Here are answers to some common questions about activating Windows.

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What is activation?

Activation helps verify that your copy of Windows is genuine and that it has not been used on more computers than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. In this way, activation helps prevent software counterfeiting. With an activated copy of Windows, you’ll be able to use every feature of Windows.

Is activation the same as registration?

No. Activation is required, but registration is not. Activation is the process of ensuring that your copy of Windows is used according to the Microsoft Software License Terms. Registration is the process of entering information (such as your e‑mail address) to sign up for product support, tools and tips, and other product benefits.

Does activation collect information that is used to contact me?

The information collected during activation will not be used to contact you.

Is activation required?

Yes. You have 30 days after installing Windows to activate it online or by telephone. With an activated copy of Windows, you'll be able to use every feature of Windows.

How do I activate Windows?

You can activate either online or by phone. To activate online you need an Internet connection. Activating by phone requires interacting with an automated phone system.

To activate Windows on this computer, do the following:

Open Windows Activation by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, clicking Properties, and then clicking Activate Windows now. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

You can then select the method you want to use to activate.

Note

  • If you chose to automatically activate Windows online when you set up your computer, automatic activation begins trying to activate your copy of Windows three days after you log on for the first time.

How many times can I install Windows on my computer before I have to activate Windows again?

You can reinstall Windows on the same computer as many times as you want because activation pairs the Windows product key with information about your computer hardware. If you make a significant hardware change, you might have to activate Windows again.

Will I ever need to activate my current copy of Windows again?

Maybe. You might have to activate Windows again if:

  • You uninstall Windows on one computer and install it on another. During installation, enter the product key that came with your copy of Windows. If automatic activation fails, follow the instructions that walk you through activating Windows by phone. You will have 30 days to activate your copy of Windows.

  • You make a significant hardware change to your computer, such as upgrading the hard disk and memory at the same time. If a major hardware change requires activating Windows again, you will be notified and will have three days to activate your copy of Windows.

  • You reformat your hard disk. Reformatting erases your activation status. In this case, you’ll have 30 days to activate Windows again.

  • A virus infects your computer and deletes your activation status.

If you have to activate Windows again, you don't need to buy a new product key.

To activate Windows on this computer, do the following:

Open Windows Activation by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, clicking Properties, and then clicking Activate Windows now. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

How do I check my Windows activation status on this computer?

To check your Windows activation status, do the following:

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking System.

  2. Under Windows activation, you can view your activation status. You can also change your product key by clicking Change product key.

How do I get a new Windows product key?

If your Windows product key is not valid, if you don't have a Windows product key, or if you lost the product key that came with your copy of Windows, you'll need to buy a new one to activate Windows. For more information, go to the Microsoft website.

What happens if I don’t activate Windows?

If you don’t activate Windows within 30 days after installation, you will not be able to use every feature of Windows. You can regain full use of your computer by activating Windows.

To activate Windows on this computer, do the following:

Open Windows Activation by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, clicking Properties, and then clicking Activate Windows now. Administrator permission required If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

Where do I find my Windows product key for activation?

You can find your product key on your computer or on the installation disc holder inside the Windows package.

A product key sticker looks similar to this:

Picture of a Windows product key sticker
Windows product key sticker

Go online to see other stickers.