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I installed Windows 8 a couple of days ago, and now it has started asking me to activate and is redirecting me straight to the Activation tab in Settings.

How long does the activation period last and what will happen after it runs out?

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If you have a product key or obtain it anytime later, say through an MSDN subscription card, you can enter the product key and activate your Windows. – Mamta D Oct 30 '12 at 11:21
See my answer to a similar question, where I explore the limitations of an unactivated copy of Windows 8 – DzinX Nov 2 '12 at 22:39

Actually there is no activation period, microsoft nuked it.

Microsoft has ditched the 30-day grace period, a trademark of Windows 7, in the retail copies of Windows 8, mandating that users provide a product key during setup.

After installing, you must go online and activate your PC, you had 30 days before, not now.

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That would mean you can't install Windows without an Internet connection. Having a key is not equal to activating. I would assume that until you connect to the Internet, you don't have to activate Windows 8. – DzinX Oct 30 '12 at 11:37
@DzinX - Windows 8 will not install without a valid product key, and if you are unable to activate the product key, you are locked out of your system. I don't understand the point of your comment, Windows 8 no longer has a grace period, only Windows 8 Enterprise has a 90 day trial at this time. – Ramhound Oct 30 '12 at 11:47
I'm not saying you don't need a key, I'm saying you don't need to activate that key during installation (because you might not have an Internet connection). I mean, you have to enter it, but the installer might not be able validate it with Microsoft servers (a process called activation). – DzinX Oct 30 '12 at 11:49
@DzinX: But you can activate it through phone. IIRC. – Shiki Nov 2 '12 at 20:53
@Shiki: sure you can, you just don't have to. – DzinX Nov 2 '12 at 20:58

Windows 8 Core/Pro won't install without a key (I believe only Enterprise and Pro VL will), since with the retail version/MSDN ISOs at least there will be a single disc and the key will determine whether Core or Pro is to be installed. It will also attempt to activate immediately upon completion of setup. I am not sure what exactly will happen on disconnected PCs though at this point.

In the Enterprise/Pro VL versions at least an activation reminder message will be displayed at rapidly decreasing intervals (after 24 hours, then 8, 4, 2 etc.) Again unknown at this point what exactly happens when the countdown timer runs out. (This info. is courtesy testing detailed here).

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No. If you create an ei.cfg then even the retail version can be installed without a key. – Locutus Dec 14 '12 at 5:46

Windows 8 says "Not Activated" right from the start; nothing else happens. There is no penalty apart from the watermark and the activation screen popping up now and then. Even the watermark will disappear if you enter the default GVLK key used for KMS clients.

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