Microsoft has now listed all Windows 10 activation scenarios on a single page. The auto-activation of Windows 10 when you upgrade from a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 is called “Digital entitlement”. Good news is that other methods of activations are listed too in detail. Information about what to do for activation in a particular scenario is also provided in detail.
Windows 10 activation details:
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, activation will use either a digital entitlement or a 25-character product key.
Digital entitlement is a new method of activation in Windows 10 that doesn’t require you to enter a product key.
How you got Windows 10
You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
You bought genuine Windows 10 from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.
You bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.
You’re a Windows Insider and upgraded to the newest Windows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device that was running an activated previous version of Windows and Windows 10 Preview.
You bought a copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.
(On a label inside the box Windows 10 came in.)
You bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.
(In the confirmation email you received after buying Windows 10 or in a digital locker accessible through the retailer’s website.)
You have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription.
(Available through the web portal for your program.)
You bought a new device running Windows 10.
(Pre–installed on your device, included with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device.)
If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, Windows 10 will automatically activate online and create a digital entitlement for your device.
If your current version of Windows isn’t activated, you’ll need to enter a product key to activate it before you can upgrade to Windows 10.
To check activation status for your current version of Windows:
- In Windows 7, click the Start button , right-click Computer, and then click Properties. You can see your activation status under Windows activation.
In Windows 8.1, go to Control Panel, click System and Security, and then click System. You can see your activation status under Windows activation.
During the free upgrade, you can use a valid Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key to activate Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher). The following types of product keys are supported:
Product keys included in the packaging or the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to your PC that came installed with Windows.
Product keys included in the confirmation email you received after buying Windows from an online retailer.
Product keys included in the box the Windows DVD came in.
Product keys you bought using Windows Anytime Upgrade or Get Genuine Windows.
If you bought a Windows 8.1 Pro Pack product key, you can use it to activate Windows 10 Pro.
Some Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1product keys can’t be used to activate Windows 10, such as product keys for volume licensing, including Generic Volume Licensing Keys (GVLK) and Multiple Activation Keys (MAK), and Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, and Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
For info about upgrade requirements, system requirements, and feature availability, see the Windows 10 specifications page.
In order to successfully activate Windows 10 on eligible devices after the free upgrade, you need to upgrade through Windows Update or run Windows 10 installation media directly from your device running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. Booting from Windows 10 installation media and performing a clean installation isn’t supported as part of the free upgrade offer for Windows 10.
Windows 10 can’t be activated using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key.
How you activate Windows 10 after reinstalling it depends on how Windows 10 was originally installed on your device.
If you activated your free upgrade to Windows 10 or bought and activated Windows 10 from the Windows Store, you have a digital entitlement for your device. This means you can reinstall the same edition of Windows 10 that your device has a digital entitlement for without entering a product key. During reinstallation, if you’re asked to enter a product key, select Skip. Your device will automatically activate online after the installation is complete.
If you previously installed and activated Windows 10 using a product key, you’ll need to enter the product during the reinstallation.
- Before you reinstall Windows 10 make sure to check your activation status. Go to Start , then select Settings > Update & security > Activation. For more info if Windows 10 isn’t activated on your device, see Get help with Windows 10 activation errors.
For more info about how to create installation media for Windows 10, go to the Microsoft software download website. When creating installation media, make sure to choose the edition of Windows 10 that matches the edition that’s already installed on your device.
You’ll need to use a Windows 10 product key to activate a new installation of Windows 10 on a device that has never had an activated copy of Windows 10 on it.
You’ll also need to use a Windows 10 product key if the new installation is for an edition of Windows 10 that wasn’t previously activated on the device. For example, if you install Windows 10 Pro on a device that had Windows 10 Home installed on it.
If you’re a Windows Insider and have been running Windows 10 Insider Preview builds, you’ll automatically receive new builds and be activated, so long as your device was activated before upgrading to the new build.
Installing Windows 10 Insider Preview on a device that never had an activated copy of Windows 10 on it will require using a Windows 10 product key or buying genuine Windows from the Windows Store. This also applies if the new installation is for an edition of Windows 10 that wasn’t previously activated on the device. For more info, see the section Activating a new installation of Windows 10 in this topic.
If you’re reinstalling Windows 10 Insider Preview, automatic activation occurs by digital entitlement if the same edition of Windows 10 or Windows 10 Insider Preview (builds newer than 10240) was already activated on the device. For more info, see the section Activating after reinstalling Windows 10 in this topic.
If you upgraded to Windows 10 using the free upgrade offer and then made significant hardware changes to your device, such as replacing the motherboard, Windows 10 might no longer be activated. For help on how to activate your device, contact customer support.