How to TellLearn, verify & buy with confidence
Packaged software
Packaged software
Learn more about features included with genuine Microsoft software, including the packaging, installation CD/DVD/USB, 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:
Retail Box COA:
The Certificates of Authenticity (COA) label is used on the outside of retail boxed software and explains what the product is, its country of intended use and country of origin. The label has the following anti-counterfeit security features

  • Intaglio print – uses a specialist method of printing that leaves raised ridges of ink on the surface of the label. You can feel this by running your finger over the surface. The right side of the label should feel smoother than the Intaglio printed area on the left.
  • Latent Image - Look straight at the label and then move to a very shallow viewing angle, for example by tilting the label away from you, an “M” will become visible just below the Windows logo.

Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

Product key label
Product key label
The product key label is a white or orange label that accompanies the installation CD/DVD/USB and Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for a product and contains a 25 character product key. The product key label should not be purchased separately.
Product key label
This product key label is a white label that accompanies the installation CD/DVD/USB and Certificate of Authenticity (COA) for a product and contains a 25 character product key. In addition to the barcode and product key there is a small amount of print on the left edge and the top right corner. On close inspection (a magnifying glass may be required) the name “MICROSOFT” can be seen in blue in the left side and in green on the right side. The product key label should not be purchased separately.
Media

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

Windows 10
Windows USB Memory StickWindows USB Memory Stick
Your Windows 10 Microsoft packaged software product is delivered with Windows on a USB device which includes vibrant color and 3D effects as the USB device is tilted. This hologram is embedded within the plastic molded component of the USB; it is not a label.
Office 2016
Office USB Memory Stick
In limited countries and regions worldwide, you may receive your Office 2016 backup software on a USB device that includes vibrant color and 3D effects as the USB device is tilted. This hologram is embedded within the plastic molded component of the USB; it is not a label.
Earlier version of Windows
Microsoft packaged software products prior to Windows 10 such as Windows, Office, and Windows Server are delivered on a CD or DVD, which includes vibrant color and 3D effects on the inner hub of the disc, as the disc is tilted. This hologram is embedded within the disc; it is not a label.
New Installation CD/DVD
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 stickerHologram 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
PackagingPackagingPackagingPackaging
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.

Get more tips for safer shopping or buy directly from Microsoft.

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
Packaging

Packaging

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.

Get more tips for safer shopping or buy directly from Microsoft.
Digital downloads
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.

Get more tips for safer shopping or buy directly from Microsoft.