If you want to buy a copy of Windows 10 directly from Microsoft, you pay $119.99 for Home and $199.99 for Pro on Microsoft's Store. If you want to buy a copy of a previous version of Windows, you are out of luck as Microsoft does not offer those for sale anymore.
Retailers like Amazon may offer discounts, and OEM versions on top of that, but you will still spend a considerable sum to grab a license. There you may get copies of previous versions of Windows as well.
While you can pay $100 or more for a Windows 7 Pro product key, or a bit less if you pick a system builder edition instead, you'd still pay quite a bit of money for the operating system itself.
If you point your web browser to the online marketplace eBay however, you may notice that you can grab product keys for less than $20.
Offers make the following claims usually:
I decided to make a couple of test purchases to verify the claims. First of all, the purchase experience itself was excellent for all purchases that I made (1 Windows 10 Pro, 1 Windows 8 Pro, 1 Windows 7 Pro, 1 Windows 10 Enterprise).
Most keys were sent to me less than an hour after I made the payment, one arrived less than 2 minutes after I hit the payment button.
You get the product key only in these purchases. Depending on jurisdiction, merchants state explicitly that they don't sell operating system licenses but only product keys.
Most merchants provide you with links to Microsoft servers where the operating system can be downloaded from.
The product keys activated just fine -- I have not tried Enterprise yet -- and the operating systems ran fine for the past couple of weeks without any issues.
Activation worked locally without having to contact Microsoft activation support to get the key to activate.
While that is the case, there is no way of confirming right now if the OS will remain activated over the course of the next ten years or so. There is a bit of risk involved, as you cannot verify the source of the license.
A couple of observations:
It is important to verify the seller on the marketplace before making purchases. While that is no guarantee that the keys won't be revoked at a later point in time, it makes it less likely however that this will be the case.
There is some risk involved in purchasing product keys on eBay and other marketplaces, as you may end up with a deactivated key after a period of time.
You get the product key on the cheap on the other hand, and get keys for operating systems that Microsoft does not sell anymore, or does not sell to non-business customers.
Now You: Would you buy a product key no eBay (or have you)?
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