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.

If you activated a free upgrade to Windows 10 or bought and activated Windows 10 from the Microsoft Store, you'll have a digital license for your device instead of a product key. This means you can reinstall the same edition of Windows 10 that your device has a digital license for without entering a product key.

During reinstallation, if you’re asked to enter a product key, select Skip. In most cases, if Windows 10 was activated on your device before you reinstall, it will automatically activate after you go online.

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

When you make a significant hardware change to your device, such as replacing the motherboard, Windows 10 might no longer be activated. 

If you do not reinstall Windows, then you can select Start  > Settings  > Update & Security  > Activation  > Update product key > Change product key to reactivate your device. Otherwise you can enter your product key during installation of Windows.

If your original hardware manufacturer (OEM) changed the motherboard for you, your PC should reactivate automatically. If it doesn’t activate, your OEM might have provided a COA card that has a gray coating over a 25-character key. Follow these steps to get activated.


  1. Select Start  > Settings  > Update & Security  > Activation .
  2. Select Change product key.
  3. Type in the product key found on the COA and follow the instructions.

Change product key in Settings

For more info, see Reactivating Windows 10 after a hardware change.

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

You’ll need to use a valid product key to activate Windows 10 on a device that has never had an activated copy of Windows 10 on it.

You’ll also need to use a valid product key if you're installing an edition of Windows 10 that wasn’t previously activated on the device. For example, you'll need a valid product key to install and activate Windows 10 Pro on a device that had Windows 10 Home installed.

During the installation, you’ll be asked to enter a valid product key. After the installation is complete, 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

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

If you bought a new device running Windows 10, it will automatically activate when you connect your device to the internet. If the activation servers are busy, you might need to wait a while for Windows to activate

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

Were you able to activate Windows 10?

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

Get help now

We're glad this guide helped you activate Windows 10.