Ask LH: How Can I Check If My Copy Of Windows 10 Is Genuine?

Dear Lifehacker, I have bought an online digital code for Windows 10. Is there a website I can use to verify if it's genuine? Obviously I know that when installing the software it asks for the code and if you pass that point it is valid, but I'm thinking of checking a code before installing to verify its authenticity.Thanks, Windows User

Dear WU,

It sounds like you've snapped up a digital code from a third-party supplier. This is obviously a bad idea, particularly if you can't vouch for the website in question. As we've stressed in the past, you should never, ever download files of uncertain origin. This goes doubly for OS installs that have the potential to wipe your entire computer in one fell swoop.

Indeed, Cisco recently warned of a cryptovirus threat that impersonates an official email from Microsoft, offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 along with an attachment. Once the attachment is opened, the cryptovirus takes your computer hostage and demands a ransom.

Here's what Microsoft has to say about identifying genuine digital software on its blog:

When buying Microsoft software as a digital download, we recommend that you avoid auction sites and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing sites. At the moment there are a limited number of sites where you can legally purchase digital downloads of Microsoft software. One example is the online Microsoft Store, where you can buy a wide variety of genuine software and hardware directly from Microsoft. Additionally, you can purchase a digital download of Windows at www.windows.com/shop.   With the exception of Product Key Cards distributed with Certificates of Authenticity (COA's), Microsoft does not distribute products keys as standalone products. If you see a listing on an auction site, online classified ad, or other online page advertising product keys, it’s a good indication that these keys are likely stolen or counterfeit.

If you're running a genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can grab a free copy of Windows 10 from Microsoft. If you're unsure what qualifies, use this flowchart to determine if your computer is eligible for an upgrade.

If you're doing a clean install, we recommend purchasing a copy from the Microsoft store and following our step-by-step guide to ensure nothing goes wrong.

In short, if you're not sure whether your product key is genuine, delete the file and cut your losses. You can also seek out help from Microsoft here.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    The tl;dr answer: there's no utility or website that will independently verify a product key is genuine. The easiest method would be to install Win10 and see if that code will activate.

    This relies on the seller having sent the code in plain-text, for example in an email. It should be 5 groups of 5 numbers/letters. If it's been sent as an attachment then the above advice to be careful applies, especially if the attachment is a zip file.

    It might be someone is scamming with the generic RTM codes which can be found here: http://winaero.com/blog/generic-key-to-install-windows-10-rtm/ . These look genuine but are pre-keyed to enable upgrades or clean installs on PCs that previously ran Win7 or Win8.

    MD5 and SHA1 hash values are available for Windows 10 ISOs at the links below. You can use those to check if the Windows 10 image you have downloaded is legit. When I upgraded I used the install code supplied by MS (also available on a few websites), which is different from the Activation Code.

    https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/downloads/

    edit: will require Windows Live login.

    Last edited 17/08/15 3:41 pm

    I had no trouble with 3rd party keys, specifically resold from people who buy bulk Microsoft keys. I had no trouble with the third party checkers either, for example:

    http://www.teamos-hkrg.com/index.php?threads/the-ultimate-pid-checker-v1-2-0-606-by-janek2012.6037/

    Naturally use at your own risk and your mileage may vary.

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