Activate Windows 10

Applies to: Windows 10

What does this guided walk-through do?

Provides steps to help you activate Windows 10.

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.

How does it work?

We'll begin by asking you questions about the issue you're experiencing. Next, we’ll take you through a series of troubleshooting steps that are specific to your situation.

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.

Check activation status in Settings

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.

Check activation status in Settings


To link your Microsoft account, follow these instructions:

  1. Sign in as an administrator to add your Microsoft account. To confirm you're using an administrator account, select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Accounts  > Your info . Under your name, you’ll see Administrator. If you’re not an administrator, see Create a local user or administrator account.

    Go to your info in Settings
     
  2. Confirm that the administrator account is also your Microsoft account by checking to see if an email address is displayed above Administrator. If an email address is displayed, this is a Microsoft account. If not, you’re logged in with a local account. If you don’t yet have a Microsoft account, see How to create a new Microsoft account.
  3. Once you confirm that you’re an administrator and using your Microsoft account, go back to the Activation page, select Add an account, enter your Microsoft account and password, and then select Sign in

After your Microsoft account has been added, on the Activation page you’ll see Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.

Did this solve your problem?


To link your Microsoft account, follow these instructions:

  1. Sign in as an administrator to add your Microsoft account. To confirm you're using an administrator account, select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Accounts  > Your info . Under your name, you’ll see Administrator. If you’re not an administrator, see Create a local user or administrator account.

    Go to your info in Settings
     
  2. Confirm that the administrator account is also your Microsoft account by checking to see if an email address is displayed above Administrator. If an email address is displayed, this is a Microsoft account. If not, you’re logged in with a local account. If you don’t yet have a Microsoft account, see How to create a new Microsoft account.
  3. Once you confirm that you’re an administrator and using your Microsoft account, go back to the Activation page, select Add an account, enter your Microsoft account and password, and then select Sign in

After your Microsoft account has been added, on the Activation page you’ll see Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.

Did this solve your problem?

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.

Which method of activation do you have?

A product key is a 25-character code used to activate Windows. What you'll see is PRODUCT KEY: XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX.

Look for your product key:

  • On a label inside the Windows 10 box.
  • Preinstalled on your device, included with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device.From the manufacturer (not Microsoft) that sold you your PC.
  • In a confirmation email you received after buying Windows 10 or in a digital locker accessible through the retailer’s website.
  • Available through the web portal for your program if you bought Windows 10 through a Volume Licensing agreement or MSDN subscription.
  • In a confirmation email that contains an order history.
  • From the company (not Microsoft) that sold you a refurbished PC.

For more information, see Find your Windows product key.

Did you find your product key?

You have a digital license if you:

  • Bought genuine Windows 10 from the Microsoft Store app.
  • Upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
  • Bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Microsoft Store app and successfully activated Windows 10.
  • Are a Windows Insider and upgraded to the newest Windows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device that was running an activated earlier version of Windows and Windows 10 Preview.

You have a product key if you:

  • Bought a PC and it came with Windows 10.  You can find your product key either on the device packaging or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to your device. To remove the gray coating that conceals the product key, gently scratch it off using a coin or your fingernail.
  • Bought a box copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.
  • Bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer
  • Have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription
  • Bought a new or refurbished device running Windows 10
  • Bought Windows 10 from the Microsoft Store online.

Do you have a digital license or product key?

If you made a significant hardware change to your device, such as replacing the motherboard, Windows might no longer be activated. Try using the Activation troubleshooter to help reactivate Windows 10.

To use the Activation troubleshooter:

  1. Sign in as an administrator. For more info, see Create a local user or administrator account in Windows 10

  2. Select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Update & Security  > Activation  > Troubleshoot . The troubleshooter will show Windows can’t be activated on your device.

    Open Activation settings

  3. Select I changed hardware on this device recently, then select Next.

  4. Enter your connected Microsoft account and password, then select Sign in. The troubleshooter will only work with the connected Microsoft account.

  5. From the list of devices that are linked to your Microsoft account, select the check box next to This is the device I’m using right now. 

  6. Select Activate.

If you don’t see the device you’re using in the list of results, make sure that you signed in using the same Microsoft account you associated with the Windows 10 digital license on your device.

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

In most cases, Windows 10 automatically activates online after a little while. To make sure, check the status.

Open Activation settings

If your Microsoft account is still not linked, follow these instructions:

  1. Sign in as an administrator to add your Microsoft account. To confirm you're using an administrator account, select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Accounts  > Your info . Under your name, you’ll see Administrator. If you’re not an administrator, see Create a local user or administrator account.

    Go to your info in Settings
     
  2. Confirm that the administrator account is also your Microsoft account by checking to see if an email address is displayed above Administrator. If an email address is displayed, this is a Microsoft account. If not, you’re logged in with a local account. If you don’t yet have a Microsoft account, see How to create a new Microsoft account.
  3. Once you confirm that you’re an administrator and using your Microsoft account, go back to the Activation page, select Add an account, enter your Microsoft account and password, and then select Sign in

After your Microsoft account has been added, on the Activation page you’ll see Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

If you are using a digital license linked to a Microsoft account, you can run setup and skip the product key option by selecting I don’t have a product key. When you sign in with your Microsoft account and connect to the internet, you will eventually be activated. Because it may take a little time, check back later. 

If you're still not activated, try using the Activation troubleshooter to help reactivate Windows 10.

To use the Activation troubleshooter:

  1. Sign in as an administrator. For more info, see Create a local user or administrator account in Windows 10

  2. Select the Start  button, then select Settings  > Update & Security  > Activation  > Troubleshoot . The troubleshooter will show Windows can’t be activated on your device.

    Open Activation settings

  3. Select I changed hardware on this device recently, then select Next.

  4. Enter your connected Microsoft account and password, then select Sign in. The troubleshooter will only work with the connected Microsoft account.

  5. From the list of devices that are linked to your Microsoft account, select the check box next to This is the device I’m using right now. 

  6. Select Activate.

If you don’t see the device you’re using in the list of results, make sure that you signed in using the same Microsoft account you associated with the Windows 10 digital license on your device.

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

Congratulations!

We’re glad that this guide helped solve your Windows 10 activation issue.

Try our virtual agent to help you resolve Windows 10 activation issues.

Get help now

Important   If you can't find your product key, the only option left is to re-purchase Windows. To do this, open the Microsoft Store app.

  1. Select the Start  button.
  2. Select Settings  > Update & Security   > Activation  .
  3. Select Go to Store.
  4. In the search box, enter Windows 10.

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

We’re glad that this guide helped solve your Windows 10 activation issue.

You’re good to go. There’s nothing else to do because you’re already activated and linked to a Microsoft account.

Try our virtual agent to help you resolve Windows 10 activation issues.

Go to the Activation page in Settings.

Enter the product key in Settings

After you enter the product key, Windows 10 will automatically be activated online.

To check activation status in Windows 10, select Start  > Settings > Update & Security  > Activation .

Check activation status in Settings

Did this solve your problem?

If you can't find the Microsoft account that contains your digital license or you can't find your product key, you can re-purchase Windows 10.

  1. Select the Start  button.
  2. Select Settings  > Update & Security  > Activation .
  3. Select Go to Store. This opens the Microsoft Store app where you can purchase a Windows 10 digital license

Go to Activaton settings

    Did this solve your problem?

    OK. Let's get you to an agent to help fix the issue.

    Talk to an agent

    Some people have more than one Microsoft account. Let’s make sure you use the correct Microsoft account that contains the digital license.

    How did you obtain Windows 10? Correct Microsoft account that contains the digital license
    I bought genuine Windows 10 from Microsoft Store.

    The email address that the purchase confirmation email was sent to.

     

    I upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The Microsoft account that you associated or logged in to associate.
    I bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from Microsoft Store and successfully activated Windows 10.

    The email address that the purchase confirmation email was sent to.

    I am a Windows Insider and upgraded to the newest Windows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device that was running an activated earlier version of Windows and Windows 10 Preview. Most likely the email address that you use to log in to Windows Insider. 


    Do you know the correct Microsoft account?