How to transfer a Windows license from one PC to another PC

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Most new PCs come with a Windows license and the system preinstalled. Microsoft retains impressive control over the OEM channel, and that’s where a good chunk of Windows’s nearly 90% desktop market share comes from.

However, manufacturers are not required to supply computers with a Windows license. In fact, there are new personal computers out there that don’t include it, either because they ship without an operating system, or because they use a GNU / Linux distribution or something lighter like FreeDOS. On the other hand, there aren’t a few users who create our own desktops by customizing the components.

In such cases we will need to acquire the corresponding software license, whether free (if you bet on free systems) or paid as in the case of Windows. We can also transfer the license from an old computer to the new one for not having to pay for a new license as we’ll see in this Windows 10 focused practice.

Can your Windows 10 license be transferred?

This is the first question to be answered. Microsoft is quite strict with the license transfer rules and unfortunately, not all licenses are transferable. You can only transfer a Windows 10 license if you purchased it from a reseller, like the deals we regularly bring you. Licenses distributed through the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) channel and those sold in multi-team packages for business, education or government (volume licensing) are not transferable.

As you know, in Windows 10 the license is tied to the main hardware of the PC or what is the same, to the motherboard. Therefore, if you try to use a product key from a non-transferable license, the Windows Activation Server will not validate the license on the new hardware. If Windows is pre-installed on your new computer, it will likely have an OEM license that you cannot transfer. Microsoft offers a support page where it explains all the possibilities to activate Windows.

What type of license do I have?

If you are not sure what type of license your computer has, it is very easy to get the information by running an internal application from the command line:

  • Right click on the Start button and start a Command Prompt session in administrator mode.
  • Type the command “slmgr -dli” to get the information.

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As you will see in the example, Windows Script Host indicates that we have a retail license, which is one of the ones that we can transfer to another computer.

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Product Key – Digital License

The product key is a 25 character code that until Windows 7 was used to activate Windows. Starting with Windows 8 and later, a digital license (referred to as “digital entitlement” in Windows 10) is used as a method of activating Windows 10 that does not require entering a product key. You can transfer the license with both methods, as Microsoft still allows free upgrade from Windows to Windows 10.

If you have saved your product key (format XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX) you can go to the next step. If you did not write it down, there are several ways to get it since it can be found in the operating system registry, in UEFI firmware, in the confirmation email received after purchasing Windows or in the box in which it was supplied printed on a label that was the way it was done in Windows 7 and was subsequently removed for security and hacking reasons.

There are several ways to locate it, but a very easy one is to use a third-party application such as ProduKey, which is used to obtain the product key for Windows or other products such as Microsoft Office. Just download the tool (32 or 64 bit) and run it. It is not unlikely that your antivirus will detect it as a potential threat. If this happens to you, turn it off temporarily. Once executed, you will get both the Product ID and the Product Key that we will use on the new PC:

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How to transfer a Windows 10 license?

In order to perform the transfer, we must first deactivate the license on the source PC. Later we can reactivate it on the new PC using the same password.

  • Right click on the Start button and start a Command Prompt session in administrator mode.
  • Type the command “slmgr.vbs / upk” to deactivate the license. Run this command ONLY if you are actually transferring the license because the system will be left unlicensed.

Once on the new PC, you can use the product key in several ways:

  • When installing Windows 10, it will ask you if you have the product key.
  • Or once installed, you can do it the same way from General Configuration Tool> Update & Security> Activation> Change Product Key.

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  • Once installed and using the Windows console, you can also activate the license from there with a single command and the product key: “slmgr.vbs / ipk xxxxx- xxxxx- xxxxx- xxxxx- xxxxx”.

More options

As we said above, Microsoft replaced in Windows 10 the activation method using servers that tied the license to specific hardware, the motherboard. Using the same method, a Microsoft ID account can be linked to a specific PC, and this link also allows a Windows 10 retail license to be transferred without using the product key.

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Whether you already have it or activate this method on your old PC, you will get a license type called: “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account“. In these cases, just sign in with your Microsoft account on a new PC and Windows 10 will automatically activate the license through that account. You cannot activate it on both PCs, so the old PC will remain unlicensed like when we use the product key.

Either method does not allow you to jump between different editions of Windows. In other words, if your license is Windows 10 Home, it will be the one that will be activated on the new PC. If you want to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, you will need to acquire a new license.

Finally, it should be noted that in the event of a problem with the previous options or in the event of a hardware change (change of the motherboard on a desktop), Windows can be activated by communicating with the Microsoft support. There are three methods of activating the product: online over the Internet, over the phone with our automated systems, and with a live technical support representative.

Final. If you want to save money on the change of PC, it is possible to transfer the Windows license by several methods provided that the license is retail type, not the OEM licenses (pre-installed) or the so-called. volume licenses for businesses that are not transferable. In any case, if you want to keep the license on the old PC, remember that you can get a new Windows 10 license. for just a few euros with the offers that we offer you regularly. Either way, in new or transferred licenses you can upgrade to Windows 11 for free.


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Steven L. Nielsen