Work with product keys and activation

Windows image files (WIM) can include multiple images within the same file. During the Windows installation process, you can choose an image to install, and then activate Windows.

Select the Windows edition to install

To select a Windows edition to install:

  • Manually:

    • Install Windows manually from media without an answer file. Windows Setup will install the default edition from the installation media.
  • In an automated installation:

    • Install Windows with an answer file and include a product key in the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\UserData\ProductKey\Key Unattend setting. Each product key is specific to a Windows edition. Entering the product key in this setting does not activate Windows.
    • Install Windows with an answer file, and then manually type in a product key during Windows Setup. The product key selects a Windows edition to install.


If you have multiple Windows images with the same Windows edition that are stored in the same Windows image file (.wim), you can use the Microsoft-Windows-Setup\ImageInstall\OSImage\InstallFrom\MetaData Unattend setting to differentiate between them. You must still provide a product key using one of the methods listed in the above list.

For information about managing Windows product keys when changing the Windows image to a higher edition, see Change the Windows Image to a Higher Edition Using DISM.

Activate Windows

To automatically activate Windows by using a product key, you can do one of the following:

  • Use the Microsoft-Windows-Shell-Setup\ProductKey Unattend setting. You can use either a single-use product key or a Volume License Multiple Activation Key. For more information, see the Volume Activation Planning Guide.

    The product key used to activate Windows must match the Windows edition that you install. If you use a product key to select a Windows edition, we recommend using the same key to activate Windows, so that the edition you install is the same as the edition that you activate.

  • Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can use OEM-specific activation tools.

How Configuration Passes Work

Sysprep (Generalize) a Windows installation

Change the Windows Image to a Higher Edition Using DISM