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Guide to Windows 10 Activation

Find out everything you need to know about Windows 10 activation, how you activate your copy of Windows 10 and what you can do if your copy of Windows on your laptop isn’t activated.

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Guide to Windows 10 Activation

Are you using an activated copy of Windows 10? Do you even know? Windows 10 activation is a subject that is often confusing for many people, and with good reason. While activating Windows 10 is much simpler compared to past versions, at least in my opinion, it can still be difficult to determine if you own an activated copy or how you go about getting one if you don’t have one on your laptop.

Today, we will examine the Windows 10 activation in more detail. We will cover the types of licenses available, how activation occurs, and how you can activate your copy of Windows 10.

Why Activate?

First, let’s talk about why you should activate Windows 10. At first glance, you may wonder why bother. After all, you can install Windows 10 Home or Pro without needing a product key. So what happens if you don’t ever both to purchase a copy and activate windows?

Honestly, not much. In the past, Windows would not only limit the features you had access to, but it would also stop allowing you to update your PC. This could present a big problem, especially if you are worried about security. Now, Microsoft will allow you to continue using Windows 10 with almost every feature available to you, including updates. I’ve really only noticed two things that don’t work properly:

1. If you don’t activate, after a month you will get a watermark in the bottom corner of the screen stating that Windows isn’t activated. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t really prevent you from using the system.

2. Your access to the Personalization section of Windows 10 is disabled. This means that your ability to control settings such as colors, wallpaper, the lock screen, etc. are disabled. You can still see them, but they are all greyed out.

So if this is the case? Why should you bother? Outside of making sure you are legit while using your software, something that’s important if you are running a business, accessing these other features truly does make Windows 10 a much better experience. But, if you are just playing around with Windows to experiment or maybe test something, I’m not sure it’s worth it. But for anyone that plans on using Windows 10 as their primary operating system, it’s something I definitely recommend.

Types of Licenses

There are two main types of licenses available from Microsoft. Which license you have will usually depend on how you purchased Windows 10. Let’s look at each one briefly.

Digital License

This license doesn’t exist on paper anywhere. Instead, the information about your computer and maybe even your information is stored on Microsoft’s servers. This type of license can be found on computers that have been through the official upgrade process from Microsoft, either during the free upgrade or a digitally purchased upgrade.

They can also be found on machines with a fresh copy of Windows 10 that has then been purchased and activated through the activation screens on the computer or the Windows Store.

Product Key

This type of license is available to anyone that goes to an official retailer and purchases a copy of Windows 10, or anyone that purchases a new computer that comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. This key must be entered during the installation process or after setup is complete in order to use it.

Checking Your Activation

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to check and see if your copy of Windows 10 is activated. Eventually, you will probably figure it out, but if you want to make sure you are legit, you can check your activation status anytime you like. To check your activation status, go to Start – Settings (Cog icon) – Updates & Security – Activation. From here, you can see if your product is activated and how it is activated.

How to Activate Windows 10

Okay I think we’ve covered all the basics about Windows 10 licenses and activation. So how do you activate Windows 10? It’s pretty easy, but it will come down to the type of license you have.

Digital License

This is by far the easiest method, because you really don’t have to do anything. When you have a digital license, information about your computer, your account and your copy of Windows are stored on Microsoft’s databases. When you install Windows 10 on a PC that has a digital license, the activation should happen automatically.

If you want to go this route and you don’t have a license yet, you will need to visit the Microsoft Store to purchase a valid copy of Windows. Once you do, your machine will be activated on your machine.

Product Key

If you have purchased a product key, you will have a long set of letters and numbers. Fun stuff. During the install of Windows, all you need to do is enter that key and then Windows will use that key to activate itself.

If you don’t enter the key during the Windows 10 installation, you can always enter it later. To do that, click on Start – Settings (Cog icon). Then go to Updates & Security – Activation. Click on the Enter Product Key button and enter your key. Your Windows 10 OS will then attempt to activate itself with your purchased key.

Problems Activating

Problems with activation was a big problem in Windows XP, Windows 7 and even Windows 8. However, in my experience there are far fewer problems with Windows 10, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Sometimes, you may get errors with your activation. If you are using a valid product key, then you may want to wait awhile before you try to activate it. Sometimes, these servers do go down. If you still have problems, you may need to contact Microsoft with all your information to get your system activated.

Parting Thoughts

Windows 10 activation has been simplified compared to past versions of Windows. Still, understanding the activation process and how it works can go a long way to helping you keep your new copies of Windows 10 activated whether you are running a budget laptop under $200 or a high-end Microsoft Surface Book.

While you can run Windows 10 without activating, in my opinion you should be activating Windows. If nothing else, it keeps your software practices in good standing with Microsoft. While it does cost money, having an activated copy of Windows will help you, especially if you have trouble with Windows.

Are you using an activated copy of Windows 10 on your PC? Tell me what you are running on your machine in the comments below.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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