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. You can determine if a product key or digital license applies to your device by viewing the table in the What activation method do I need? section 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.
- 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 Windows Store, where you can purchase a Windows 10 license.
For more detailed information, expand a topic in the list below. If you need to install and activate Microsoft Office, see Download and install or reinstall Office on your PC or Mac.