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, you’ll need either a 25-character product key or a digital license to activate it. Without one of these, you won’t be able to activate your device. The product key or digital license can’t be substituted for one another. To find out which one your device uses, see What activation method do I use, a digital license or a product key? in the list below.
- A digital license (called a digital entitlement in Windows 10, Version 1511) is a method of activation in Windows 10 that doesn’t require you to enter a product key. If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an activated copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you should have a digital license instead of a product key.
- A Windows product key is a 25-character code used to activate Windows. It looks like this:
PRODUCT KEY: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX
During installation, you’ll be prompted to enter a product key. If you have a digital license, select the option to continue without entering a product key. More info in Notes below.
- Microsoft doesn’t keep a record of purchased product software keys. Digital licenses are tied directly to your Microsoft account.
- For help finding your product key, see Find your Windows product key.
- Digital licenses are connected to your Microsoft account, so there’s nothing you need to find on your PC. You’re all set once your PC is connected to the internet and you log in to your Microsoft account. See What activation method do I need? below to determine if your genuine copy of Windows 10 is activated with a digital license.
- If you don’t have a product key or digital license, you can purchase a Windows 10 license after installation finishes. Select the Start button > Settings > Update & Security > Activation . Then select Go to Store to go to the Microsoft Store, where you can purchase a Windows 10 license.