Microsoft Windows is one of the most popular operating systems in the world. With the launch of Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft introduced a new way of activating Windows. Unlike previous versions, Windows 10 uses digital licenses linked to your Microsoft account rather than product keys.
However, product keys are still required in certain situations, such as when doing a clean install of Windows 10 or installing Windows 10 on a new computer. Valid Windows 10 product keys authorize your copy of Windows and activate all the features.
These keys are also known as Windows 10 activation keys but both are the same thing and referred to as activation keys.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about Windows 10 product keys including:
How Digital Licenses Work in Windows 10
With Windows 10, Microsoft introduced digital entitlement via digital licenses linked to your Microsoft account. This allows your Windows 10 license to automatically activate after installation without needing to enter a product key.
Here is how digital licenses work:
- If you upgraded to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, your license is tied to your Microsoft account and hardware. Changing hardware requires reactivation.
- If you bought a retail copy of Windows 10, the license is linked to your Microsoft account only. You can install on different machines after logging into your Microsoft account.
- For volume-licensed editions like Enterprise, the license is tied to the organization’s Active Directory domain.
So in most cases, you won’t need a product key as your digital license will automatically activate Windows. But let’s look at when product keys are still required.
When Do You Need a Windows 10 Product Key?
There are a few scenarios where you will need a 25-character product key to activate Windows 10:
- Doing a clean install – If you download a Windows 10 ISO to do a clean install on a machine that was upgraded for free, you will need a product key during installation.
- Installation on a new PC – When installing Windows 10 on a new PC, you will need to enter a product key if you didn’t buy the machine with Windows 10 pre-installed.
- Switching editions – If you want to switch from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro, you need to enter a new Pro product key.
- Reinstalling after hardware change – Changing your motherboard or CPU requires entering a product key after reinstalling Windows 10.
- Using an MSDN or TechNet version – Versions from MSDN or TechNet require product keys to activate fully.
So in summary, if you are doing a fresh install, changing hardware significantly, or want to switch editions, you will need a working product key.
Where to Find Your Windows 10 Product Key
If you already have Windows 10 activated and need to find your product key, there are a couple of options:
- Check your Microsoft account – If your license is linked to your Microsoft account, you can find the digital license product key by going to account.microsoft.com and viewing your order history.
- Use a key finder tool – Software like ProduKey, The Ultimate PID Checker, ShowKeyPlus, or NirSoft ProduKey can retrieve your product key if you are currently logged into Windows.
- Check computer documentation – The product key is sometimes printed on a sticker on your PC or displayed on the COA sticker.
- Run command prompt – Open cmd as admin and enter ‘wmic path software licensing service get OA3xOriginalProductKey’ to see your key.
If none of those options work, you likely have a digital entitlement that doesn’t require a product key for activation.
Types of Windows 10 Product Keys
There are several types of Windows 10 product keys:
- Retail – Bought from a retailer, Microsoft store, or with a new PC. It can be transferred.
- OEM – Only sold with a new PC. Tied to the first device activated and can’t be transferred.
- Volume License – For large organizations with volume licensing programs.
- MSDN, TechNet, Imagine – Keys given to developers, IT pros, and students in Microsoft programs.
- KMS – Key Management Service keys used to active corporate networks.
The main types you will encounter as a consumer are retail and OEM keys. Retail keys work for clean installs on new hardware while OEM keys only work when activated the first time on the device they ship with.
Using Product Keys During Windows 10 Installation
If you need to enter a product key during a custom install of Windows 10, here are the steps:
- Download the correct Windows 10 ISO file and create installation media on a USB or DVD.
- Boot from the installation media and proceed with custom installation.
- Select the edition of Windows 10 you want to install on the “Which type of installation do you want?” page.
- On the “Enter your product key” page, enter a valid 25-character product key for the version you are installing.
- Complete the rest of the installation steps as normal.
- During the Out of Box Experience (OOBE) after installation, login with the Microsoft account you want to link the license to.
- After activation, the digital license will be linked to your Microsoft account securing your Windows 10 license.
Where to Buy Windows 10 Product Keys
If you need to purchase a retail Windows 10 product key, there are several options:
- Microsoft Store – You can buy a digital or physical copy with a valid product key directly from Microsoft.
- Amazon – Look for Windows 10 product keys “Sold by Amazon”. Avoid third-party sellers.
- Retailers like NewEgg or Best Buy – You can buy a boxed or digital copy with a product key.
- Microsoft Partners like PC Nation – Authorized Microsoft partners sell licenses and keys.
- eBay or other marketplaces – Use caution as many gray market keys could be abused or resold violating terms.
For the best experience, purchase directly from authorized retailers like Microsoft, Amazon, or a Microsoft partner. Avoid gray market keys of unknown origin.
To link your retail license to your Microsoft account, make sure to login with the same account during activation after installing Windows 10 with your new product key.
Working Windows 10 Product Keys (Activation Keys)
Here are some working Windows 10 product keys you can use for various versions and editions: PS: These keys are updated on a daily basis.
Windows 10 Home Product Keys
Windows 10 Home N Product Keys
Windows 10 Home Single Language Product Keys
Windows 10 Pro Product Keys
Windows 10 Pro N Product Keys
Windows 10 Enterprise Product Keys
Windows 10 Enterprise N Product Keys
Windows 10 Education Product Keys
Windows 10 Education N Product Keys
These keys should work for 32-bit or 64-bit, but keep in mind OEM and volume license keys will be restricted. You can try these keys during installation or after to change editions.
While Windows 10 relies primarily on digital licenses eliminating the need for product keys, there are still cases where you need a working 25-character product key.
Whether you are installing Windows 10 for the first time, switching editions, or reactivating after hardware changes, using a valid key is crucial for activating a legit copy of Windows 10.
Retail product keys allow flexibility to install Windows 10 on new machines by linking your license to your Microsoft account. OEM keys are restricted to the original device activated but can still be retrieved if needed.
Now you know when product keys are needed, where to find your existing key, what types of keys exist, how to use a key during setup, and where to buy new ones. Refer to the list of working product keys to activate different versions of Windows 10.
With this comprehensive guide, you should have all the information required to handle Windows 10 product keys like a pro! Let us know if this helped explain everything you need to know about using Windows 10 product keys.