Can Windows licenses be transferred between PCs?

Microsoft is pretty strict about the Windows licenses that give you the legal right to use the software. Not all are transferable . Officially, a license can only be transferred if you purchased it through a retailer, in retail version. Licenses distributed through the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) channel and those sold in bundles for multiple business, educational, or government computers known as volume licenses are not transferable.

The vast majority of new PCs come with Windows pre-installed thanks to Microsoft’s enormous control of the OEM channel and that it is the primary means for its vast domain of desktop computing. But there are manufacturers that sell new computers without this type of installation, either because they are delivered without an operating system, because they use a GNU/Linux distribution or a lighter solution like FreeDOS .

In these cases or when we create our own desktop computers by customizing the components, we will need to acquire the corresponding software license, either free (if we bet on systems such as GNU/Linux) or paid as in the case of Windows. Can we take advantage of the license of an old computer that we are not going to use?  As we said above it will depend on its type.

In Windows 10 and Windows 11 the license is linked to the main hardware of the PC or what is the same, to the motherboard. Therefore, if you try to use a non-transferable license product key, Windows Activation Server will not validate the license on the new hardware. If Windows came pre-installed on your new PC, it will almost certainly have an OEM license that you won’t be able to transfer. Microsoft offers a support page where it explains all the possibilities to activate Windows .

Windows licenses What type do I have?

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

  • Right-click the start button and start a command prompt session in administrator mode.
  • Type the command “slmgr -dli” to get the information.
  • As you will see in the example, Windows Script Host indicates that we have a retail license (retail) which is one of those that we can transfer to another computer.

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 (called a “digital entitlement” in Windows 10) is used as a method of activation for Windows 10 that does not require entering a product key. You can transfer the license with both methods, because Microsoft still allows free upgrade from Windows to Windows 10.

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

There are several ways to locate it, but a very easy one is using 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, temporarily disable it. Once executed you will get both the product ID and the product key that we will use on the new PC:

How to transfer a Windows 10 or Windows 11 license?

In order to carry out the transfer, we first have to deactivate the license on the source PC. Later we can reactivate it on the new PC using the same key.

  • Right-click 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 going to actually transfer the licensebecause the system will be unlicensed.

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

  • During the installation of Windows 10 or Windows 11 it will ask you if you have the product key.
  • Or once installed, you can do it in the same way from the general tool Settings> Update and security> Activation> in Windows 10 or Settings> System> Activation> Change the product key.
  • Once installed and if you use 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 the activation method in Windows 10 using servers that linked the license with specific hardware, the motherboard. Using the same method, you can link a Microsoft ID account to a specific PC and this linking also allows you to transfer a Windows 10 retail license without using the product key .

Whether you already have it or activate this method on the old PC, you will get a type of license called: ” Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account “. In these cases, simply sign in with your Microsoft account on the new PC, and Windows 10 will automatically activate the license through that account. You cannot have it active on both PCs, so the older PC will be left without a license as when we use the product key.

Both one method and the other do not allow you to jump between the different editions of Windows . That is, if your license is for Windows 10 Home, that will be the one that will be activated on the new PC. If you want to jump to Windows 10 Pro you will have to purchase a new license.

Finally, note that in case of problems with the above options or in the event of a hardware change (motherboard change on a desktop), Windows can be activated by contacting Microsoft support . There are three methods to activate your product: Online via the Internet, by phone with our automated systems, and with a live technical support representative.

concluding. If you want to save money on switching PCs, it is possible to transfer Windows licenses by various methods as long as the license is a retail license, not OEM (pre-installed) licenses or so-called non-transferable business volume licenses. . And if you don’t want to “spend” the previous license, you can take advantage of the offers that we offer you regularly and get a legal and lifetime license for just 12 euros. In all cases, on new or transferred licenses, you can upgrade to Windows 11 for free.





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