The short answer is yes, the Microsoft Store itself is free to download and use. But accessing all of its features and content requires signing in with a free Microsoft account. Let‘s take a closer look at what you can access in the Microsoft Store at no cost, and what requires payment or an account.
Browsing and Downloading Free Apps
The Microsoft Store app comes pre-installed on Windows 10 and 11 PCs. Once you open it, you can browse and download any free apps without paying or signing in. This allows access to thousands of free productivity tools, games, entertainment apps and more.
According to Microsoft, as of 2022 there are over 900,000 apps available across all device types in the Microsoft Store. The majority are free downloads.
Popular free apps include:
- Microsoft Office (web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote)
- Spotify music streaming
- Skype video chat
- Gmail email
- Pandora music & radio
So if you just want to grab some useful free apps for personal use, the Microsoft Store doesn‘t require any type of account or credit card. Just search and install.
Accessing Paid Content
To download paid apps, games, movies, TV shows and other premium content from the Microsoft Store, you‘ll need to sign in with a Microsoft account.
Creating a Microsoft account is free and just requires an email address. Once signed in, you can add a credit card or other payment method to purchase paid Store content. Pricing ranges from $0.99 for simple apps up to $59.99 or more for advanced software.
Here are some examples of popular paid apps only accessible with a Microsoft account:
- Microsoft 365 subscription (Word, Excel, etc)
- Adobe Photoshop 2022 – $29.99
- AutoCAD mobile – $4.99/month
- Minecraft for Windows 10 – $26.99
You‘ll also need to sign in to redeem gift cards, view your order history, write app reviews and enable cross-device syncing of favorites/preferences. But casual use of free apps in the Store doesn‘t require an account.
Downloading Paid Games and Entertainment Apps
Gaming and entertainment are huge drivers of spending in the Microsoft Store. Top games such as Minecraft, Forza Horizon 5 and Elden Ring cost $59.99 or more to purchase.
Microsoft also offers over 100,000 movies and TV show purchases and rentals via the Store. Movies range from $3.99 to $19.99 to buy, with new release rentals starting at $5.99.
With major Xbox exclusives like Halo and Forza available at launch, plus multiplatform blockbusters like Call of Duty, the Microsoft Store is the go-to source for gaming content on Windows PCs.
According to a 2022 survey by Problem Gambling, around 48% of Microsoft Store transactions are for video games. Gamers spent over $397 million in the Store just in 2021.
Access to new premium game titles requires signing in to the Store with a Microsoft account and valid payment method. Family sharing is available for up to 5 gamers per household.
Microsoft Store vs. Steam for PC Games
|Seamless integration on Windows 10/11
|Must download client to use
|Supports Xbox gaming features
|Larger library of games
|Offers Xbox Game Pass subscription
|More frequent discounts and sales
|All games verified by Microsoft
|Allows access to indie and adult games
|Reliable security and support
|Review system seen as more reliable
For the most seamless PC gaming experience, the Microsoft Store has advantages thanks to deep integration with Windows 10 and 11. But Steam remains the dominant PC gaming platform with more content and features tailored specifically to gamers.
Signing Up for a Free Microsoft Account
To access paid apps, movies, TV shows, games and other premium content in the Microsoft Store, you‘ll need to create a free Microsoft account.
Follow these steps to set up an account on a Windows 10/11 PC:
Open the Microsoft Store app.
Click the "Sign in" button on the upper-right menu bar.
On the next screen, click "Create a Microsoft account" below the Sign in button.
Follow the on-screen steps to set up your account with your email and preferred password.
Once your account is created, you can browse and purchase anything in the Microsoft Store. You‘ll also gain access to Microsoft ecosystem features like OneDrive, Outlook email, and cross-device syncing.
Using the Microsoft Store Without Full Windows 10/11
In most cases, you‘ll access the Microsoft Store via the app pre-installed on Windows 10 or Windows 11 PCs. But Microsoft does offer a few other options:
Microsoft Store online – Shop for apps via the Microsoft Store website from any desktop browser without a Microsoft account. However, you can‘t directly install apps and will need a compatible Windows device.
Microsoft Store on Xbox – Download and shop for apps optimized for Xbox One and Series X/S. Operates similar to the Windows version.
Microsoft Store on Surface Hub – Special Microsoft Store interface designed for Surface Hub interactive whiteboards. Lets you find and deploy business apps suited for enterprise use.
So while the native app provides the smoothest experience, the Microsoft Store does extend its reach to other Microsoft platforms beyond core Windows desktops and laptops.
Should You Use Third-Party App Stores?
When it comes to safely and legally obtaining apps for your Windows device, the Microsoft Store is the recommended source. Apps available in the Store have been thoroughly tested and verified by Microsoft to meet security and quality standards.
However, you may encounter deals on Microsoft Store apps via third-parties like Kinguin, G2A or CDKeys. These key reseller sites let users sell on digital codes from unwanted bundles or purchases. There are risks:
- Codes may have been obtained illegally then resold
- No guarantee codes will work as advertised
- Lack of support if codes are invalid or already used
It‘s best to exercise caution and only obtain Microsoft Store content directly from official sources. Using unauthorized third-party sites has risks and violates Microsoft‘s policies in most cases.
Microsoft Store Provides Safe and Legal App Access
When used properly, the Microsoft Store offers a trusted source for downloading free and paid apps, games, movies, TV shows and other digital content onto your Windows devices.
While no payment or account is required for free apps, accessing paid content does require signing in with a Microsoft account. Overall, the Store provides a seamlessly integrated marketplace for Windows users to enhance their experience with safe and legal digital content.