Activation in Windows 10

Activation helps verify that your copy of Windows is genuine and hasn’t been used on more devices than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. Depending on how you got your copy of Windows 10, activation will use either a digital entitlement or a 25-character product key.

Digital entitlement is a new method of activation in Windows 10 that doesn't require you to enter a product key.

Note

  • Starting with the November update, Windows 10 (Version 1511) can be activated using some Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 product keys. For more info, see the section Activating Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher) using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key in this topic.

How you got Windows 10
Activation method

You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

Digital entitlement

You bought genuine Windows 10 from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.

Digital entitlement

You bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.

Digital entitlement

You’re a Windows Insider and upgraded to the newest Windows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device that was running an activated previous version of Windows and Windows 10 Preview.

Digital entitlement

You upgraded to Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher) and activated it using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key.

Digital entitlement

(A digital entitlement will be given to your device for Windows 10 based on the valid product key you entered)

You bought a copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.

Product key

(On a label inside the Windows 10 box)

You bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.

Product key

(In the confirmation email you received after buying Windows 10 or in a digital locker accessible through the retailer’s website)

You have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription

Product key

(Available through the web portal for your program)

You bought a new device running Windows 10.

Product key

(Pre–installed on your device, included with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device)

For more detailed info, see the section about activating Windows 10 that applies to you.

Show all

Activating Windows 10 after the free upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1

If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, Windows 10 will automatically be activated online and create a digital entitlement for your device.

If your current version of Windows isn’t activated, you’ll need to enter a product key to activate it before you can upgrade to Windows 10.

To check activation status for your current version of Windows:

  • In Windows 7, select the Start Picture of the Start button button, right-click Computer, and then select Properties. Your activation status is under Windows activation.
  • In Windows 8.1, go to Control Panel, then select System and Security > System. Your activation status is under Windows activation.

After you complete the free upgrade to Windows 10, it will be automatically activated online. To check activation status in Windows 10, select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation. If Windows 10 isn’t activated on your device, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors for more info.

For info about upgrade requirements, system requirements, and feature availability, see the Windows 10 specifications page.

Activating Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher) using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key

During the free upgrade, you can use a valid Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key to activate Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher). The following types of product keys are supported:

  • Product keys included in the packaging or the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to your PC that came installed with Windows.

  • Product keys included in the confirmation email you received after buying Windows from an online retailer.

  • Product keys included in the box the Windows DVD came in.

  • Product keys you bought using Windows Anytime Upgrade or Get Genuine Windows.

  • If you bought a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack product key, you can use it to activate Windows 10 Pro.

Note

  • Some Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1product keys can't be used to activate Windows 10, such as product keys for volume licensing, including Generic Volume Licensing Keys (GVLK) and Multiple Activation Keys (MAK), and Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise.

To see if your device is running Windows 10 Version 1511 or higher, select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > System > About, and make sure that Version shows 1511 or higher.

To use your Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key to activate Windows 10:

  1. Select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation.
  2. Select Change product key, and then enter the 25-character product key.

After Windows 10 is activated, a digital entitlement will be given to your device based on the product key you entered. This means that you’ll no longer need to enter a product key to activate Windows 10 on this device.

On some devices that came pre-installed with Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, the product key is provisioned in the device firmware. On these devices the product key will be verified during setup, and then the appropriate edition of Windows 10 will be installed.

Activating after reinstalling Windows 10

How you activate Windows 10 after reinstalling it depends on how Windows 10 was originally installed on your device.

If you activated a free upgrade to Windows 10 or bought and activated Windows 10 from the Windows Store, you have a digital entitlement for your device. This means you can reinstall the same edition of Windows 10 that your device has a digital entitlement for without entering a product key. During reinstallation, if you’re asked to enter a product key, select Skip. Windows 10 will automatically activate online after the installation is complete.

If you previously installed and activated Windows 10 using a product key, you’ll need to enter the product key during reinstallation.

Notes

  • Before you reinstall Windows 10 make sure that your current version of Windows is activated. Select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation. If Windows 10 isn’t activated on your device, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors for more info.
  • For more info about how to create installation media for Windows 10, go to the Microsoft software download website. When creating installation media, make sure to choose the edition of Windows 10 that matches the edition that’s already installed on your device.

Activating Windows 10 when installing it for the first time

You’ll need to use a valid product key to activate Windows 10 on a device that has never had an activated copy of Windows 10 on it.

You’ll also need to use a valid product key if you're installing an edition of Windows 10 that wasn’t previously activated on the device. For example, you'll need a valid product key to install and activate Windows 10 Pro on a device that had Windows 10 Home installed on it.

During the installation, you’ll be asked to enter a valid product key. After the installation is complete, Windows 10 will automatically be activated online. To check activation status in Windows 10, select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation. If Windows 10 isn’t activated on your device, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors for more info.

Note

  • You can also use a using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key to activate Windows 10 Version 1511 or higher. For more info, see the section Activating Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher) using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key in this topic.

Activating a new device running Windows 10

If you bought a new device running Windows 10, it will automatically activate when you connect your device to the Internet. If the activation servers are busy, you might need to wait a while for Windows to activate.

To check activation status, select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation.

Note

  • In some cases, you might need to enter the Windows 10 product key that came with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device.

Activating the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview

If you’re a Windows Insider and have been running Windows 10 Insider Preview builds, you’ll automatically receive new builds that have been activated, so long as Windows was activated on your device before upgrading to the new build.

To check activation status in Windows 10, select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & security > Activation. If Windows 10 isn’t activated on your device, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors for more info.
If you want to get the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview build, but your device is running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1, you first need to upgrade to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer. After your device is upgraded to Windows 10, select the Start Start button icon button, then select Settings > Update & Security > Advanced options and then select the Get Insider Builds check box to become part of the Windows Insider Program.

Notes

  • If you’re reinstalling Windows 10 Insider Preview, automatic activation occurs by digital entitlement if the same edition of Windows 10 or Windows 10 Insider Preview (builds newer than 10240) was already activated on the device. For more info, see the section Activating after reinstalling Windows 10 in this topic.

Activating Windows 10 after a hardware configuration change

If you upgraded to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer and then made significant hardware changes to your device, such as replacing the motherboard, Windows 10 might no longer be activated. For help on how to activate your device, contact customer support.