[FULL GUIDE] What is a Windows 10 Product Key and How to Use it?

[FULL GUIDE] What is a Windows 10 Product Key and How to Use it?

/ Andrew Holdeman

The product key is a crucial element in the installation and activation process of Windows 10, acting as the primary means of confirming the software’s authenticity and legal use. This alphanumeric code is designed to ensure that each copy of the software is legally obtained.

For users installing Windows 10, whether for personal use or within a professional setting, recognizing the importance of the product key is fundamental. It stands as the gateway to a legitimate, hassle-free software experience, highlighting its indispensable role in the vast landscape of Windows 10 licensing and usage.

As we delve into the specifics of Windows 10 and its operational framework, the product key’s significance is underscored, providing a clear path to a validated and compliant software setup.

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The Application of Product Keys

A product key functions similarly to a program’s password. You can only use this password with the program you purchased from a legitimate source. Likely, the application will not open beyond the product key screen if the key is not entered. Although the free version may launch and work for some time, it may stop and ask for a product key sooner or later.

use of product key

Product keys are typically only valid for one installation of the software used to activate them. However, specific product key servers permit the same product key to be used by an unlimited number of persons, so long as they are not all activated simultaneously.

There are limited product key slots in these instances; therefore, if the software utilizing the key is closed, another will be free and used by other users.

It should also be noted that Product Keys are called other names, such as activation codes/keys, CD keys, installation codes/keys, product codes, software activation keys/codes, license keys, and much more.

Microsoft Windows 10 Product Key

Installing Windows, Microsoft Office, or another Microsoft retail program will involve entering a product key. Depending on your Microsoft product’s purchase, you can find the product key on the label or a card inside the packaging that the Windows Operating System came in with.

find windows product key

Here are other places where you can find your Windows key:

Bought from the Microsoft Store App

If you purchased a Windows product key through the Microsoft Store app, the order confirmation sent would contain a digital license rather than a product key. The digital license key will be sent to the email address (MSA). The digital license can activate your Operating System after you log in to your Microsoft account, even when you need to reinstall Windows.

Digital Copy Purchased from an Authorized Retailer

You can locate your product key in the confirmation email you received after purchasing Windows 10 in a digital storage that can be accessed through the merchant’s website.

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A Newly Purchased Computer

Your computer comes with the product key already installed on it, the key is printed on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) associated with your computer, or the product key is in the packaging that the laptop came in. This may also be referred to as an OEM key.

Product Key Purchased from the Microsoft Website

If you purchased Windows digitally, the product key is included in the order confirmation email. Microsoft only keeps track of product keys for software purchased from their online shop, and your order history on your Microsoft account will reveal whether you have purchased from their official store.

Upgraded to Windows 10

If you have upgraded to Windows 10 from an older version, you will no longer have to activate it with a product key. In this case, your Operating System is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft Account.

Benefits of Activating Windows with a Valid Product Key

Although the Windows 10 operating system can be used without activating it, there are a few practical advantages to activating Windows 10.

Therefore, continue reading if you want to know what advantages you get from spending money on activating Windows 10.


window watermark

With an inactivated version of Windows, it automatically adds a partially transparent watermark and urges the user to do so. Because it stays in the same place on the screen no matter what other processes or programs you have open, it occupies a significant portion of the area in the lower right-hand corner of the display and may be relatively annoying. It may take a little more time to get used to, but likely, you won’t even notice it.

You’ll notice another “Activate Windows” watermark within the settings panel. If Windows 10 has not been activated, a prompt will appear when you enter the settings menu. With an activated copy of Windows installed on your computer, this pesky watermark will automatically disappear.

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Activates Windows Personalization Settings

When you decide to activate Windows 10, one of the essential advantages is gaining access to all the features and options available in the personalization settings. If personalization settings not working, we got you covered!

The customization options on a non-activated Windows 10 computer are disabled, so you can’t change wallpapers, window colors, or themes.

However, after you activate Windows 10, all functionalities will be available, and you can completely customize your Windows 10 computer.

personalization settings

Once you have activated Windows 10, the following customization choices will become available to you in the Settings menu:

  • Fonts
  • Themes
  • Wallpapers
  • Colors
  • Lockscreen

You Get Critical Security Updates

A single Windows Update can include security solutions for newly found malware, viruses, and other cyber threats. The battle against online thieves and hackers never ends, and there is no way to win against them; all you can do is make sure they don’t find their way to your computer, and one way to achieve that is to keep Windows updated.

windows update

You can do your part by ensuring your computer is always up-to-date, which is only possible when you have activated Windows 10 on your device through Windows Updates. You require these security upgrades and fixes to safeguard your information and identity and stop hackers from accessing your machine and extorting money from you. It’s a horror known as ransomware.

These mentioned features are just some of the many you will enjoy with a genuine Windows Operating System running on your PC. Additionally, on top of all the features that come with it, you will also be able to ask for help from Microsoft Support without fearing getting caught using free Windows.

Different Versions of Windows 10

There are several versions of Windows 10 that you can install on your computer. Here’s the complete list of Windows 10 versions:

windows versions

Windows 10 in S mode

S mode functions comparable to Google’s Chromebook, except that all applications must be downloaded through the Microsoft Store.

Windows 10 Enterprise (E3 and E5)

The enterprise edition of Windows 10 Pro is available for bulk orders. The entry-level version of Windows 10 is E3, whereas E5 includes Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP).

Windows 10 Enterprise 2015 LTSB

Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) is a stripped-down build of Windows that does not include the Microsoft Store, Cortana, Media Player, Edge, and the latest updates.

Windows 10 Education

Although it is a Windows 10 Enterprise version, this special edition was created with school personnel, administrators, instructors, and students in mind. Schools and students already using devices running Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro will have upgrade options to Windows 10 Education through academic Volume Licensing.

Windows 10 Home Edition

Windows 10 Home is made for the average person who uses a computer at home, and it does not come with advanced capabilities like remote desktop, Hyper-V, or Trusted Boot, among other things. The vast majority of people who use their computers at home shouldn’t have any problems with this.

Even though it is a more straightforward product, Microsoft has added many essential features for the broad consumer market. OneNote, Cortana, Microsoft Edge, and Outlook are the main functions a home user might use. In addition, Windows 10 Home version has other Windows device features such as the Hello sign-in, Pen sketching, touch displays, and many more. These features can be found on supported devices.

Windows 10 Pro Edition

The Windows 10 Pro Edition is a desktop version that can be used on PCs, tablets, and 2-in-1 computers. It provides numerous additional capabilities to satisfy the various demands of small businesses, building on the prominent and cutting-edge features of Windows 10 Home.

Windows 10 Pro Version helps users manage their devices and apps effectively and efficiently, safeguarding sensitive company data, supporting distant and mobile productivity scenarios, and utilizing cloud technologies.

Devices running Windows 10 Pro are an excellent option for businesses that allow employees to use their own devices for work and for prosumer customers who prefer to purchase their computers.

As a bonus, Windows 10 Pro users may use the newly introduced Windows Update for Business, which allows for more granular control over update deployment, faster rollout of critical security patches, and continuous access to the newest features and improvements from Microsoft.

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How to Find Your Windows 10 Product Key

It’s pretty standard that people misplace their product keys despite having an activated Windows on their computer. Most people will leave their system as it is and only need the product key once they reinstall Windows on their PC or activate Windows on a different computer.

We will discuss the different methods you can do to find your product key.

First Method – Through the Command Prompt

  1. Press “Windows” and then press the letter “R” and type in “cmd” in the run command window. Hold down the “ctrl+shift” keys simultaneously and press “enter.” Click “OK” on the next window to grant administrator permission.
command prompt
  1. Once the Command Prompt is open, type in “wmic path softwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey” in the command line and press enter on your keyboard.
  2. You should see the product key listed under the command you just entered.
cmd product key

Second Method – Through the Registry Editor

  1. Press the “Windows Key” and “R” on your keyboard to open the run line command.
  2. Once the dialog box runs, type “regedit
registry editor
  1. Click “OK.”
  1. In the Registry Editor, navigate to the following path: Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SoftwareProtectionPlatform
  2. You should see your Product Key next to the “BackupProductKeyDefault.”
regedit product key

Third Method – Through the Windows Powershell

  1. Open the Windows Powershell by clicking on the start button, typing in “Powershell,” and pressing “enter.”
  2. In the Windows Powershell window, type in the following command: powershell “(Get-WmiObject -query ‘select * from SoftwareLicensingService’).OA3xOriginalProductKey” and press “enter.”
  3. Similar to the command prompt, you should see the product key below the command you typed.
powershell product key

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a free download of Windows?

Everyone can legally download a copy of Windows 10 from Microsoft’s official download page and set it up on a new PC without needing a product key.

With only a few minor visual limitations, it will continue functioning for the foreseeable future. After installing Windows 10, you can buy Windows to upgrade to a licensed version.

What is KMS?

The KMS, or Key Management Service, is an activation system that eliminates the requirement for local devices to establish a connection with Microsoft for product activation. Additionally, it enables companies to activate computers within their network.

Does Windows 10 Home Edition has WIP?

Although it is compatible with the Windows Insider program, Windows 10 Home has fewer security and group management features than other editions.

How do I download Windows 10?

Microsoft’s official website by clicking this link here. Download the Windows 10 installation media tool and run the setup. Follow the instructions on how you can create an installer for Windows.

You can use a USB Flash drive or a blank DVD to burn an ISO file and use it to do a clean install on an old Windows PC.

Do I need a new product key to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11?

No, you don’t. You can use the same product key to upgrade or even downgrade your Windows Operating System.

Andrew Holdeman
Meet the author

Andrew has extensive experience with a wide range of writing platforms and automation systems. He has spent over 6 years creating content and troubleshooting for various companies. He also enjoys spending time with his family and his fiancé, while staying active and healthy.