Earlier days Microsoft used to supply product key on the CD / DVD cover that you need to keep it safely. Modern laptops do not even come with a CD / DVD drive and there are very less people purchase Windows 10 in CD / DVD format. In addition, Microsoft has a digital license that does not need aa product key for activation. However, most of us purchase the device from a retailer that comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. In this case, you need to use the product key to activate Windows 10 and get all the features legally. You need the Windows product key in many situations like upgrading or reinstalling Windows on another computer. In this article, we will explain when the product key is valid and how to find Windows product key from your device.
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What is a Product Key?
Windows 10 has product key to identify the originality of the product whether you have a free upgraded version or purchased. The product key contains 25 characters in alphanumeric format. Each five characters are separated by a hyphen that generally appears automatically when you type in the key. Below is the sample product key format:
- It’s a logical product key that validates the operating system you use on your PC or laptop.
- You need a product key to work freely and activate the Windows version you have installed on your PC.
- Remember, it is not possible to activate Windows without a valid product key or a digital license attached to your Microsoft account (MSA).
This product key is a license authorizing you to use Windows operating system for personal or professional or enterprise purposes. You should ensure to buy the correct version of Windows 10 Home, Pro or Enterprise version as per your need.
How to Get a Windows 10 Product Key?
You need to keep the product key handy when trying to activate your Windows version. Finding your product key is an easy task, however it depends on how you have purchased. Below are the various purchasing or activating option for Windows 10 along with the applicable cases where you will get a product key.
|Purchase Method||Product Key or Digital License|
|Purchase Windows 10 from an authorized retailer in a DVD or USB||Product key|
In this case, you can find the product key on the cover of your DVD or USB pasted as a label or printed on some other place on the product box. You might also get a confirmation through email and Microsoft will assign a digital license when you use on your device.
|Buy a PC or laptop pre-installed with Windows 10||Product key|
|Purchased from the Microsoft Store App||Digital license|
|Free Windows 10 upgrade||Digital license|
|Upgrade from Windows Home to Pro from Store App||Digital license|
However, you can still find the product key from the previous version.
Why You Need a Product Key?
Well, there are many reasons you need a valid Windows 10 product key.
- You want to activate your Windows version.
- Want to upgrade the OS.
- Link the key to your Microsoft account.
- Change the product key to different one.
- You have purchased laptop with pre-installed Windows 10 or got a free upgrade and wanted to check your product key.
- For getting authorized support or service, you should provide the key.
Related: Step-by-step Windows 10 tutorials.
How to Check Your Windows 10 is Activated?
As mentioned, you will get a digital license or a product key depending upon your purchase. Follow the below instructions to find how your Windows 10 copy is activated on your computer.
- Press “Win + I” shortcut keys to open Windows Settings app.
- Go to “Update & Security” section.
- Click on “Activation” tab.
- If you have an already activated Windows version, you will see a screen like below mentioning the version was activated with digital license or key.
Changing Product Key
You can change the product key, if you wanted to change the current activation.
- Click on the “Change product key” link to modify the key with different one.
- Windows will validate the key when you enter. If you try to type invalid combination, you will get an error message like below.
Based on the new product key, you can choose the next step like upgrading Windows 10 version.
Finding the Product Key
Since majority of users purchase computers from a retailer with pre-installed Windows 10, it needs a product key for activation. However, many retailers will not supply a product key to the customers. If you wanted to see the 25 digit product key, then follow the below instructions.
- Login to you PC or laptop as an administrator.
- Press “Win + R” keys to open the Run prompt.
- Type cmd and press enter key.
- This will open Command Prompt window.
- Type or paste the below command and press enter.
wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey
- You will get the 25 characters product key in the Command Prompt.
- Copy and use wherever you want.
Note that many retailers will link the product key to your Microsoft account and change it as a digital license. You can still use the above method to find the product key in that case. It also works when you have upgraded from a version using a product key and activated Windows with digital license. However, as mentioned, digitally licensed devices will not have any product key linked. If you use the above command on a device that uses a digital Windows 10 license then you will get an empty result
Linking Product Key to Microsoft Account
If you activated Windows as a local administrator then the product key works independently and you need it whenever you upgrade or change device. However, it is a good idea to link product key to your Microsoft account so that it will be converted as a digital license for Windows activation. This is a good option for frequently installing Windows from your Microsoft account on different devices. Follow the below steps to link your product key to your Microsoft Account.
- When you are in “Activation” section, click on the “Add an account” link under “Add a Microsoft account” section.
- Use your Microsoft username and password to connect your account to the product key.
- Type your Windows admin password and Windows will replace your local admin account with the Microsoft account login.
After linking the product key, Microsoft will attach the details of the device to your account. You should see the activation method as digital license.
Note: Do not get confused with product ID that you can see in the system information section under “Settings > System > About” section. This is NOT your Windows 10 product key.