Packaged software
Packaged software
Learn more about features included with genuine Microsoft software, including the packaging, installation CD/DVD, product key labels, and the Certificate of Authenticity (COA).

When you purchase software such as Windows, Office, or Windows Server on its own (not preinstalled on a PC), this is called packaged software. Typically, packaged software can be purchased from a retail store, an authorized reseller, or an online reseller. Here are some quick things you can look for when purchasing packaged software:

Certificate of Authenticity (COA)
Certificate of Authenticity (COA)Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

The COA is a sticker or a label that is attached to the retail packaging for products such as Windows, Office, or Windows Server. A COA should always accompany the product with which it is associated. COAs cannot be purchased separately. COA features the product name printed on the label and also contains anti-copy security features such as:
    • Interwoven security thread – is built into the paper and random paper fibers are visible when the thread appears at the surface
    • Color shifting ink edge - changes from green to magenta when viewed from different angles

Product key label
Product key label

The product key label is a white or orange label that accompanies the installation CD/DVD and Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for a product and contains a 25 character product key. The product key label should not be purchased separately.

New Installation CD/DVD

Many Microsoft products on CD and DVD include holographic security features to help ensure you receive authentic product and to protect against counterfeiting.

New Installation CD/DVD

Microsoft packaged software products such as Windows, Office, and Windows Server come on a holographic CD or DVD, which shows vibrant color and 3D effects as the disc is tilted. This hologram is embedded within the disc; it is not a sticker.

New Installation CD/DVD

There is also an inner mirror band hologram located on the inner part of the back (data) side of the DVD. It changes color as the disc is tilted. 

Hologram sticker
Hologram Sticker

Note: The copper holographic material is embedded within the DVD and is not a sticker. If the hologram peels away, you may have received counterfeit software (report counterfeit software to Microsoft).

Multi focal

With the latest product releases on CD or DVD from Microsoft, additional optical security features can be seen from both sides of the disc, near the inner hole of the disc and along the outer edge. The features are embedded within the disc; they are not on a sticker. When the disc is flipped over, any text or numbers will be seen as a mirror image of the reverse side.

Channel switch

On the thin Outer Mirror Band (OMB) ring, there is an area that shows “Microsoft” changing to the word “Genuine” as you slightly tilt the disc from left to right.

Correlation mark

In the Inner Mirror Band (IMB) area there is an indicator arrow with a point towards the outer edge of the disc. There is also a small corresponding indicator arrow on the thin OMB band, facing the much larger IMB version. These two elements should be in direct alignment with each other.

Packaging
PackagingPackaging

When viewing packaging, simple things like spelling errors, blurry text and images, or poor print quality can help you identify counterfeit software. Incorrect logos and photos that don’t quite correspond to the product you’re purchasing can also provide clues that something isn’t quite right.
 

Xbox games
Xbox games
View features included with genuine Xbox games, such as inner mirror band holograms and the Certificate of Authenticity (COA).

Inner mirror band hologram
Inner mirror band hologram

Look for the hologram appearing around the center hub area of the Xbox game discs. Each authorized Xbox game disc has a hologram around the center hub that displays the Xbox logo.

Xbox Certificate of Authenticity (COA)
Xbox Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

To confirm that you have a genuine Xbox game, look for the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) affixed to the opening edge of the game case.

Packaging
PackagingPackaging

When viewing packaging, simple things like spelling errors, blurry text and images, or poor print quality can help you identify counterfeit Xbox games. Incorrect logos and photos that don’t quite correspond to the product you’re purchasing can also provide clues that something isn’t quite right.
 

PC purchase
Digital downloads
Considering downloading software? Here’s how to better protect yourself to make sure you get what you expect.

When buying Microsoft software as a digital download, we recommend that you avoid auction sites and peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing sites. At the moment there are a limited number of sites where you can legally purchase digital downloads of Microsoft software. One example is the online Microsoft Store, where you can buy a wide variety of genuine software and hardware directly from Microsoft (in select markets). Additionally, you can purchase a digital download of Windows at www.windows.com/shop.
With the exception of Product Key Cards distributed with Certificates of Authenticity (COA’s), Microsoft does not distribute products keys as standalone products. If you see a listing on an auction site, online classified ad, or other online page advertising product keys, it’s a good indication that these keys are likely stolen or counterfeit. Learn more.