Locating Your Windows 10 Product Key

Every legitimate copy of Windows 10, whether a hard copy on disk, a downloaded copy or a pre-installed copy on a new computer, has a unique product key which is used to activate the software.

There are a variety of reasons why you might need your Windows 10 product key, a unique 15-digit code that will only work with one copy of the OS, but whatever the reason, here are the various ways to find it quickly and easily.

Product Key or Digital License?

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. 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. Without one of these, you won’t be able to activate your device.

On a new PC running Windows 10

If you have bought a new desktop or laptop which has Windows 10 pre-installed, the OS will already be activated. The product key will be included with the PC packaging (often a sticker on the inner box), or with a laptop will be on a Certificate of Authenticity (COA) sticker stuck to the underside of the hardware.

In a boxed copy of Windows 10

The product key will be on a label or card inside the box that Windows came in. This is the same for all versions of Windows 10 (Home, Pro, etc). If you cannot find the label or card inside a sealed copy of Windows 10, you should immediately contact the retailer that sold you the software.

With a digital copy bought online

Normally, your product key will be sent to you in an email accompanying your online purchase. In some cases, for added security, the online retailer will send you details to access a secure online storage locker to retrieve your product key. If you do not receive your key when buying Windows 10 online from a authorised distributor, contact them immediately.

A digital copy directly from Microsoft

The product key is in the confirmation email you received after buying your digital copy of Windows. Microsoft only keeps a record of product keys if you purchased from the Microsoft online store. You can find out if you purchased from Microsoft in your Microsoft account Order history.

Free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1

If you took advantage of the free upgrade offer when Windows 10 was first released, you will not have a product key for the OS. Instead, the free version will have registered a digital license when it was first installed.

windows 10 activation

Checking Activation Status

Checking if your copy of Windows 10 is activated is easy. To check activation status in Windows 10, select the Start button, and then select Settings > Update & Security and then select Activation. Your activation status will be listed next to Activation (see below).

Activation Statuses: 

  • Windows is activated
  • Windows is activated with a digital license
  • Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account
  • Windows is not activated

Russ Ware

Russ has been testing, reviewing and writing guides for tech since the heady days of Windows 95 and the Sega Saturn. A self-confessed (and proud) geek about all things tech, if it has LED's, a screen, beeps or has source code, Russ will want to master it (and very likely take it apart to see how it works...)

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