Windows 10, Microsoft’s latest and greatest, is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, operating system today. However, it is also very expensive. If you already have obtained Windows 10 one way or another, we couldn’t blame you if you wanted to save some money on your new computer by transferring your Windows 10 license from your old one.
Fortunately, Microsoft does allow this, even for people who took advantage of the “free upgrade” from Windows 7 or 8 and got Windows 10. There are some limitations, however, so before we get into how you would transfer the license, let’s talk about those, and see what issues you might run into.
Differentiating the license types
For people who upgraded an OEM or retail version, Windows 10 carries over the same type of licensing. If you upgrade from an OEM version, Windows 10 will also have the rights of an OEM version, and the same applies for retail, too – upgrading from a retail version carries over retail rights.
With the full retail version, you have transfer rights to another computer, and you don’t require a previous qualifying version of Windows. The upgrade retail version is cheaper but requires that you have a previous, qualifying version of Windows installed. Note that a full retail version lets you transfer it as many times as you want, while an upgrade retail version is entitled to only a one-time transfer.
With an OEM license, there are a few differences from the full retail version. To begin with, you don’t have any free Microsoft direct support. The license is tied to the first computer you install it and activate it on, and you can’t use an OEM version if you want to directly upgrade from an older version of Windows. Last but not least, you could upgrade all your hardware, except for a different model motherboard. If you do change the motherboard, this invalidates the upgrade license, since it doesn’t have a base qualifying license anymore.
So, how would you go about transferring the license?
There are two ways to go about this. One of them is to remove the license from your computer and then transfer it to the new one. The second one is to tie it to your Microsoft account, instead of the hardware on your computer. Which one you go for is completely up to you, but we’ll take a look at both below.
Method 1: Remove the license from your system, and re-activate it on the new one
In order to move your license, you can’t have it in use on another system. Since Windows 10 doesn’t have a deactivation option, you’re stuck with either uninstalling the product key or formatting your computer. Uninstalling the key is as close to deactivating as you’ll get. It doesn’t tell Microsoft’s activation servers that the license is no longer in use, but in case they do check later down the road, they won’t find it in use on more than one system. Formatting will ensure that the license isn’t in use on the computer, and you could use Microsoft’s Reset option that’s built-in Windows 10. The steps below apply if you want to uninstall the key.
- On your old computer, press the Windows key and X, then choose Command Prompt (Admin) from the list that pops up.
- Type in “slmgr.vbs /upk”, and press Enter to execute the command. This uninstalls the product key, and you can use it elsewhere.
- Start installing Windows 10 on your new computer. When prompted to enter the product key, choose I don’t have a product key if you have upgraded. If you have bought your Windows 10 as a full retail version, you can enter the key.
- Choose your edition. If you’ve upgraded from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium or Windows 8.1 Core, you should choose Windows 10 Home. If you’ve upgraded from Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate, or Windows 8.1 Pro, choose Windows 10 Pro.
- You might be prompted to enter the product key again – do the same thing as earlier. Choose to Do this later if you’ve upgraded, or enter the key if you have a full retail version of Windows 10.
- Once you’re done installing and are at the desktop, it’s time to enter your key. Ever since last year’s November Update, people who upgraded can simply enter their Windows 7 or Windows 8 key. There are two ways to do this:
- Click Start, then Settings, and go to Update & security and then You’ll see Change the product key. Enter the key here, and click Next to activate it. Or, open the administrator command prompt as described in step 1, and enter “slmgr.vbs /ipk”, followed by your product key in this format “xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx”, then press Enter to execute. This method should be used if you’re having issues with the Settings.
- Since the license was used on another computer previously, you’ll want to reactivate it by contacting support. Press Windows key and R, type in slui.exe 4, and press Enter or click OK.
- You should see the activation wizard here, so choose your country and click Once you’re at the activation screen, call the number, or launch Contact Support. You’ll need to explain the situation to Microsoft’s Answer Tech, and they’ll need the installation ID on the screen. They’ll then verify the product key and give you a confirmation ID for reactivating.
- Click on Enter confirmation ID and enter the ID. This should be it, and the license should be transferred without issue.
Method 2: Associate your license with your account instead of the hardware
This method comes from Microsoft themselves and is what they advise you do if you’ll be making significant hardware changes. Since the license is tied to your hardware, changing it will make it invalid. But if you tie it to your account, you can use it again by signing in with the same account afterward. The steps to be followed are the ones below.
- To begin with, on your old machine, click Start, go to Settings, Update & security and then You should have Windows 10 activated already. If you don’t, make sure you complete the activation process.
- From within the same window, check if you find “Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account”. If this is the case, you can skip steps 3 and 4.
- Go to Settings, Accounts and Your Info. You should see Administrator under your name. Check if that administrator account is your Microsoft account by checking whether you have an email address above Administrator. If you have it, you’re good to go.
- Once you’ve confirmed this, you can go back to the Activation window, choose Add an account and then sign in with your Microsoft account.
- Follow steps 3 through 5 of the previous method to get past the installation of Windows 10 on your new computer.
- You should get issues with activation, so you’ll need to run the Activation troubleshooter. From the Activation window, choose You will get a message saying “Windows can’t be activated on your device”, so choose “I have changed hardware on this device recently”, and click Next.
- Enter the email and password of your Microsoft account and click Sign in. You should get a list of devices linked to your Microsoft account, including the computer where you previously used Windows 10. Choose that one by selecting it, then the checkbox where it says This is the device I’m using right now.
- Click Activate, and you should be good to go.
What to do if this doesn’t work?
There are a few reasons why this might not work. For example, you could be choosing a different edition of Windows than what’s linked to your digital account, or the type of device might not match. You might have reached the limit regarding how many times you can reactivate Windows 10. We mentioned all of these things earlier, so you might want to go back and check them, as this might be a potential issue. Solve them, and you should be up and running again.