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Welcome to the latest installment of Ask ZDNet, where we answer the questions that make your IT guy go 'Huh.'
In the mailbag this week: A reader wants to use the Windows 10 Pro license on an older laptop to upgrade Win 11 Home to Pro on a newly purchased PC. Any gotchas?
Can I transfer my Windows upgrade license from an old PC to a new one?
I have several older PCs/laptops running Windows 10 Pro (version 21H2). If I buy a PC or laptop that has Windows 11 Home edition preinstalled, can I use one of those Windows 10 Pro licenses to upgrade Win 11 Home to Pro?
The short answer is: Yes, that upgrade scenario should work. The longer answer has a few conditions and caveats.
I assume you have a Windows 10 Pro product key. If so, that key will work to perform an upgrade because all Windows 10 and Windows 11 product keys are interchangeable. In fact, product keys for Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8 Pro will also work to upgrade a Windows 11 Home installation. That was true when I first started looking into these upgrade scenarios back at the dawn of the Windows 10 era, and my testing confirms it's still true today.
To perform the upgrade from Windows 11 Home, go to Settings > System > Activation, and then click Upgrade Your Edition Of Windows. That action will reveal the Change Product Key menu. Click Change, enter the product key, click a few more buttons, and after a restart, you should have a fully activated installation of Windows 11 Pro.
We could stop right there, but you mentioned "Windows 10 Pro licenses," which raises a completely different set of questions. Yes, you can use an old product key for a Windows 11 Pro upgrade, and the activation will probably be successful. But as the Windows license terms pointedly note: "Successful activation does not confirm that the software is genuine or properly licensed."
Are you planning to continue using that Windows 10 Pro installation on the old PC where you originally used the product key? If so, well... you're technically in violation of the part of the license agreement that says you can only install and use the software on one device at a time. But that's between you and your conscience. On the other hand, if you've decommissioned that PC and removed the upgrade, you're on much firmer ground, license-wise, and you can sleep soundly.
If you were a network administrator managing a Windows deployment in a large enterprise, I would urge you to be extra cautious here. But seeing as how you're using Windows 11 Home edition on a PC in an unmanaged environment, I'm going to advise you not to worry and just enjoy the upgrade.
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