When you buy a new PC, Windows 10 comes pre-installed and activated. But if you're building a new system, you'll need a new license, which could end up costing you a few hundred dollars depending on the edition you need. However, if you're planning to retire an old system, you may be able to transfer the Windows 10 product key to the new computer to save cost.

It's not just a good option when setting up a new device, but the ability to transfer a license may also come in handy when you're selling a computer and you want to retain the product key, or you want to recycle the license to activate a new virtual machine.

Whatever the reason it may be, you're entitled to transfer a license to another device under the Microsoft rules, but it'll depend on the way that Windows 10 was initially obtained.

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to transfer a product license to a new device.

How to determine if you can transfer a product key on Windows 10

Microsoft distributes licenses of Windows 10 in many channels with different rules, but if you're a regular user, usually, you can only obtain a license through the Retail or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) channel.

If you have purchased a Retail copy of Windows 10, then you're allowed to transfer the product key to another computer. If you're upgrading a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 installation to Windows 10 with a retail copy, you're still entitled to move the license to a new device.

Usually, there isn't a limit on the number of times that you can transfer a retail license to a new device as long as you properly deactivate the other installation. However, depending on the circumstances, you might begin to see activation errors, which you may be able to resolve by contacting the Microsoft support line directly and explaining the problem.

On the other hand, if you have a computer that came pre-installed with Windows 10 (such as Surface Laptop 2, Dell XPS 13, or Lenovo X1 Carbon), then you're using an OEM license. If this is the case, the product key isn't transferable, and you cannot use it to activate another installation. If you upgraded Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 to Windows 10 during the free upgrade period, your device still has a non-transferable OEM license.

Also, in the case that you upgraded from Windows 10 Home to Pro using the Microsoft Store option, then you can transfer the license to a new computer because the product key will be converted into a digital license linked to your Microsoft account.

How to transfer a product key to a new PC on Windows 10

If you have a device running a retail copy of Windows 10, you're entitled to transfer the license to a new device, and the process evolves removing the license from the old machine and then applying the same product key on the new computer.

Deactivating Windows 10 from old installation

To uninstall a Windows 10 product key, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to remove the current product key and press Enter:

    slmgr /upk

    Quick tip: If you don't see the "Uninstalled product key successfully" message, you may need to run the command multiple times until the message shows up.

  4. (Optional) Type the following command to clear the license from the Registry and press Enter:

    slmgr /cpky

Once you complete the steps, you can use the product key to activate a different computer running Windows 10.

Although the steps outlined above will uninstall the product key from your computer, the process won't remove the activation from the Microsoft servers. Instead, this process will prevent detecting the same product key being used in multiple devices.

If you're moving to a new computer, because the other one no longer works, it's not necessary to use the above steps.

Activating Windows 10 on new installation

You can use a previously activated product key of Windows 10 on a new computer manually or contacting the Microsoft support line directly.

Installing license using Command Prompt

To activate Windows 10 with a previous product key, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to reuse the Windows 10 product key from another computer and press Enter:

    slmgr /ipk xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

    In the command, replace "xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx" with the product key you want to use to activate Windows 10.

  4. Type the following command to verify the activation and press Enter:

    slmgr /dlv

  5. Check under the "License Status" section, and make sure the status reads "Licensed" to verify that Windows 10 is fully activated.

Once you complete the steps, your copy of Windows 10 should be activated and ready.

Installing license calling Microsoft support

If you're unable to activate your copy of Windows 10 using Command Prompt, you may need to contact Microsoft support to activate the new installation using these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to activate the copy of Windows 10 and press Enter:

    slui 4

  4. Select your region from the activation wizard.
  5. Click the Next button.

  6. Call Microsoft using the toll-free number provided in the wizard.
  7. Provide the Installation ID number.
  8. Click the Enter confirmation ID button.

  9. Type the confirmation ID provided by Microsoft support.
  10. Click the Activate Windows button.

After you complete the steps, the installation will activate, and you can take full control of Windows 10 on your new device.

When transferring a product key to another computer, remember that the edition of Windows 10 must match the edition that the license activates. For example, if you're uninstalling a Windows 10 Pro product key, you can only use it to activate another Windows 10 Pro installation. You can't use a Pro license to activate a device running Windows 10 Home.

We're focusing this guide on the consumer version of Windows 10, but Microsoft has many channels of license distribution, which may be governed by different rules.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

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Hi, I'm Mauro Huculak, Windows Central's help and how-to guru. I wrote the post you're reading now, and I know the Windows OS inside and out. But I'm also a bit of a hardware geek. These are some of the affordable gadgets on my desk today.

Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse ($72 at Amazon)

I know mice, and this is the one I use every day. The MX Master is a wireless high-precision mouse that's very comfortable to use and has many great features, including the ability to connect with multiple devices, an infinite scroll wheel, back and forward buttons, all of which you can customize.

Ktrio Extended Gaming Mouse Pad ($12 at Amazon)

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Supernight LED light strip ($20 at Amazon)

You could just use a regular light bulb in your office, but if you want to add some ambient lighting with different colors, an RGB LED strip is the way to go. This one is Mauro-approved.

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