I have a Thinkpad which came with Windows installed. I think the Windows was Windows 8 (not 100% sure, but) - I think upgraded to 8.1 & then to Windows 10. There is a Sticker which says "Pro Windows" with the Microsoft Windows logo on the laptop. But there is no other sticker which gives the Windows License key.

My harddisk has issues (though still working) & it going to be replaced by Lenovo warranty - but they will just install a blank HD - no OS. The laptop didn't come with Windows Disks. My vendor says that the license key is burnt into the BIOS & it will automatically be picked when Windows is reinstalled.

I have several options now

  • is to make a bootable recovery CD on a pen drive & use it to install - will this install Windows 8 or Windows 10?

  • Freshly install Windows 8 & then hope the license key is automatically picked up. Then upgrade to 8.1 & then to 10.

  • Freshly install Windows 10 & hope the license key is picked up.

I installed Magical Jelly Bean Key Finder & it shows the OS & Windows 10 Pro & gives a CD Key - is the key which came with the OS or is the key which was given automatically when I upgraded to 10.

I am wondering which of the options would be the most seamless for me to get back to work once I replace the hard disk.

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Windows 8 and later versions use key stored in BIOS of a motherboard. So as long as you do not replace that you won't have issues with reinstalling Windows 8 & 8.1 Unless your motherboard was already replaced, then you should have been provided with new Windows 8/8.1 key.

Windows 10, however, is even easier. Data is stored online, so it will activate as soon as you go online.

I would recommend installing Windows 10 directly. Microsoft even provides link with answers for that occasion:


(...)(T)he media creation tool and Windows 10 installation media (ISO files) are available for customers to install Windows 10. If you’re installing Windows 10 for the first time, you’ll need to enter a valid Windows 10 product key or buy a full version of Windows 10 during setup, for this tool to work. If you’ve previously installed Windows 10 on your device, you should have a digital license and Windows 10 will automatically activate without entering a product key.

There are, probably, some issues with that rosy solution. For one - Windows 10 might require valid key to install. However, you can use for that purpose freely available diagnostic DPK. It will allow to install WIndows 10, and then it will ask for different key to activate if there's no DPK for that copy in the system And yes, W10 will activate with valid W8.1 key. And if there ever was activated windows 10 on that computer, it will activate automatically.

  • Windows 10, however, is even easier. Data is stored online, so it will activate as soon as you go online. - so this will work even if the laptop came originally with 8/8.1 and was then updated to Windows 10 – user93353 Oct 25 '16 at 10:58
  • @user93353 - Yes. Once you installed and activated Windows 10 on your device you have Digital Product Key for that copy. – AcePL Oct 25 '16 at 11:05
  • I just talked to Lenovo - they said that directly installing Windows 10 will not work. They said I should recover from Windows Recovery Media & then upgrade. Anyway, I am keeping 2 pen drives ready - one with Windows 10 fresh Installable & 1 with Windows Recovery media – user93353 Oct 26 '16 at 6:36
  • Far be it from me to say that Lenovo people don't know what they're saying but It seems they confuse Win10 with Win8. However, it may equally well be the instance where the Microsoft people are overly optimistic again. I, personally, did not yet tried this, so If I may ask for After Action Report on it, please? – AcePL Oct 26 '16 at 15:06
  • Restored from Recovery Image first - that restored Windows 8.1 rather than Windows 10 - though I had made the RecoveryImage after upgrading to Windows 10. That license got automatically activated. Currently downloading the Win10 upgrade. – user93353 Oct 28 '16 at 16:06

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