Genuine Windows

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Get answers to common questions about genuine Windows

General questions

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I see messages that Windows might not be genuine. How do I fix this?

If you're seeing notifications that the copy of Windows that is installed on your PC might not be genuine, or that you might be a victim of counterfeit software, it's likely that your copy of Windows was not properly activated or is otherwise not genuine. To fix this, click the notification and follow the steps to either repair Windows or—if you have inadvertently obtained counterfeit software—buy genuine Windows.

Until you correct the issue, you'll receive periodic reminders that Windows is not genuine. In addition, to more clearly display these messages, your desktop might turn black. You can reset it, but every 60 minutes, it will return to black until the issue is resolved.

Regardless of genuine status, Windows will still be able to get critical security updates. However, access to optional updates or benefits available exclusively to genuine Windows customers, such as Microsoft Security Essentials, might be restricted.

How can I tell if Windows is genuine?

Make sure to buy Windows or a PC with Windows preinstalled either directly from Microsoft or from a local or online retail store that you know and trust. Also look for key features of genuine Windows, such as the Certificate of Authenticity (COA), a proof of license label, and an edge-to-edge hologram. For more information, see What to look for.

Can I install my copy of Windows on more than one PC?

You can't install Windows on more computers than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. Usually, the rule to follow is that only one copy of Windows can be installed on one PC. See Activating Windows 7: frequently asked questions and the Microsoft Volume Licensing website for more information.

I ordered a Get Genuine Windows Online Kit but I haven’t received it yet. What should I do?

Try checking your junk mail or spam folders for an order confirmation e‑mail, or contact support.

Finding your product key

Depending on your location and method of payment, your product key can be found in one of the following places:

  • On the Microsoft Order Confirmation page

  • In the e‑mail sent to the address you used to place your order

  • In a link in your e‑mail to an order status page

  • On the packing slip that arrived with your Get Genuine Online Kit

If my computer is running non-genuine Windows can it still receive critical security updates?

Yes. Regardless of genuine status, you'll still be able to get critical security updates. However, if your copy of Windows isn't genuine, you won't be able to install many updates that are exclusively for genuine Windows customers, including Microsoft Security Essentials. Microsoft strongly recommends that you get genuine Microsoft software immediately to help ensure a safer computing experience.

Activation and validation

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What is activation?

Activation pairs your product key with your hardware configuration and helps verify that your copy of Windows hasn't been used on more computers than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. For more information, learn how to install, upgrade, and activate Windows, or see Activating Windows 7: frequently asked questions.

If Windows is not genuine, the validation results page will detail why Windows was not genuine, as well as instruct you how to quickly and easily resolve the issue. No personally identifiable information is collected. For more information on what information is collected and how it is used, see the Genuine Microsoft software privacy statement.

What is validation?

Validation is an online process that lets you verify that your copy of Windows is genuine. Validation is supported for some versions of Windows. Validation might be required for your copy of Windows before you can get downloads and some updates from Microsoft, which are reserved for PCs running genuine Windows. Windows might also prompt you to run genuine validation if activation is not properly completed. All customers can access security updates using Automatic Updates.

If your copy of Windows fails validation, the validation results page will detail why Windows was not genuine, as well as instruct you how to quickly and easily resolve the issue. No personally identifiable information is collected. For details on what information is collected and how it is used, see the Genuine Microsoft software privacy statement.

Currently, online validation is supported by all editions of Windows 7 and Windows Vista as well as the following Windows XP editions: Windows XP Home Edition, Windows XP Professional (excluding Windows XP Professional x64 Edition), Windows XP Starter Edition, and Windows XP Media Center Edition.

What are the most common reasons why Windows might fail validation?

There are a few common scenarios why Windows running on a PC might be discovered to be non-genuine during validation.

  • Repairs. You might start to see messages on your desktop that Windows is not genuine after your PC has been repaired. Validation can fail after a repair because some repairs require reinstallation of Windows and during the process, the shop or person repairing your PC used a product key to activate Windows that was different than the one used to activate Windows when it was originally installed. You might not see notifications that Windows isn’t genuine until after you try to download something from the Microsoft Download Center that requires validation, and validation fails. To get genuine, re-enter your original product key to properly activate Windows.

For other scenarios, you'll likely need to buy additional Windows licenses to get genuine.

  • 1 License = 1 PC. Another common cause of Windows validation failure happens when you try to install Windows on more computers than your license allows. For instance, if you purchased one copy of Windows and installed in on more than one PC, online validation might fail because the product key has already been used on another computer. Normally, the rule to follow for most copies of Windows is that only one copy of Windows can be installed on one PC. Go to the Microsoft Volume Licensing website to learn about what your license allows.

  • Counterfeit software. Validation will also fail if you’ve inadvertently acquired and installed counterfeit Windows. Because counterfeit can be difficult to detect, the Microsoft‌ How to Tell site can help you identify counterfeit software and file a counterfeit software report. Validation failure is also common for counterfeit Windows that was purchased either by itself, perhaps from an online auction site, or even installed on a used PC that was purchased online or in-person. Remember to ask the seller to include the original Windows disc and the Certificate of Authenticity.

Microsoft has special offers to help you get genuine. If validation fails for Windows running on your PC, you can buy genuine Windows directly from the validation results page that appears.

How do I get additional support with activating Windows?

Who to contact for support depends on the way that you purchased Windows:

  • If you bought a new PC with Windows preinstalled, then your PC manufacturer can help you with activation or validation issues for Windows. View a list of contact numbers for manufacturers in your region.

  • If you bought Windows separately, such as from an authorized reseller or from a friend, then use the contact numbers provided during the activation process to get additional support from Microsoft in your local area.

Will the validation process work with non-Microsoft web browsers?

Yes. You can complete the validation process using non-Microsoft web browsers, but you'll validate using the alternate method by running a small executable file. The browser plug-in provides the same Windows validation as the ActiveX controls.

Mozilla Firefox users: Although the instructions for the validation tool executable file say to open or run the file from its current location, Firefox will not present you with either of those options. Instead, save the file to your PC, and then double-click the file to run it. For assistance with technical issues related to browser plugins, see genuine Microsoft software diagnostics.

What is an ActiveX control and why is it needed for validating Windows?

ActiveX controls are components used by Internet Explorer. These controls, or "add-ons," enhance the browsing experience by allowing animation or helping with tasks, such as installing security updates from Microsoft Update or validating genuine Microsoft software. The validation processes for Windows uses an ActiveX control to check the authenticity of your software. The first time you run validation from Windows or request a genuine Windows download from the Microsoft Download Center or Microsoft Update, you'll be asked to install an ActiveX control. The ActiveX controls used by genuine Windows validation are signed by Microsoft Corporation. If you do not see sufficient evidence of the Microsoft signature, you should not download the control. If an ActiveX control does not contain a valid publisher signature, Internet Explorer will prompt you with a security warning and prevent you from downloading it to your PC.

When validation is done for the copy of Windows that is running on your PC, a pairing is made between the product key installed on your PC as well as the hardware configuration on your computer. If you validate Windows again with the same product key, the validation service does a quick check to make sure that the pairing still matches. This is to make sure that Windows or Office is properly activated and not in use on more computers than permitted by the software licensing terms. No personally identifiable information is ever collected by the validation service. Read the genuine Microsoft software privacy statement.

If you have trouble running the ActiveX control, you might use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the Microsoft Download Center or Genuine Microsoft Software webpages to request additional assistance. You might also access the genuine Microsoft software diagnostic page for troubleshooting tools.

Note: ActiveX cannot always be used because some browser security settings and some companies do not allow its use. Because of this, there is an alternate method to validate your software that provides the same functionality as the ActiveX controls. This method involves running a small executable file.

Counterfeit software

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How can I report counterfeit software?

Software counterfeiting harms unsuspecting people, legitimate businesses, and our economy. If you feel that you might have inadvertently received counterfeit software, or if you have information about a person, business, or online site that might be selling counterfeit software, you can file an online report. The report you submit will be treated by Microsoft as confidential. Microsoft devotes substantial time and energy to fighting software counterfeiting, and you can be assured that we will take appropriate action in response to your report.

To file a counterfeit report, visit the Microsoft‌ How to Tell website.

I inadvertently purchased counterfeit Windows. How can I report the person or business that sold it to me?

Counterfeit software harms unsuspecting people, legitimate businesses, and our economy. If you inadvertently purchased counterfeit software, you can help Microsoft address this issue by completing a counterfeit report on the Microsoft‌ How to Tell website. Microsoft is committed to protecting your privacy. To learn more, read the Genuine Microsoft software privacy statement.

What if I receive e‑mail spam offering what appears to be counterfeit Windows?

If you receive a questionable offer for Microsoft software, you can forward it to

Businesses and organizations

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How do I activate Windows for my business or organization?

Most businesses and organizations with a dedicated information technology professional use volume activation to activate Windows within their computing environment. Activation is a simple and required aspect of deployment, which establishes the relationship between the product key and a copy of the software on a device to which the licensing rights are applied. Volume activation is a solution for managing activation in a business or organization's infrastructure for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 and later versions. Volume activation lets IT professionals integrate and manage activation as part of the deployment and regular system management while making the computer-user experience transparent.

You can use any combination of methods to activate PCs, depending on the needs of your organization and network infrastructure, including:

  • A local activation service, called Key Management Service (KMS), in your environment.

  • A Multiple Activation Key (MAK), used to complete activation directly with Microsoft.

The activation methods chosen depend on the needs of the organization and the network infrastructure. For more information about planning a volume activation deployment, see the Volume Activation Planning Guide. Find more information in the Windows Volume Activation Center on TechNet (English only).

  • You need to have a full version of the Windows license before applying the upgrade license.

  • You can receive MAK keys through MSPP/MAPS, MSDN/TechNet subscriptions, and active volume licensing agreements.

  • You can also get their keys (KMS and MAK) at the Windows Volume Activation Center.

How can I help my business or organization get genuine Windows if we have inadvertently purchased counterfeit software?

Even with advanced planning, orchestrated deployment, mature management processes, and best intentions, your business might still discover it's using non-genuine and unlicensed software in your computing environments. Microsoft offers GGWA licensing solutions to address these scenarios and help your business get genuine.

  • Support is available for purchase from either Microsoft or a Microsoft Large Account Reseller (LAR). Contact your licensing representative to find out more.

  • A minimum of five licenses must be purchased.

What if I don’t have enough licenses for my business or organization?

To learn more about genuine Windows for your business or organization and how to get more licenses, see genuine Windows solutions for your business.