With its widespread use across personal computers and servers worldwide, Windows has become an indispensable operating system from Microsoft. Yet, its less visible elements, such as Product IDs and Product Keys, play a critical role in the Windows ecosystem.
If you also think of these two elements as the same thing, you are wrong. Though these strings of characters serve as digital fingerprints, uniquely identifying and verifying a specific instance of the software, product ID and product key are two different things.
While seemingly small, these hold immense significance not just for Microsoft but also for the millions of users relying on Windows to carry out daily tasks.
Let’s take a closer look at Product IDs and Product Keys and understand why they are important in the world of Windows.
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What is Windows Product ID
Imagine you have just bought a brand new laptop with the latest version of Windows installed on it. Everything seems to be running smoothly until one day when you try to activate your operating system, you are prompted to enter a mysterious sequence of characters known as a “Product ID.”
So, what exactly is a Product ID, and why is it important?
Simply put, it is a unique identifier that is used to distinguish one installation of Windows from another. It is typically a combination of numbers and letters specific to the version of Windows installed on your computer, as well as the channel through which it was acquired.
In simpler words, a Windows product ID is the equivalent of a chassis number for a car – there is only one item in the entire world with the associated ID.
It is essential for maintaining the security and stability of your computer and ensuring that you have access to all of the features and benefits of a valid license. Microsoft uses this information to track its software usage and support users who have purchased a license.
The importance of having a valid Product ID cannot be overstated. Without it, your operating system will be unable to receive important security updates and other critical patches that are necessary for keeping your computer safe and secure.
In addition, if you ever need to contact Microsoft support for assistance with your software, they will likely ask you to provide your Product ID in order to verify that you are running a genuine version of Windows.
How to Find Windows Product ID
Get Product ID on Windows 11, 10, Server 2019
On the modern Windows operating systems, you can view the product ID in the Settings app or from the Command Prompt. Follow these steps to view the product ID from the Settings app:
Navigate to the following:
In Windows 11:
Settings app >> System >> Activation
In Windows 10, Server 2019 and later:
Settings app >> Update & Security >> Activation
You will find the Product ID in this format “XXXXX-XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXX.”
To get the product ID for a Windows OS, use these steps instead:
Open an elevated Command Prompt.
Run the following cmdlet:
A pop-up will now appear with your product ID.
Get Product ID on Windows 7 and Older
Open the Control Panel by typing in “control” in the Run Command box.
Look for the 20-characters product ID after the activation info.
What is Windows Product Key
Product Key is a 25-character unique code that is assigned to every copy of the Windows operating system. This key serves as an authentication mechanism that confirms that the copy of Windows you are using is genuine and has been purchased legally. In simpler terms, it is like a digital license that grants you access to all the features of your Windows operating system.
What makes the product key so important?
Firstly, it ensures you use a legal and authorized copy of Windows. This helps in preventing piracy and other illegal activities which could harm the software industry. Secondly, it helps maintain the security and stability of your operating system by providing regular updates and patches.
Moreover, a product key is necessary if you want to enjoy all the features of your Windows operating system. Some features, such as personalization options, advanced settings, and security features, are only available to users who have activated their copy of Windows using a valid product key.
How to Find Windows Product Key
There are multiple ways of finding a product key in Windows. However, steps to the simplest and the most common way that works for everyone is via Command Prompt. Here is how to do it:
Open an elevated Command Prompt.
Run the following cmdlet:
wmic path softwareLicensingService get OA3xOriginalProductKey
To know more about other methods for finding your product key, refer to our detailed guide: 4 Ways To Find Windows 10 Product Key.
Difference in Windows Product ID vs. Product Key
All in all, product ID and product key in Windows may seem similar, but they serve different purposes. A product ID is a unique identifier for each installation of Windows and is primarily used for technical support and troubleshooting. In contrast, a product key is a code used to activate Windows and verify a genuine license.
Understanding the difference between these two identifiers can help ensure proper activation and access to technical support when needed.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are product ID and product key the same in Windows?
No, product ID and product keys are two different things. A product ID determines the level or serviuce you are entitled to, like the version and edition of your operating system. In contrast, the product key pairs your license with your computer and defines the operating system’s authenticity.
Is a license key and product key the same in Windows?
Technically, the answer is yes. A Windows key is referred to as a “product key” if you buy a physical disc (Fully Packed Product (FPP) license) and the key is printed on its covered. Whereas, the same key is referred to as a “license key” if you purchase a digital key from Microsoft or one of its retailers.