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Windows 11 uses a product key to ensure your OS is genuine — in other words, not pirated. You can find the product key in use on your PC, which is particularly useful if you bought Windows yourself and need to reinstall it.

What Is a Windows Product Key?

A product key is Microsoft’s way to ensuring that the copy of Windows being used is genuine. The key is provided to Microsoft when Windows 11 is activated, and Microsoft checks the key against its records. Windows will not be activated if the key is invalid.

When you purchase a prebuilt computer or laptop, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) installs Windows on the device for you. That kind of key is commonly referred to as an OEM key, an OEM product key, or an OEM license.

Alternatively, there are retail licenses available for enthusiasts who build their own PCs or purchase different versions of Windows 11.

Regardless of what kind of key you have, product keys are 25 characters long and composed of a mixture of capital letters and numbers.

Find an OEM License With Command Prompt

If your PC has an OEM license — in other words, if you purchased a computer that came with Windows preinstalled—you can find the license key using Command Prompt.

Note: If you bought a retail license and installed it on a prebuilt PC or a laptop, you’ll need to use the ShowKeyPlus method.
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Click the Start button, type “Command prompt” or “cmd” into the search bar, and then hit Enter.

In the window that appears, enter:
wmic path softwarelicensingservice get OA3xOriginalProductKey

If you were successful, you should see a string of letters and numbers immediately under the command you entered. That is your product key!

Command prompt displaying key

Show a Retail License Using ShowKeyPlus

If you purchased and installed Windows yourself, ShowKeyPlus will show it. ShowKeyPlus is a free application available on the Microsoft Store.

To download it, click the Start button, type “Microsoft Store” in the search bar, and then hit “Open.”

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Once the Microsoft Store is open, go to the top of the page and enter “ShowKeyPlus” into the search bar, and hit enter.

"ShowKeyPlus" in a red box in the search bar

On the ShowKeyPlus app page, click “Install.” Once it is done installing, the “Install” button will change into an “Open” button. Click “Open.”

ShowKeyPlus displays the currently installed key and the OEM key.

If you’re using an OEM copy of Windows 11, both the green and blue boxes display your product key. If you installed a version of Windows 11 you purchased yourself, the green box is the key currently in use.

Once you have the key you can write it down or save it to a file on your computer. Be careful not to share it online. Retail licenses can be used on multiple devices (though not simultaneously), so someone may attempt to steal your product key to activate Windows.

If you purchased a retail key, you can use it in the future to reinstall Windows. If your PC came running Windows and has an OEM key, you probably won’t need to use it — OEM keys are tied to your hardware, and Windows will detect them automatically when it is installed.

Profile Photo for Nick Lewis Nick Lewis
Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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