Activating Windows: frequently asked questions


Here are answers to some common questions about activating Windows.

Show all

How do I activate Windows 7?

For information about how to active Windows 7, see Activate Windows 7 on this computer.

Is activation the same as registration?

No. Activation is required, but registration is not. Activation is the process of ensuring that Windows on your computer 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?

No. 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. When Windows is activated, you'll be able to use every feature of Windows.

If I activated Windows, why is Windows on my computer non-genuine?

Genuine Windows is a recurring process that checks your product key to ensure it's being used with the hardware it was paired with during activation. If the product key is found to be non-genuine, or not valid, it's likely that the product key is either being used on another computer or is counterfeit.

For more information about genuine Windows, go to the genuine Windows website.

Do I need to activate Windows after making a hardware change?

Maybe. When you make a significant hardware change to your computer, such as upgrading the hard disk and memory at the same time, you might be required to activate Windows again. For more information, see Activate Windows 7 on this computer.

Will I ever need to activate Windows on my computer again?

Maybe. You might have to activate Windows again if:

  • 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'll be notified and will have three days to activate Windows.

  • You reinstall Windows. In this case, you’ll have 30 days to activate Windows again.

If you have to activate Windows again on the same computer, you don't need to buy a new product key. For more information, see Activate Windows 7 on this computer.

Can I use my product key on more than one computer?

You can't use the same Windows product key to activate Windows 7 on more computers than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. Usually, the license terms allow the product key to be used on only one computer.

If you use your installation disc or a USB flash drive to install Windows 7 on a second computer, you'll need to buy an additional copy of the same edition of Windows 7 to obtain a new product key. For more information, see Get a new Windows 7 product key.

What do I do if my product key isn't valid?

If you receive an error message saying that your product key is not valid when installing Windows 7, see Windows 7 activation error: invalid product key.

Article ID: MSW700067