How To Find your Windows 10 Product Key
Want to know how to find your Windows 10 product key? Need your Microsoft Office product key in order to reinstall or move it to a new computer? This tutorial will show you how to find both of these elusive keys. You shouldn’t actually need a Windows 10 product key any more so I will also show you how to reactivate Windows 10 after a hardware change or upgrade.
Ever since Windows 3.1, Microsoft has attempted to stem the tide of piracy by using license keys to identify individual copies of Windows. As that never really worked, Microsoft introduced an entirely new system in Windows 10, the Digital License. The new system tied Windows 10 to your Microsoft account rather than to an individual product key.
This new system means you can add or move Windows 10 relatively freely as long as you don’t exceed the permitted number of installs for your license type. As long as you log into your new computer or reinstall with the correct Microsoft account you need never touch a product key again. Unless something goes wrong that is.
You may need a Windows 10 product key if you upgrade your motherboard and Windows cannot identify your account. You will need a Microsoft Office product key if you reinstall the platform on a new computer or have to reinstall Windows.
Locate your Windows 10 product key
If you bought a new laptop or desktop with Windows 10 installed, there should be a sticker on the bottom with the license key. Some manufacturers have stopped adding these though, I know Hewlett Packard has. There is a PowerShell script that can identify the key in some cases.
- Open PowerShell as an administrator.
- Type or paste ‘(Get-WmiObject -query ‘select * from SoftwareLicensingService’).OA3xOriginalProductKey’ and hit Enter.
- PowerShell should retrieve the key and display it for you.
If that doesn’t work, there is a third party tool that can retrieve the key for you. It’s called ProduKey. I tested the program and it seems to work okay. Malwarebytes did flag it as a PuP but the product is clean.
Locate your Microsoft Office product key
If you need to reinstall Microsoft Office, the situation is slightly more complicated. Office 20113 or 2016 only stores a partial key on your computer so no tool will be able to recover the entire key. To reinstall these versions, you will need the original email with the key, the original box or Certificate of Authenticity on your computer.
If you use an older version of Office, ProduKey above should be able to find it for you.
Reactivate Windows 10 after a hardware upgrade
If you’re a gamer or inveterate fiddler like me, you will regularly change your computer hardware to keep up with the latest gear or experiment for IT tutorials. Either way, this will involve multiple installs of Windows 10. As the product key has evolved into Digital License activating your copy is sometimes more trouble than it is worth.
In most cases, adding new hardware will not affect Windows licensing. If you change your boot drive or motherboard it will. The Digital License is stored in UEFI on newer systems so a motherboard change will remove the key. Early versions of Windows 10 required you to call a toll-free number and re-register your license but fortunately things have moved on.
To reactivate Windows 10 after a hardware upgrade you can now use the Activation troubleshooter. It is probably the only built-in troubleshooter within Windows that actually works.
- Select Start and Settings.
- Select Update & Security and Activation.
- Select Troubleshoot by Activation.
- Select I changed hardware on this device recently and select Next.
- Enter your Microsoft account details when prompted and sign in.
- Select the device you’re using from the list that appears.
- Check the box next to This is the device I’m using right now and select Activate.
- Let the process complete. It may take a few minutes.
What should happen next is you get a prompt telling you that Windows 10 is now activated. When you go back to the Activation screen you should see ‘Windows is activated using a digital license linked to your Microsoft account’.
If this process doesn’t work, you need to verify that the edition of Windows 10 you installed is the same as what you had before. If you previously used Windows 10 Home, you will not be able to activate a copy of Windows 10 Pro. If you’re trying to activate Windows on a completely different computer rather than a partially upgraded one, it may not work.