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

Ask LH: How Can I Tell If My Copy Of Windows Is Genuine?
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, hacks and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Lifehacker Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a fix.

Dear Lifehacker, I teach a computer class and last week I had a client with a copy of Win 10 which was installed by a friend and it is weird. For example, it doesn’t have MS Office so I used Wordpad to show him creating and saving text files but when he saved as an RTF the file morphed into a spreadsheet. His pictures folder is full of pictures of a red truck. I suspect that he does not have a legal copy although his computer seemed eager to install updates (I only had an hour for the lesson so didn’t follow up on that). Is there a quick way of finding out if his copy is legal? Thanks, Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

That does sound odd. The fact that he received prompts to install updates does not necessarily mean that his copy is genuine. As Microsoft explains on its help page:

“Regardless of genuine status, you’ll still be able to get critical security updates. However, if your copy of Windows isn’t genuine, you won’t be able to install many updates that are exclusively for customers with genuine Windows.”

Microsoft recommends checking the Certificate of Authenticity (COA), proof of license label and edge-to-edge hologram to tell if a copy of Windows is genuine. However, this relates to boxed copies. It sounds like your client’s friend was in possession of a download code or unboxed licence key which makes things trickier.

Unfortunately, there’s no utility or website that will independently verify if a product key is genuine. Your best bet is to get him to re-install Windows and see if his licence key will activate. (First, go to the Update & Security page in Settings and click on Activation to check whether he has a digital license or a 25-character product key.)

If it’s a counterfeit or non-genuine version of Windows, this should be discovered in the re-installation process during validation. You can read a bunch of additional detection tips from Microsoft here, here and here.

Presumably your client isn’t very computer literate and would doubtlessly prefer some expert assistance in this matter. If he is based near the Sydney CBD, he can arrange to have his copy of Windows diagnosed for free at the flagship Microsoft Store at Pitt Street Mall. If it’s bogus, they’ll be able to sort him out with a legitimate copy then and there.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].


  • For example, it doesn’t have MS Office

    Well, if he is not paying AU$99 a year for the subscription, of course not.

    when he saved as an RTF the file morphed into a spreadsheet.

    He messed up file associations. As you teach a computer class you helped him reset it didn’t you?

    His pictures folder is full of pictures of a red truck.

    Oh, a sure fire way to know Windows is authentic…. or maybe he likes red trucks?

    • LF appears to think the readers will swallow any old crap, it’s obviously a paid piece for Microsoft, which is why all the unfavourable comments keep getting deleted.

  • Instead of continually deleting comments you don’t like, why not just delete the article ?
    It’s shit, and you’ve been called out on it by several commenters, all of which you’ve deleted.
    Your censorship by proxy is something we’d expect of Boing Boing, not Lifehacker.
    Stop being so gutless.

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!