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I just got a second hand Dell XPS 12 to use for web testing (I currently only use mac but are having a case where I must check how things looks in IE). It has Windows 10 on it. When I check with dell web site it was first delivered with 8.1 but was upgraded to Windows 10 while that was free.

Theres a million programs and files on the computer so I would like to re-install it using Windows 10.

If I understood correctly checking with MS the license should be coupled with that hardware (when upgraded to Win10) so I could just download the Win 10 ISO from MS and run an installation from that.

What do you think? Should I try to extract the license key first? And if so How? :) Or should I try to find a Dell recovery image instead? Any ideas and tips?



Here is what I did

I downloaded the Windows 10 iso from Microsoft and created a bootable USB drive with the provided tool. I booted the computer from that and when it asked for a serial I just clicked I don't have one and continued the installation.

When Windows was installed and I had put in my Wifi password it had activated itself with Microsoft. The license key is generated based on the motherboard for all (or many?) of the upgrades from Windows 8.

marked as duplicate by Run5k, Ramhound, harrymc windows Oct 21 '18 at 15:40

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • I think - I'm not stating - that if it was updated to Win10 once, the same license will activate if reinstalled. – GabrielaGarcia Oct 21 '18 at 14:03
  • Use the Windows media creation tool. Reinstall windows and during setup you will be asked what version of Windows (Windows 10, Windows 10 Pro). Be sure to choose the same version you have now and it will install and activate automatically. – Appleoddity Oct 21 '18 at 14:16

If the laptop was shipped with Windows 8.1, then it most likely has Windows 8.1 product key embedded in motherboard memory. Laptops that have embedded product keys come with small Windows sticker at the bottom with Windows logo only. If you have a large sticker with product code printed on it, then the key isn't embedded.

The embedded key can be extracted using RWEverything. Click the ACPI Table button, then MSDM tab. The product key will be shown at the bottom.

If you don't have embedded product key and the key on the sticker is unreadable, then at this point you won't be able to retrieve original key - when Windows is upgraded, it generates a new product key that replaces the original one and can't be used for fresh installs.

Your options are:

  1. Reset Windows 10. This version of Windows has built-in reinstall feature. Click:

    Start → Settings → Update & Security → Recovery → (under Reset this PC) Get started

    Windows will ask you which files you'd like to keep, then it will take some time to reinstall. Finally you'll be left with a fresh copy of Windows 10 without any licensing issues.

  2. Try to clean install Windows 10. Download Windows 10. The official tool will write it to a thumb drive of your choice. Boot using that drive and try to install Windows.

    If you have embedded product key, it shouldn't ask you to enter product key at all - it's likely that installer will recognize and accept Windows 8.1 product key. If it doesn't, see point 3.

    If you don't have embedded product key, but a large product key sticker, you'll have to enter the product key manually. It will most likely work. If it won't, see point 3.

  3. Install Windows 8.1 and upgrade to Windows 10. Windows 8.1 can also be downloaded from Microsoft. It will read the embedded product key if available or will ask you to enter it. After clean installation prepare a Windows 10 installation thumb drive and run it in Windows 8.1. It will start the upgrade.

If you have a Windows ISO and you want to write it to a thumb drive without official tools (for whatever reason), use Rufus. Microsoft tools prepare universal thumb drives, but Rufus forces you to choose between UEFI and BIOS styles (for complicated, subjective reasons). You'll have to figure out if you're using UEFI boot or BIOS/CSM boot. Windows supports UEFI boot only on GPT hard drives and BIOS/CSM boot only on MBR hard drives. Your current partitioning scheme (MBR or GPT) can be determined using built-in Disk Management tool:

right-click disk's label → PropertiesVolumes tab → Partition style

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