You try to find your Windows 10 Product sticker outside of the machine or manuals that come with your PC and find nothing? In recent years, computer manufactures start to store your PC’s license within the machine’s UEFI/BIOS. It has equal advantages and disadvantages for this. The good thing is when you reinstall your computer, the license will be retrieved automatically and applied when you reinstall the computer. Your key is associated with your Microsoft account, so you don’t need to remember your Windows licenses. The downside is if the computer’s motherboard is broken and has to be replaced, you’ll need to buy a new license.
What Type of Windows Licenses: OEM keys vs. retail vs. free upgrade?
OEM Keys: You can’t transfer OEM keys to another computer and it’s shipped with the specific computer. It’s preinstalled on the new computer from the manufacture. It’s a digital license and when you reinstall Windows, it will be auto-retrieved from UEFI/BIOS.
Retail Keys: Retail keys are the Windows keys you buy directly from Microsoft official website or from any online or offline retail stores. It’s not connected to any specific computer so you can transfer it to any hardware you like. It doesn’t mean you can install it on multiple computers, you’ll need to uninstall the original computer before transferring it. But you can transfer your retail keys as many times as you want.
Free upgrade: You don’t have a specific Windows 10 key if you upgrade from Windows 7/8 for free. If you are not upgraded from an OEM key but from a retail copy, you can transfer them to another machine because Windows 10 license carries the retail rights and it’s a digital entitlement. But according to Windows rules, you are only enjoy one time transfer.
Do you have a digital license of Windows 10?
Actually you don’t have a 25-character product key if your device is activated with a digital license (also called a digital entitlement in Windows 10). Not sure what activation method do you have and if your license is tied to your Microsoft account? Here is how to check: Select the Start button > Settings > Update & Security > Activation. You’ll see “Windows is activated with a digital license” or “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.”
Now you’ll know which Windows keys you have and do you have a product key or digital license. You can read on to follow the method that meets your situation to find you keys. In this article, I’ll cover 4 easy ways to help you find or retrieve Windows license key.
Method 1: Log in to your Microsoft Account
If your Windows 10 license key is tied to Microsoft accounts, this is the easiest way to access and log in to your Windows system. You don’t need to search for you original Windows account and you can simply log in to your Microsoft account to activate your Windows 10.
But there are many scenarios where you need to manually find the original Windows product key Store in UEFI/BIOS. Like you upgraded to Windows 10 for free, or even worse your HD is crashed and your Windows won’t boot.
Method 2: Find OEM key in your system
You can display OEM key embedded in your system’s UEFI/BIOS by entering following lines into Command Prompt. Select the Start button and enter command prompt, click it to open it. Please note that it doesn’t always work. Just give it a try and if it fails, try other methods.
wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey
Method 3: Use third-party Windows Key Finder software
There are tons of utilities that helps you retrieve retail keys on the internet. These tools are designed to find keys from the Windows registry and the keys bounded with UEFI/BIOS. But not all utilities works with both, some only worked for one or the other. I’ll recommend two free utilities that works for both. If neither work for you, you’ll probably need to buy a new Windows license.
It’s a freeware that allows you to recover lost Windows product key (CD-key) and digital license. Actually, it’s more powerful than that, it’s a product key finder that supports finding your product key of Microsoft office, SQL Server installed on the computer, and Exchange Server. Your keys will be displayed in the main window and you can copy and save it easily.
This tool is specially designed for finding Windows product key, supports Windows 7, 8 and 10. For Windows license bought from a retailer or OEM manufacture, it will show the product key as the installed key. For license upgraded, it will display the product key for original version of Windows prior to the upgrade. Apart from the installed key, ShowKey Plus also displays the edition of the associated key so you’ll know what license you have.
Remove license before transferring to Another Computer
To make sure you install your Windows successfully and smoothly on another computer, make sure your remove license from the old computer. Since Windows 10 does not allow you to deactivate, you have two options:
- Uninstall the product key: It’s similar to deactivate windows license and it does not inform Microsoft the license the no longer in use. But it avoids conflicts when Microsoft Activation Servers detect whether the license is installed on more than one computer. Here is how to uninstall Window 10 Product Key: Go to Command Prompt (Admin), enter the command: slmgr.vbs /upk
- Format your old computer: Formatting your computer will make sure the license is not in use. Windows 10 offers Reset option and you can do it easily.
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