3 easy ways to activate Windows 11

When you install Windows 11 on your PC, Microsoft will ask you to verify that you have a genuine copy of the operating system. If you don’t activate Windows 11, you won’t be able to access some apps, tools, and features of the operating system.

For example, you may not be able to customize the taskbar, change background images/wallpapers, install new themes or make other customizations to your PC without activating Windows. An “Activate Windows” watermark will remain stuck in the lower left corner of your screen. Windows may also display incessant pop-up messages asking you to activate the operating system.

In this tutorial, we are going to show you how to activate Windows 11 with a product key, digital license and the Windows Activation Troubleshooter.

How to check if Windows 11 is activated

If you didn’t enter a product key right after installing or upgrading to Windows 11, your device is likely deactivated. You can check the activation status of your device from the Settings app or via Command Prompt.

Check Windows activation status from Settings app

The Settings app displays the message “Windows is not activated” if you are using an unauthenticated version of Windows. You can also check the activation status of your PC from the Windows “Activation” menu.

  1. Go to Settings, select Systemand select Activation

Your PC is deactivated if the “Activation Status” row contains a . displays Inactive error message.

  1. If you see an error code and a prompt to enter a product key when you run the . unfolds, Activation Status: section, your Windows PC is not activated.

Check Windows activation status via Command Prompt

The Command Prompt is an all-round utility for checking your device’s information.

  1. Right click on the Start menu or press the Windows keyX and select Windows terminal (administrator) in the Quick access menu.
  1. Select the drop-down icon in the tab bar and select Command Prompt

That will open an elevated Command Prompt console with administrator privileges.

  1. Type or paste slmgr /dli in the console and press Enter

A Windows Script Host window displays a message to let you know if there is a product key associated with the Windows 11 copy running on your device. Of course, a “product key not found” error message means that Windows is not activated.

Now follow the three methods below in case your Windows 11 installation is not activated.

1. Activate Windows 11 using the Activation Troubleshooter

If you upgraded to Windows 11 from a previously activated Windows 10 PC, or if you qualify for a free upgrade, you can use the Activation Troubleshooter to activate Windows 11 without needing a product key or digital license to provide.

Connect your computer to the Internet and follow the steps below.

  1. Open the Settings app and select Activate now in the message “Windows is not activated”.

Otherwise go to SettingsSystemActivationActivation Status: and select the Resolving problems to start the Windows Activation Troubleshooter.

Wait for the troubleshooter to identify and fix the activation-related issues.

You’ll get a “We’ve activated this copy of Windows” message if the Activation Troubleshooter detects a product key and successfully activates your computer.

  1. Select Close to to exit the troubleshooter.

Otherwise, skip to the next section to activate Windows 11 by manually entering the product key.

2. How to activate Windows 11 with a product key

Let’s say you have a product key (a 25-character code) and you want to activate your Windows 11 computer. Connect your computer to the Internet and follow these steps:

  1. Open the Windows activation menu from SettingsSystemActivation—and extend the . from Activation Status: section.
  1. Select Change in the “Change product code” row.
  1. Enter the product key in the dialog box and select Enter continue.
  1. Select Activate continue.

Microsoft will activate your Windows 11 device if the product key is valid. That removes all restrictions and gives you access to all Windows 11 features.

If you bought Windows 11 but can’t find your product key, go to your Microsoft account order history in a browser. we sketch other ways to find your Windows product key in this tutorial

3. Activate Windows 11 with a digital license

A digital license (called a “Digital Entitlement” in Windows 11) is basically a digital version of a product key associated with your Microsoft account† It is a method of activating Windows without entering a product key. A digital license or digital authorization is the ideal activation method if you:

  • Purchased a Windows 11 or Windows 11 Pro upgrade through the Microsoft Store app.
  • Upgraded to Windows 11 from an eligible Windows device or an older version of Windows.
  • Upgraded to Windows 11 from a Windows 11 Insider Preview build.
  • Purchase a digital copy of Windows 11 from an authorized retailer.

If you don’t have a product key or if your copy of Windows 11 is from an unauthorized source, you can purchase a digital license for Windows 11 from the Microsoft Store app.

Go to SettingsSystemActivation and extend the . from Activation Status: drop-down list and select the Open store button in the “Get a new license in the Microsoft Store app” row.

Select the To buy and follow the prompt to purchase Windows 11 with a legitimate license.

Make sure the Microsoft Store is associated with your Microsoft account. Press profile icon select next to the search bar Loginand enter your account information.

After purchasing a Windows 11 license, you should see a “Windows is activated with a digital license” when you check the Windows activation menu.

If Windows is still not activated after purchasing the license, restart your PC, connect to the Internet and check again.

How to Deactivate Windows or Remove a Product Key

Microsoft allows you to transfer a trade license for Windows 11 between devices. But first you have to deactivate or remove the product key from one device before you can use it on another device.

In Windows 11, you can delete a product key by running a command in the Command Prompt.

  1. Right click on the Home menu or press the Windows keyX and select Windows terminal (administrator) in the Quick access menu.
  1. Select the drop-down icon in the tab bar and select Command Prompt

That will open an elevated Command Prompt console with administrator privileges.

  1. Type or paste slmgr /upk in the console and press Enter

You should get a Windows Script Host message that your device’s product key has been successfully removed.

Now you can use the product key to activate another Windows 11 device. Read this comprehensive Windows licensing guide to learn more about transferring a Windows 11 license using a product key or your Microsoft account.

Fix Windows 11 Activation Errors

Activating Windows 11 is very easy. However, you may get activation-related errors if your copy of Windows 11 is counterfeit or installed on multiple computers. Run the Windows Activation Troubleshooter to determine the cause of the errors. If the errors persist, check out the troubleshooting solutions in this tutorial on fixing Windows activation errors.

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