With Windows 10, Microsoft is introducing a new way to activate your copy of Windows 10 that they are calling digital entitlement. Because digital entitlement is new and moves away from the traditional product key activation process, the company has provided guidance on how and when each method is used.
Posted below is the guidance that Microsoft has provided with Windows 10 that should cover nearly all of the scenarios you may see.
|How you got Windows 10||Activation method|
|You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.||Digital entitlement|
|You bought genuine Windows 10 from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.||Digital entitlement|
|You bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.||Digital entitlement|
|You’re a Windows Insider and upgraded to the newestWindows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device that was running an activated previous version of Windows andWindows 10 Preview.||Digital entitlement|
|You bought a copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.||Product key
(On a label inside the box Windows 10 came in.)
|You bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.||Product key
(In the confirmation email you received after buyingWindows 10 or in a digital locker accessible through the retailer’s website.)
|You have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription.||Product key
(Available through the web portal for your program.)
|You bought a new device running Windows 10.||Product key
(Pre–installed on your device, included with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device.)
Microsoft says that a ‘significant hardware change’ means that Windows 10 may no longer be activated. Unfortunately, they don’t list explicitly what may cause Windows 10 to be no longer activated but they do state that changing your motherboard can cause Windows 10 to no longer activate.
If you had any questions about if you should have a digital entitlement or a product key, hopefully this chart will help. Microsoft’ new digital entitlement feature is designed to help make the activation process easier for those who are upgrading or re-installing the OS but did raise quite a few questions when the OS was launched.
If you question is not with this chart, Microsoft has a few more bits of information about the activation process that you can read here.