Depending on how you got your copy of Windows 10, activation uses either a digital license or a 25-character product key. Without one of these, activation can't continue, and one can't be substituted for the other.
- 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
- Microsoft doesn't keep a record of purchased product software keys.
- If you’re reinstalling Windows 10, you might not need a Windows product key. See Activation in Windows 10 for more info.
- If you're reinstalling Windows 10 due to a motherboard problem or some other hardware issue, see Reactivating Windows 10 after a hardware change.
- For info about how to tell if your copy of Windows is genuine Microsoft software, see the How to tell page.
- Once you have your product key, see Create installation media for Windows to learn how to create your own installation media using either a USB flash drive or a DVD.
- For more Windows 10 download info, see Download Windows 10.
Where to find your product key depends on how you got your copy of Windows:
- From an authorized retailer. The product key is on a label or card inside the box that Windows came in. For more info, contact your hardware manufacturer.
- A new PC running Windows. The product key is preinstalled on your PC, included with the packaging the PC came in, or included on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the PC. For more info, contact your hardware manufacturer.
- A digital copy from a Microsoft website. The product key is in the confirmation email you received after buying it. Or, it may be distributed as a digital license if you bought Windows 10, in which case it doesn't include a product key. For more info, see Activation in Windows 10 or contact Microsoft Support.
- Free upgrade to Windows 10. If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you should have a digital license instead of a product key. For more info about digital licenses in Windows 10, see Activation in Windows 10 or contact Microsoft Support.