Windows 10 - How to tell what type of Activation I have, Digital Entitlement / Digital License or Product key

Technical Level : Basic

Summary

There are numerous types of Activation granted and recognized by Windows 10. The most recent is a "Digital License" which comes with the Windows 10 Anniversary update.

Here is how you find out what type activation you have and what are the other types are available.


Details

To find out more about your product key click:  Start / Settings / Update & security and in the left hand column click on ‘Activation’. In the Activation window you can check the “Edition” of Windows 10 that is installed, Activation status and the type of “Product key”.

Digital license (previously called Digital entitlement in Windows 10 Version 1511) is a method of activation in Windows 10 that doesn't require you to enter a product key when re-installing Windows 10.

How do I use my Digital license when reinstalling Windows 10: During the reinstall process just select the "I'm reinstalling Windows 10 on this PC" option located in the bottom left of the window where it ask you to enter a Product Key.

 How you got Windows 10  Activation method
You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Digital license
You bought genuine Windows 10 from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10. Digital license
You bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10. Digital license
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. Digital license
You bought a copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.
Product key
(On a label inside the Windows 10 box. A digital license will be given to your device for Windows 10 based on the valid product key you entered.)
You bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer.
Product key
(In the confirmation email you received after buying Windows 10 or in a digital locker accessible through the retailer’s website. A digital license will be given to your device for Windows 10 based on the valid product key you entered.) 
You have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription.
Product key
(Available through the web portal for your program.)
You bought a new device running Windows 10.
Product key
(Pre–installed on your device, included with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device.)

Digital License details: https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12440/windows-10-activation

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Digital entitlement is the previous method (Prior to the Anniversary edition) of activation in Windows 10 that doesn't require you to enter a product key when re-installing Windows 10 on the same computer / device.

  • Starting with the November 2015 Update, Windows 10 (Version 1511) can be activated using some Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 product keys. For more info, see the section Activating Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher) using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key in this topic.

  • Starting with the August 2nd 2016 release of the Anniversary edition (Version 1607) some subtle but important changes have been made. Most important is the ability to link your Microsoft account to the digital license on your device."Activating Windows 10 after a hardware configuration change
    If you made a significant hardware change to your device (such as replacing the motherboard) Windows 10 might no longer be activated. If you're running Windows 10 (Version 1607) and added your Microsoft account and linked it to the digital license on your device, you can use the Activation troubleshooter to reactivate Windows. For more info, see Using the Activation troubleshooter.

Digital Entitlement

You upgraded to Windows 10 for free from an eligible device running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Digital entitlement
You bought genuine Windows 10 from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10. Digital entitlement
You bought a Windows 10 Pro upgrade from the Windows Store and successfully activated Windows 10. Digital entitlement
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. Digital entitlement
You upgraded to Windows 10 (Version 1511 or higher) and activated it using a Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 product key. Digital entitlement
(A digital entitlement will be given to your device for Windows 10 based on the valid product key you entered)
You bought a copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer. Product key
(On a label inside the Windows 10box)
You bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized retailer. Product key
(In the confirmation email you received after buying Windows 10 or in a digital locker accessible through the retailer’s website)
You have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10 or MSDN subscription Product key
(Available through the web portal for your program)
You bought a new device running Windows 10. Product key
(Pre–installed on your device, included with the device packaging, or included as a card or on the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) attached to the device)

Reference: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10/activation-in-windows-10

Note: A sharp eyed individual will notice the ambiguous difference between a retail boxed version of Windows 10 from the Microsoft / “Windows Store” and a retail box version of Windows 10 purchased from “an authorized retailer”.

Buy it from the Microsoft Store and you are digitally entitled, buy it from a Retailer and you need a key to re-install and activate Windows 10 (Example: your disk drive fails and you need to re-install Windows 10).

I called the Microsoft Store and asked if this was a typing error in the article named:

Activation in Windows 10

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10/activation-in-windows-10

Their reply: This is not an error, product purchased from their store have a unique product key that is traceable to a purchase from their store. Be assured that the key inside the box is not known by any Microsoft employee, however the product ID number identifies it as a Microsoft store purchase and therefor you have “Digital Entitlement”. Windows 10 can be re-installed up to 4 additional times and automatically activated on the same device it was originally installed on. Should your computer become unusable you need to call the store before re-installing your store purchased “Retail” version on another computer.

Additional Wiki articles you may want to read:

Windows 10 Anniversary Edition Update - How to get it now

After the Windows 10 Free Upgrade is over, what are my options. Note: The free upgrade is still active for users of assistive technologies

How to use Microsoft's Download web site to download an official Windows 10 ISO file, create installation media and activate Windows 10

How to re-install Windows 10 without a product key (Digitial License / Entitlement)

Windows 10 - How to tell what type of Activation I have, Digitial Entitlement / Digital License or Product key

How to extend the 30 day limit to go back to your previous version of Windows

 

Forum Article Info


Last updated December 12, 2019 Views 35,480 Applies to:
no...it doesn't... I had windows 10 for a long time, turned it on and said the boot files were missing. ran the recovery media.....and now I have a big watermark on my screen that says to activate windows. I called support and they told me I had to buy a new one....so the entitlement thing is BS

Corey, try the following:

Get help with Windows activation errors
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/10738/windows-10-get-help-with-activation-errors


1) Click Start, and in the Search box type: slui.exe 4
2) Next press the 'ENTER' key
3) Select your 'Country' you are located in from the drop down list.
4) Choose the 'Phone Activation' option.
5) Stay on the phone *** do not select/press any options *** and wait for a person to help you.
6) Explain your problem clearly to the support person.

Alternatives:
Customer support options: Includes Phone, Chat and Community support

(Note: The "Wait Times" for each means of support is displayed)

https://partner.support.services.microsoft.com/en-us/contact/menu/software/windows/setup/


Activation and registration of a Microsoft product
http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=326851
Windows activation: (888) 571-2048
or (888) 725-1047 or 800-936-5700

Windows 10 - How to tell what type of Activation I have, Digitial Entitlement / Digital License or Product key

Windows 10 Anniversary Edition Update - How to get it now

How to re-install Windows 10 without a product key (Digitial License / Entitlement)

Never be afraid to ask. This forum has some of the best people in the world available to help.
Good wiki.  Liked and suggested as asset, mind if I refer people to it?
Cat herder
Windows Insider MVP
MVP-Windows and Devices for IT
http://www.zigzag3143.com/

Not at all, please do.

Thanks

Never be afraid to ask. This forum has some of the best people in the world available to help.

Valuable information JW.  Thanks. 

I'm seeing reports that retail boxed versions are reporting as activated with Digital License after v.1607.  Have you seen this yet? 

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I am a volunteer and not Microsoft.

Over 100,000 helped in forums for 10 years. I don't quit for those who are polite and cooperative.

Windows MVP 2010-20
Sorry but no I haven't. One Vista laptop I clean installed Windows 10 on a while back although ordered from the MS Store shortly after the AV edition (version 1607) was released came with version 1511. I did however burn a DVD with version 1607 and used it to perform the clean install. Sorry to say I did not look at the type of activation.
Never be afraid to ask. This forum has some of the best people in the world available to help.