Windows 10 has been available for quite some time now but one aspect of the new operating system still has people scratching their heads -- activation. Gone are the days of requiring a product key to activate your copy of Windows. Microsoft is introducing a new term called "digital entitlement."
"Activation helps verify that your copy of Windows is genuine and hasn’t been used on more devices than the Microsoft Software License Terms allow. Depending on how you got your copy of Windows 10, activation will use either a digital entitlement or a 25-character product key," Microsoft explains.
The following scenarios fall under digital entitlement and will not require a 25-character product key:
- You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
- You bought genuine Windows 10 from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.
- You bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10.
- You’re a Windows Insider and upgraded to the newest Windows 10 Insider Preview build on an eligible device that was running an activated previous version of Windows and Windows 10 Preview.
The following scenarios will require a 25-character product key:
- You bought a copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer. (on a label inside the retail packaging)
- You bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer. (in a confirmation email)
- You have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription.
- You bought a new device running Windows 10. (pre-installed or included with your device)
So there you have it. Upgrading for free to Windows 10 from a genuine copy of Windows 8.1 gives you digital entitlement, whereas purchasing a retail boxed copy of Windows 10 will require a product key to activate. Hopefully this clears up some confusion regarding activation on Windows 10.