My laptop has Windows 10 Pro retail license. I wish to retain this license for myself and not give it away with the device. I will be doing a full reset and data wipe (of course). But I want to know how I can hold on to my license. What extra steps will I need to take?

Clarification edits:
1. It did not come with Windows. It came with DOS installed. For this reason, there is no license key baked into the BIOS.
2. It is not UEFI at its current configuration. It does support UEFI, though, if one is willing to go through the complete format and reinstall process.
3. I am using a retail Windows 10 Pro license which I bought separately

  • 2
    If it is an OEM license you cannot hold on to it, it goes with the hardware. – Moab Sep 7 at 14:08
  • " It is not UEFI at its current configuration." It is either UEFI (and can do UEFI and UEFI in fall back mode), or BIOS. You cannot switch between those without flashing a new firmware. So I guess it is UEFI with CSM (compatability shims) enabled. – Hennes Sep 8 at 10:27
  • As you have a full retail copy of Windows 10, you can transfer it as many times as you want. Try to refer to:groovypost.com/howto/transfer-windows-10-license-new-pc – Joy Sep 28 at 9:44
  • @joy thank you. That is the answer I was looking for. If you submit that as a full answer, I can mark it as accepted. As per the rules, you will have to give the detailed steps in case the link dies in the future. – Anish Majumder Oct 1 at 17:40

My laptop has Windows 10 Pro retail license. I wish to retain this license for myself and not give it away with the device.

Windows 10 Professional licenses can be transferred to another machine.

I will be doing a full reset and data wipe (of course).

Since we are dealing with a laptop, the device was sold by an OEM, which means it came with an operating system. You should install that operating system. If you only perform a Reset, which is a feature of Windows 10, the machine will continue to use your retail Windows 10 license.

Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 licenses installed on OEM hardware, are stored in the ACPI table, and cannot be transferred to another device. They are NOT stored in the UEFI, while ACPI and UEFI are connected, they are entirely different specifications.

In order to transfer a retail license, in the past, you would have to call the Microsoft Activation Center and provide a response code to the challenge code unique to your computer. This came with certain limitations, and it didn't always work, so there was a good chance you had to explain you were migrating your license to a human. Recently with Windows 10, Microsoft has made it extremely easy and provided a method to perform that same task within Windows 10. This only applies to the most recent feature updates of Windows 10.

What extra steps will I need to take?

I would enable BitLocker, encrypt the entire device, then delete your personal files. While still encrypted I would boot to the installation device of the operating system that came with the device, and delete all partitions. I would then install the operating system, allow it to create new partitions, which will prevent anyone from ever accessing any of your personal files.

Short of this, your files can be recovered without much effort, if you use the Reset feature within Windows 10, you would mistakenly be giving up your retail Windows 10 license.

  • @PawelDebski - I indicated in my answer the license can be transferred, which of course, would involve activating the license key on another machine. What are you trying to ask would work? What you describe is my exact suggestion, which I have confirmed will work, because retail licenses can be transfered. – Ramhound Sep 7 at 18:35
  • In my case, the laptop came with DOS. I installed my retail windows 10 pro after I bought it. Is there no easy way to dissociate my license so that when the new user starts it up, they have to put their own license key to activate it? – Anish Majumder Sep 8 at 10:04
  • @AnishMajumder You can use the generic Windows 10 Professional license, by not entering a license, but just sell the device without an operating system. – Ramhound Sep 8 at 16:52

Microsoft does not allow a license to be transferred from one pc to another. It goes this far, that if you modify your current pc configuration enough, windows will no longer see your license to match your pc and deactivate the license.

Microsoft can help to activate this in case it happens, but Microsoft states that a license is bound to a computer, and if the computer changes enough, it becomes a new device, and as such, a new license is required.

This already means that it is against Microsoft Policy to transfer your license to another computer, whether it is possible or not.

That said, Windows 10 licenses have different ways to be installed into a system. A key can be inserted into the UEFI bios which is automatically found and used during install, or a key can be stored on the Microsoft servers (this is mostly the case when you have a pre-Windows 10 pc and upgrade it to windows 10.) or thirdly, you buy a license and get an actual code/the license is automatically activated.

It depends on the kind of license that you have in order to find out how transferable it is. A new laptop which comes with Windows preinstalled will have the key inserted into the UEFI bios. Although you may be able to find out what your license key is, it will be impossible to remove it from the UEFI bios, and suddenly 2 persons have access to the same key. It won't take long before Microsoft flags the key as invalid.

If the install was upgraded, the same as above applies. The laptop's hardware is tied to the license key through the Windows Servers and again, 2 persons can install windows using the same key, getting into problems.

If you have a microsoft account that holds your product key (this happens if you buy the key through the windows store), or you have another physical way to the key, you can actually make sure the new owner does not get the license and as such can't activate windows. You now have a key only you can use, but it may still be that the hardware is too different for this computer for microsoft to accept that your license is used in the same computer, and as such, they may still not allow you to activate the license and as such, you are required to buy a new license.

That said, there is a simple and legal solution.

Sell your laptop, also include the windows license, and just increase the price you ask for the laptop and state: comes with a valid Windows 10 license. Then buy a new license.

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