Activate

How to activate Windows 11

Activate your Windows 11 installation to unlock all the features.

Windows 11 activation

You can activate a fresh copy of Windows 11 in at least two different ways, entering the product key during the installation or after using the Settings app. You can even re-activate your computer after a hardware change.

Although you can upgrade most computers to Windows 11 for free, the OS is not exactly free. For example, if you are building a custom computer that never had an installation of Windows, you will need to purchase a product key to activate the product and unlock all the features.

On the other hand, if you have a laptop or desktop computer running Windows 10, then the upgrade to Windows 11 is free – that is, of course, as long as the hardware meets the minimum requirements.

Microsoft does not advertise it, but you may also activate Windows 11 with a Windows 7 or 8.1 product key even when installing the OS on the device for the first time.

In this guide, you will learn the steps to activate Windows 11 on your computer.

Activate Windows 11 in Settings

To activate a Windows 11 setup through the Settings app, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on System.

  3. Click the Activation page on the right side.

  4. Click the Activation state setting (if applicable).

  5. Click the Change button.

    Activate Windows 11

  6. Enter the 25-digit product key that activates the edition of Windows 11 you purchased.

    Enter Windows 11 product key

  7. Click the Next button.

  8. (Optional) Click the Open Store button to open the Microsoft Store.

  9. Click the Buy button.

  10. Continue with the on-screen directions to complete the license purchase and activate Windows 11 (if applicable).

Assuming you are using Windows 11 with a Microsoft account, the license will link to your account as a “digital license” (digital entitlement) so that you can, later on, reinstall the OS without the need to re-enter the key.

If the device is missing the product key, it’s normal to see the “Windows reported that no product key was found on your device. Error code: 0xC004F213” message.

Activate Windows 11 after hardware change

If you made significant hardware changes to the computer, such as replacing the motherboard, processor, and memory, the installation might lose its activation because it thinks this is a new computer. However, you can use the activation troubleshooter to re-activate for free.

To activate Windows after a hardware change, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on System.

  3. Click the Activation page on the right side.

  4. Click the Activation state setting (if applicable).

  5. Click the Troubleshoot button.

    Activate after hardware change

  6. Click the I changed hardware on this device recently option.

    Windows 11 reactivation

  7. Sign in with your Microsoft account credentials.

  8. Select the computer from the list.

  9. Click the Activate button.

Once you complete the steps, the installation should activate automatically.

Activate Windows 11 during installation

To activate Windows during the installation process, use these steps:

  1. Start the PC with the Windows 11 USB flash drive.

  2. Press any key to continue.

  3. Click the Next button.

    Windows 11 setup

  4. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 11 installation

  5. On the “Activate Windows” page, enter the 25-digit product key that activates your purchased edition.

    Windows 11 install activation

  6. Click the Next button to verify the license.

  7. Continue with the on-screen directions to complete the installation.

Although you can provide the serial number to activate Windows 11 during the installation, you can always skip this step by clicking the “I don’t have a product key” option. If you are reinstalling the OS, the system will try to re-activate automatically using an internet connection. However, if this is a new install, you will need to activate the setup with the Windows 11 Pro or Home product key. If the product key doesn’t match the edition of Windows, you will need to reinstall the OS one more time with the correct edition that matches the license.