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
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.
Have a question you want to put to Ask Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.