For those who have Windows 10 on PC, the upgrade was different on two fronts: it was free and it didn't require a product key. The latter is more important because instead of the traditional 25-key product code that we're accustomed to seeing with new software, users had a "digital entitlement," and according to Microsoft, it's one of the two ways to activate Windows 10 for your device. Early adopters were confused as to how they could claim their copy of the new OS, and Microsoft finally explained it.
The other method uses the traditional product key, but it's only available under certain circumstances, such as buying it in a physical or digital format from an authorized retailer or buying an entirely new device that runs on Windows 10.
Digital entitlement mostly deals with digital copies of a new system. This is what most users experienced when they upgraded from Windows 7 or 8.1, bought the software from the Windows Store online, or participated in the Windows Insider program.
|Digital Entitlement Activation For Windows 10||Product Key Activation For Windows 10|
|Updated to Windows 10 from an eligible device running Windows 7 or 8.1||Bought Windows 10 from an authorized dealer|
|Bought a copy of Windows 10 from the Windows Store||Bought a digital copy of Windows 10 from an authorized dealer|
|Bought a copy of Windows 10 Pro from the Windows Store||You have a Microsoft Developer Network subscription or have a Volume Licensing agreement for Windows 10|
|You're a Windows Insider and upgraded to the latest version of Windows 10 Insider Preview build||Bought a new device running Windows 10|
The total number of ways to activate Windows 10 comes out to eight, as shown in the table above, and it's split down the middle in terms of using either a product key or digital entitlement to get the new system. However, considering that other companies, such as Apple, are releasing their latest software digitally, the product key might be phased out in the future.