On Windows 10, the activation process can also generate a "digital entitlement", which allows the operating system's hardware and license status to be saved to the activation servers, so that the operating system's license can automatically be restored after a clean installation without the need to enter a product key.
When activating over the Internet, the Activation Wizard automatically transmits and receives verification data to and from Microsoft servers, completing the process without any interaction by the user.
In this case, the copy of Windows installed does not use the product key listed on the certificate of authenticity, but rather a master product key issued to OEMs called a System Locked Pre-installation (SLP) key.
On each boot, Windows confirms the presence of specific information stored in the BIOS by the manufacturer, ensuring the activation only remains valid on that computer, even if the product key is used on another machine.
When activation takes place, the program saves a record of the verification data in the user's computer.
Immediate activation is not required following installation, but the program must be activated within a specific period of time in order to continue to function properly.
Throughout this grace period, the user will be periodically reminded to activate the program, with warnings becoming more frequent over time.
Microsoft Product Activation is a DRM technology used by Microsoft Corporation in several of its computer software programs, most notably its Windows operating system and its Office productivity suite.
The procedure enforces compliance with the program's end-user license agreement by transmitting information about both the product key used to install the program and the user's computer hardware to Microsoft, inhibiting or completely preventing the use of the program until the validity of its license is confirmed.
The procedure has been met with significant criticism by many consumers, technical analysts and computer experts, who argue that it is poorly designed, highly inconvenient and ultimately does nothing to prevent software piracy.
When installing a retail copy of Windows or Office, the user is asked to input a unique product key supplied on a certificate of authenticity included with the program, which is later verified during activation.