How to activate Windows 11 (three easy ways)

Activate your Windows 11 installation to unlock all the features.

Windows 11 activation
  • To reactive Windows 11 after a hardware change, open Settings > System > Activation, click on Troubleshoot, and reactivate the setup.
  • To activate a new install, open Settings > System > Activation, click Change and enter the product key.
  • On installation, enter the 25-digit product key that activates your purchased edition on the “Activate Windows” page.
  • Yes, you can activate Windows 11 with a Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 product key.

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 also reactivate a Windows install after a hardware change.

Although you can upgrade most computers to Windows 11 (22H2 or 21H2) for free, the operating system 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, the upgrade to Windows 11 is free – that is, of course, as long as the hardware meets the minimum requirements.

You can also activate Windows 11 with a Windows 10, 8.1, or 7 product key even when installing the operating system on the device for the first time.

This guide will teach you the steps to activate Windows 11 22H2, 21H2, or any over version on your computer.

Reactivate Windows 11 after hardware change

After making significant hardware changes to the computer (replacing the motherboard, processor, and memory), the installation may lose its activation because it thinks this is a new computer. However, you can use the activation troubleshooter to re-activate for free.

To reactivate Windows 11 after a hardware change, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings on Windows 11.

  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 next to the “Windows reported that no product key was found on your device. Error code: 0xC004F213.”

    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.

    Reactivation hardware change

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

Activate Windows 11 from 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 in the “Change product key” setting.

    Activate Windows 11

  6. Enter the current 25-digit product key for the installed edition of Windows 11. (You can use a Windows 10 key as well.)

    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 reinstall the OS without needing to re-enter the key.

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 current 25-digit product key for the edition of Windows 11. (You can use a Windows 10 key as well.)

    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 plan to reinstall the operating system, the system will reactivate automatically using an internet connection after the installation. However, if this is a new install, you have 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 operating system one more time with the correct edition that matches the license.