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It would seem that there should be web resources to quickly find an answer to this question but I couldn't find any, so I'm trying my luck here.

I used the Win10 Media Creation Tool to download Win10 Pro ISO's and set up VM's I use for testing before deploying to bare metal. Once I deploy, I do so with a digital license or product key but it obviously doesn't make any sense activating while in the (temporary) VM.

Now I noticed that my VM still works, and it's been many weeks since I first used it. It's not activated, of course, but I can still log in and install software and so on.

Up until now, I always created a new VM installation from scratch when I needed to do testing. It would naturally save me some time if I could just install it once and then clone when I need a new environment (that will eventually be licensed). I thought that's not possible due to some time restraints so I didn't even try it.

Hence my questions:

  • Is there an official "evaluation period" for Windows 10, and how long is it?
  • How long can one use (from a technical perspective only) a not activated copy of Windows 10?
  • Which limitations are there for a not activated copy and when do they step into effect? I was, for example, not able to confirm that personalization is not possible as seems to have been the case with a not-activated Windows 8. (See comment on answer below.)
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With regards to my second point, it's a duplicate. The other two aspects are not mentioned in the other question. – vic Jan 10 at 17:41
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That is the problem asking multiple questions in one post here so I default to the title of the question. William Seems to have answered them anyway. – Moab Jan 10 at 18:01
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Is there an official "evaluation period" for Windows 10, and how long is it?

The isn't really a proper evaluation period by default on a standard copy, especially since it is free if you have a regular copy and the vast majority of machines compatible are eligible. So, you either have a proper legal copy that is not activated, or, you can download a 90 day trial of Windows Enterprise direct from Microsoft.

How long can one use (from a technical perspective only) a not activated copy of Windows 10?

There is no limitation.

Which limitations are there for a not activated copy and when do they step into effect? I was, for example, not able to confirm that personalization is not possible as seems to have been the case with a not-activated Windows 8.

You get a watermark in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and you can't utilise Microsoft account services such as syncing settings between devices. Other than that, it pretty much works as expected.

Since I changed my motherboard a while ago, I have had an "unlicensed" copy which I haven't been able to reactive. I have to say, other than the watermark, I wouldn't really know that this was the case.

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Hi William, thanks for your reply. I was specifically referring to the Win10 ISO you get with the Media Creation Tool, not the Enterprise demo. Since I'm using it in a VM, I am generally not eligible. Also, I have no watermark in the bottom right hand corner (or anywhere else for that matter) even though my copy is clearly not activated. So, I wonder if it's just a matter of time before that watermark shows or if there is another difference at play here. – vic Jan 10 at 12:46
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@vic yes its just a matter of time. I believe a month is the time period before a non-activated copy will show the watermark. But I have no proof to back it up, only first-hand experience. – LPChip Jan 10 at 12:50
    
OK, I can confirm that now I get the watermark, too. And it is no longer possible to personalize the screen. I didn't check for other limitations but I assume it's, at least, the same as it was for Windows 8. – vic Jan 13 at 13:03
    
If you activated Windows 10 on the host ever your virtual machine more then likely is activated – Ramhound Jan 13 at 13:25
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Afaik if you join the windows insider program and the fast ring these 90 days are renewed with every build you get. As fast ring builds are more frequent than only every 90 days this helps you to stay activated at all times. The downside is that you have to deal with (a lot?) less stable builds. – Syberdoor Jan 13 at 14:32

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