Checking your activation status
You'll first want to find out if your Windows 10 is activated and linked to your Microsoft account.
It is essential that you link your Microsoft account to the Windows 10 license on your device. Linking your Microsoft account with your digital license enables you to reactivate Windows using the Activation troubleshooter whenever you make a significant hardware change.
Methods of activation
Depending on how you got your copy of Windows 10, you'll need either a digital license or a 25-character product key to activate it. Without one of these, you won't be able to activate your device.
- 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.
- A product key is a 25-character code used to activate Windows. What you'll see is PRODUCT KEY: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX.
Activate using a digital license
Digital licenses are associated with your hardware and linked 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.
If you don't have a digital license, you'll use a product key to activate.
Activate using a product key
A product key is a 25-character code, that looks like this:
PRODUCT KEY: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX
During installation, you'll be prompted to enter a product key. Or, after installation, to enter the product key, select the Start button, and then select Update & Security > Activation > Update product key > Change product key.
To locate your product key, see the product key table in Activation methods, What activation method do I use, a digital license or a product key?
If you have a product key, then you can use Change product key to activate Windows 10 in each of the following scenarios. Below is supplemental information that might help you with activation:
- If Windows 10 isn’t activated on your device, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors.
- If you need help finding your product key, see Find your Windows product key.
- If you need help determining if your copy of Windows is genuine Microsoft software, see the How to tell page.
- If you need to activate Microsoft Office, see Download and install or reinstall Office on your PC or Mac.
- If you're curious about Windows updates instead of Windows activation, see Update Windows 10.