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Locating your Windows 10 OEM Licence Key

The introduction a number of years ago of the Digital Product Key (DPK) saw the removal of the Certificate of Authority (CoA) Licence Key sticker we had all grown to know and love since the days of Windows 95. Use of a DPK was introduced by Microsoft with the launch of Windows 8 and saw the 25-character key injected into the PC system board. As a result the OEM Operating System was intrinsically linked to the product it came with and no more could any CoA to hand be used when installing Windows 7, or could we deploy a modified version of OEM Window 7 via Sysprep. The CoA sticker became a thing of the past, relegated to the dustbin and was replaced by a Windows Logo on the base on the notebook instead.

So, we now have a secure OEM licencing system and the user cannot see or lose their licence key; when a new system board is fitted the DPK is supplied already in the new board. The DPK also has benefits as it makes auditing licences easier via the KMS (Key Management Server), especially in Volume Licenced organisations – if there is no DPK with corresponding SLIC tables for Windows 8/8.1/10 Pro then no activation of the volume media. There is however one drawback to all of this: the user who wants to exercise their downgrade rights and install an earlier version of Windows.

From Windows 10 Pro the user (that’s you constant reader) has the right granted from Microsoft to install an OS that is N-2 in revision. This means two generations back from the licence provided, so with Windows 10 Pro licenced units the user can actually install Windows 7 Pro. This wasn’t too difficult until recently as PC OEM vendors such as Toshiba could often provide Windows 7 pre-installed with Windows 10 recovery media in the box – the downgrade had, in effect, already been done.

From November 2016 it has become more difficult and costly to provide Windows 7 pre-installed and all vendors generally now provide units with Windows 10 Pro installed leaving it to users to perform the downgrade themselves. The process sees the user installing Windows 7 with a generic licence key from the install media and when activation is refused they need to call Microsoft, claim they are “exercising their downgrade rights from Windows 10”, offer up the Windows 10 licence key and in return be given an activation key to enter. Simple and easy, or is it? Those that have followed so far will realise there is one small piece of detail missing – how do you get the Windows 10 Pro licence key if it is in digital form locked into the system board?

Thankfully there is a way to obtain this that does not require calling the OEM vendor and waiting for them to locate this from their supply chain/factory. To get your Windows 10 Pro licence key simply follow the below steps:-

  1. Launch an Administrator Command Prompt.
  2. At the elevated command prompt type:-
    wmic path SoftwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey
  3. 1. After a few seconds the licence key will appear on the screen and you can make a note of it.

So, now with licence key in hand the process of downgrading to Windows 7 from OEM Windows 10 Pro is along the lines of:-

  1. Obtain Windows 7 Pro Install Media complete with its licence key (it doesn’t matter if this key has already been used for activation).
  2. Change the BIOS in the notebook from UEFI to either UEFI Legacy or CSM Mode – you will probably find CSM Mode easier to work with.
  3. Boot from the installation media, prepare the HDD/SSD as necessary and install Windows 7 Pro.
  4. You will find Windows 7 Pro will not activate as the key you used has been used already.
  5. Choose the option to activate offline by phone and provide your country location when prompted.
  6. Call the number that appears on the screen and when the Microsoft Technical Agent answers explain that you wish to “exercise your downgrade rights from Window 10 Pro”.
  7. At this point you may be asked for your Windows 10 Pro licence key which you will have noted down previously. Provide this to the agent and they should give you a (very long) activation code that can be entered into the computer.
  8. Windows 7 Pro will now be activated.

We hope the above has been of help to you.

Until the next time,

Your Toshiba B2B Consultant Team

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