In contrast to macOS, some Windows PCs require a user to activate the system after a fresh install. This happens when you built a DIY computer or upgrade an older machine from the previous Windows version (for example, when you go from Windows 7 to Windows 10). Also, for the sake of cost-cutting, some manufacturers exclude operating systems and ship their computers without the OS or with barebones free MS-DOS or Linux. Obviously, this does not fit most users and they install Windows themselves. During the installation process Windows requires a user to enter the activation code but at the same time allows to skip this step with “I don’t have a product key button”. This does not mean you can use Windows without installation. After the process is done, you need to activate the system and change the product key in Windows 10. Skipping entering the product key forces the system to use a generic installation key. If you want to get all Windows features and avoid being nagged with activation prompts, you need to change the product key in Windows 10 to a valid license.
There is another case when you need to change a Windows 10 product key even if your machine is well running and activated. For example, when you have a Windows 10 Home but need to upgrade it to a Pro or vice-versa. Although you cannot upgrade 32-bit to 64-bit (one license key applies to both), Microsoft allows you to quickly upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro using a product key change mechanism. This article tells you how to change a product key in Windows 10.
How to Change Windows Product Key?
First, check whether your system is activated or not. On your desktop, right-click This Computer icon and select Properties. At the bottom of the screen, there is a Windows Activation section. If a system needs activation, click Change product key at the right side of the Windows.
Important: you cannot change a product key in Windows 10 without administrator privileges. If you do not own an Administrator profile, Windows will ask you to enter the Administrator password. Make sure you know it, otherwise no product key change for you.
When you hit the Change product key button, Windows will redirect you to the Settings app and launch a product key change sequence. You can get there using a different path. For example, hit Win + I on your keyboard and go to Update and Security – Activation – Change Product key.
There is another way to trigger this window. Hit Win + R on your keyboard and enter the slui.exe 3 command or changepk.exe command. Both launch the same change product key sequence, so you can use whatever you like better. Good thing that a regular consumer does not need to do it regularly.
At this point, all you need to do is to enter the valid product key and hit Next. Wait for the system to validate the new key and to confirm the successful Windows activation.
Important: you cannot use one license on two Windows machines. Eventually one of the two will ask you to change the product key and enter a valid code to keep the system activated. Do note that you can use a PC without Windows activation for some period but with time Windows will start nagging you to activate it. Also, inactivated Windows has limited features. For example, you cannot personalize it.
If you want to look cool and pretend you are a hacker, here is how to change a Windows 10 product key using Command Prompt. Launch Command Prompt with Administrator privileges using Search (Win + S) and enter the command slmgr.vbs /ipk. After the ipk part enter the 25-digit activation code. Here how your command should look like:
slmgr.vbs /ipk XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXXX
Hit Enter. Command Prompt should notify you about successful Windows activation. Do note that this process may take a few seconds so do not rush to quit Command Prompt and start all over. Just sit back and wait for either a success message or an error.
That is it. Enjoy your activated Windows machine.