How many times can you use a Windows 10 key?


We often get asked ‘How many times can you use a Windows 10 key?

What is a Windows 10 key?

Windows 10 keys are 25-character product keys that are used to activate Windows 10 installations. They can be used to install Windows 10 on a new device, or to upgrade an existing installation of Windows 7 or 8.1.

Windows 10 keys are typically provided with new devices, or they can be purchased from Microsoft or other retailers. If you have a valid key, you can enter it during the Windows 10 installation process to activate the software.

If you don’t have a Windows 10 key, you can still install and use the software by using a valid product key from a previous version of Windows. However, your device will not be activated and you will not be able to use certain features, such as Cortana.

If Windows 10 has been installed on your device and you’d like to upgrade to the next major release of Windows, such as the upcoming update, you’ll won’t need a new product key.

Where is the key stored?

If you purchased a new device that was pre-installed with Windows 10, your product key is stored in the device firmware. However, if you upgraded an existing PC (as mentioned here) from another version of Windows and then activated it using your current product key, this is considered a valid digital entitlement. Since the upgrade only applies to the licence of the previous operating system – rather than starting afresh – these licences can be carried over to future versions of Windows 10, but only if you reinstall the previous version of Windows before doing so.

How many times can you use a Windows 10 key?

You can only use a Windows 10 key once on a PC or laptop. If you need to reinstall the operating system for any reason, you’ll need to enter the key again.

The one-time-use restriction also applies if you’re using Windows 10 in Boot Camp on Mac hardware, using virtualization software like VirtualBox or when performing a fresh install of the operating system in place of an older version that was activated without digital entitlement.

Windows 10 OEM keys are bound to a PC or laptop – they cannot be transferred to another machine. If you replace your computer, you must purchase a new key.

Boot Camp, VirtualBox and reinstallation are the only three circumstances under which you’re required to buy a new Windows 10 key.

You cannot use the same digital entitlement once it’s been redeemed on your primary computer. Your original Windows 10 key is deactivated as soon as it’s been successfully installed on a different device. You can, however, contact Microsoft Customer Service and Support if you want to transfer that digital entitlement back to the replacement machine – provided that this was done within 90 days of your first successful activation.

Why are keys limited to one installation?

Digital entitlement can only be used to activate your Windows 10 licence on one PC at a time. It cannot be moved or transferred if you change your computer because it came with your PC or laptop and buy a new licence online from Microsoft’s website or via one of its physical stores instead.

Microsoft has taken this approach for several reasons. For one, it wants to ensure that users are always running the most secure version of its operating system – namely the latest build released under the Current Branch (CB). If you ever encounter an issue after installing Windows 10, Microsoft may also recommend reinstalling to fix whatever problem you have if there is no other way to resolve the issue. Digital entitlement ensures that all Windows 10 installs are activated, registered with Microsoft so that it can be used to activate Microsoft services like Xbox Live, and if users ever need to reinstall Windows 10 for one reason or another, they will also be able to use the same digital entitlement.

Microsoft has long been known for its stringent policies when it comes to product activation and key use. One of the most recent examples of this is their policy surrounding product keys for Windows 10. When you purchase a copy of Windows 10, your product key is only valid for a single installation. If you need to reinstall your operating system or upgrade your hardware, you will need to generate a new product key. Your old key will not be valid for use on the new installation or hardware.

A key is not bound to your hardware but instead tied to the motherboard itself.

There are several reasons for this:

  1. Official licensing through Digital Entitlement may fail if people would be allowed to transfer keys between machines at their own discretion. Microsoft wants you to buy a licence every time you buy a new machine, after all! Doing so could cause havoc with support because many customers do not know whether they should seek support from the manufacturer (OEM) or Microsoft when trying to resolve an issue on their computer. This problem becomes compounded when product activation is also involved.
  2. Licensing is a complex issue and Microsoft wants to keep things simple for customers. Allowing key transfers would only serve to confuse people and could lead to more calls to support lines. It would also be difficult to manage product activations if keys were transferable.
  3. Microsoft has stated that it does not want piracy to become rampant and believes that by limiting keys to one installation, will help to prevent such illegal activities from taking place.

While it may be frustrating at times, there are valid reasons behind why Microsoft has implemented a limit on the number of installations that a key can be used for.

Also See: How to fix Windows 10 license expires soon error

What happens if I need to reinstall my operating system or upgrade hardware?

In the event that you need to reinstall your operating system or upgrade your hardware (except motherboard), you will be able to use the same Retail key if you had purchased it. If your PC had Windows 10 pre-installed, then you wouldn’t need to worry, the device will be automatically activated.

Does the Windows key expire after some time period?

No, a valid genuine Windows key will never expire.

Can I give my Windows 10 key away?

As mentioned earlier, the key is meant to be used for a single installation. If you want to give your key away, you can do so, but you will need to generate a new product key for the recipient. You cannot just give them your old key.

Is it possible to transfer my Windows 10 license to another PC?

Yes, it is possible to transfer your Windows 10 license to another PC if you had purchased a Retail licence. However, you will need to deactivate the license on the old PC and activate it on the new PC. You can do this by going to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and selecting Deactivate.

Can I use my Windows 7 or 8 key to install Windows 10?

No, you cannot use your Windows 7 or 8 key to install Windows 10. You will need to purchase a new product key in order to install Windows 10.

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...