for Mac with the latest features and tools for productivity. Mr Key Shop also offers licenses for the best antivirus to help your system stay safe, licenses for VPN apps, and for the best backup software too. 

Keycense is the second store we’d suggest checking out for a Windows 11 license key or – saving even more – a Windows 10 Pro key. This trusted seller can also provide you with an Office 2021 product key or cheaper versions like an Office 2016 key, and has its own selection of the best cheap antivirus tools. You can also get licences for some of the best VPN tools, as well as activation keys for games and even gift cards.

windows 11 pro free activation key

Prerequisites for Windows 11 activation

To activate Windows 11 you will need to tick off the following. First, you need to meet the minimum system requirements, which are: 

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster with 2 or more cores on a compatible 64-bit processor or System on a Chip (SoC).
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM.
  • Storage: 64 GB or larger storage device.
  • System firmware: UEFI, Secure Boot capable. Check here for information on how your PC might be able to meet this requirement.
  • TPM: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. Check here for instructions on how your PC might be enabled to meet this requirement.
  • Graphics card: Compatible with DirectX 12 or later with WDDM 2.0 driver.
  • Display Resolution: High definition (720p) display that is greater than 9” diagonally, 8 bits per colour channel.
  • Internet connection: Microsoft account and internet connectivity required for set-up for Windows 11 Home and for Windows 11 Pro for personal use.

Once you are sure your system has these, you simply need a stable Internet connection and a genuine copy of Windows 11 to activate!

how to activate windows 11

How to activate Windows 11 legally for less money – options

We’ve already written about how to download Microsoft Office for less, rather than buying a Microsoft Office 2021 lifetime license or a Microsoft 365 subscription. How can you activate Windows 11 legally for less or even for free?

Get a valid licence from a decommissioned PC

In some circumstances you may be able to use a decommissioned PC’s licence key as your Windows 11 activation key. Should you have an old system you want to move it over from, you will first need to uninstall and deactivate Windows on the older system. However you can only do this if the version is a full retail version – not an ‘OEM’ (original equipment manufacturer’ version that came installed on your PC. 

If it is a retail version of Windows 11, you can activate Windows 11 free on your new PC by first ensuring that in your online Microsoft account you have ‘unlinked’ that device in the ‘Your Devices’ area. 

Get Windows 11 with Windows 11 Education

Only relevant for anyone who is a student or a teaching professional is that it is possible to get Windows 11 ‘free’ with a Windows 11 Education activation license. This license is only available through educational institutions and intended for use with educational activities. If you are not a student or teacher, this is not a legitimate way to get Windows 11 activated. 

Buy a Windows 10 product key to activate Windows 11

Although you can buy a Windows 11 license there is no reason you cannot buy a Windows 10 license and then upgrade to Windows 11 for free. This can be done fairly easily by following Windows’ own Windows Updates prompts – once Windows 10 is installed and activated. 

It does take a little bit more work to get your system up and running on Windows 11, but it is a legitimate way to activate Windows 11. Here’s how you can do it, step-by-step.

An open windows update settings screen showing an invitation to upgrade to Windows 11, with a notification on how to activate Windows 11 legally for less.
An open windows update settings screen showing an invitation to upgrade to Windows 11, with a notification on how to activate Windows 11 legally for less.

How to upgrade to Windows 11

Windows 10 users can upgrade to and activate Windows 11 for free. This Windows 11 activation will then move your system to the newer version of Windows so you can enjoy all its features. Here’s how. 

Check for compatibility

Before you begin, you will need to check for compatibility to ensure that your Windows 11 free activation can go ahead as planned. Many systems can run Windows 11, but the operating system may not be usable for older PCs. The most common issues are:

  1. Supported CPUs
  2. PC supports Secure Boot
  3. TPM 2.0 must be supported and enabled

Check your PC status by going to Start > PC Health Check and selecting the ‘Check now’ button below ‘Introducing Windows 11’. If your system passes the check you can upgrade to Windows 11 for free. 

Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security. You should see that Windows 11 is waiting as an update – if not select ‘check for updates’. It will be installed as an update, and take a little while to set up – including restarts. 

How to activate Windows 11 with the product key

To activate Windows 11 with the activation key, go to Start  > Settings  > Update & Security  > Activation  > Update product key > Change product key. Then just enter the key to activate Windows 11 for free. 

Do not use cmd, activator or batch file to activate Windows 11

You may come across methods of activating Windows 11 using CMD (command prompt), a batch file or other method. These are best avoided, as they can cause irreversible issues further down the line if you don’t know exactly what you are doing. 

More importantly, there’s no need to! Activating Windows 11 for free inside Windows is safe and easy to do. So why would you do anything else?

Aaron's laptop knowledge makes him the go-to guy on PC Guide. But he still finds time for features, deals and much more.