Discovering Your Windows 10 Product Key: A Guide

Discovering Your Windows 10 Product Key: A Guide

Gone are the days of typing in a unique code to activate Windows 10. With its release, Microsoft introduced a new way to authorize the software – a system known as digital entitlement, tied to your hardware. While this is convenient during the initial installation, what happens if you need to upgrade or replace your hardware? That’s when you’ll need to find your Windows 10 product key. Here’s how to do it.

The digital entitlement system has largely done away with easily pirated or bypassed product keys. Instead, it relies on a file stored in the UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) of your motherboard. This file contains information about your hardware, software, and Microsoft account, giving you the ability to activate the product.

Now, Microsoft hasn’t disclosed the precise inner workings of this system. However, the prevailing theory suggests that it links your motherboard’s MAC address to a digital signature of Windows 10 and your Microsoft account. While this remains unconfirmed, it certainly makes sense.

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Finding Product Keys in Windows 10

Hey there! So, Windows 10 actually has a product key, or a couple of them to be exact. Now, you might be thinking, “Do I really need one?” Well, technically, not really. See, if you upgraded from a previous version using the free offer, Windows 10 would have automatically taken the key from your old version and turned it into a digital entitlement. No hassle for you!

But hold on, if you bought a retail box of Windows 10 or got it from a reseller, then you did have a product key. During installation, you had to enter that key to proceed. But guess what? Once Windows 10 was installed, it snatched that key and changed it into a digital entitlement too!

Now, you might be wondering, “Well, if I don’t really need a product key, what’s the point?” Fair question. Product keys actually do serve a purpose, especially if you need to tinker with your computer, like changing or upgrading the motherboard. Some laptop users might also need their product key because not all manufacturers include them in the packaging for “security reasons.” And hey, let’s not forget about replacing the hard drive! If you ever need to swap out the HDD or SSD, you might need a product key to reactivate Windows 10.

Here’s How to Find Your Windows 10 Product Key

Ready for the hunt? Well, I must admit, there’s only one way I know of to find your Windows 10 product key, and it involves using a nifty third-party app called ProduKey. Strange, right? I wish there was a quick trick or a command line magic, but alas, no luck.

  1. First things first, you gotta download and run ProduKey. Don’t worry, the one from Majorgeeks is safe (as of Jan 2017).
  2. Once you’ve got ProduKey running, it’ll pop up a window and voila! Your product key will be right there, waiting for you.
  3. Now, don’t forget to copy that key somewhere safe, preferably separate from your device. You never know when you might need it.

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Upgrading Hardware and Activating Your Product

If you need to upgrade your motherboard or disk drive for your laptop, you can use this key to activate Windows 10 after you install it. If you upgraded to Windows 10 from a previous version, you might need that product key to activate it. I can’t say for sure what will happen because Windows 10 hasn’t been consistent with its activation process.

Let me give you an example. I upgraded for free from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, but then I had to replace my motherboard. I bought a new one and a bigger SSD to use as a boot drive. When I installed Windows 10 on the new drive, it activated on its own within 48 hours. I didn’t have to do anything.

If you also need to change some major hardware, give it a day or so and check the activation status of Windows 10.

  1. Go to Settings and select Update & security.
  2. Then go to Activation and check the right pane.
  3. You can also right-click the Windows Start button and choose System. Look at the bottom under Windows activation.

If your version doesn’t update automatically, you might have to call the Microsoft Activation Helpline. It’s an automated system that works pretty well.

Before you try that, you can do this quick command:

  1. Open a CMD window as an administrator.
  2. Type ‘vbs –rearm’ into the window and press Enter.

If you’re lucky, this will force Windows to activate. If not, you’ll have to call the activation line.

  1. Press the Windows key + R and type ‘slui.exe 4’.
  2. A new dialog box will appear. Choose your country, and it will show a toll-free number and an installation ID.
  3. Call the number and enter that installation ID. Get ready to write down the confirmation ID that the system will speak.
  4. Enter the confirmation ID into the window and click Activate Windows.

Now, Windows 10 should activate without any problems. Depending on the Microsoft servers, it could take a couple of minutes or a few hours. Just be patient.

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