PC Purchase


Buying a new or used PC? Learn what to check for before making a purchase.
There are a few quick things you can look for to make sure that you’re getting what you are paying for when shopping for a new or used PC:

Genuine Microsoft Labels

A Genuine Microsoft Label (GML) should be found on new devices that:
  • Have been preinstalled with or licensed for Pro editions of Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11.
  • Have been preinstalled with or licensed for Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows 11 shipping into China (with the exception of Hong Kong and Macau).
  • Are licensed for a Windows 11 Pro with Downgrade Facilitation product, but have been pre-installed with a Windows 10 Pro downgrade. These devices are licensed for Windows 11 Pro but not pre-installed with Windows 11 Pro. These devices would include a GML.
Software is intellectual property, and licenses provide the right to use the software and define the conditions of use. Only "Qualified Educational Users" are eligible to acquire Microsoft Academic Edition Products, those “Qualified Educational Users" are listed here:
  • Educational Institutions
  • Administrative Offices & Boards of Education
  • Teachers, Faculty and Staff
  • Students
  • Public Libraries
  • Public Museums
  • Home-School Programs
Users that are not members of one of the eligible groups above should not have access to Academic Editions of product and are not eligible for the license terms offered to these groups of educational users.
The GML label is used to help users identify the edition of Windows preinstalled on a device and is also an indicator of whether the device is preinstalled with or licensed for genuine Windows. Most commonly the label is found on the back or bottom of the device.
Some devices, such as Windows Phones or Windows tablets, may not have a GML affixed to the device. There are multiple things to look for when buying a Windows device to help identify if it is genuine. Get tips about buying genuine Microsoft software or make sure you have the right licensing for your business.

Surface Power Supply Label

For some first party Microsoft devices or device accessories Microsoft applies a security label to help consumers identify genuine Microsoft products. An example of the security label is listed below along with a description of the security label features:
For Microsoft 102w Power Supplies sold separately from Surface devices the Surface Security Label (SSL) should be attached as shown below.
Surface Power Supply Label

Surface Power Supply Label

Certificate of Authenticity (COA)

The COA is a sticker or a label that is often attached to the body of a computer for some versions of Windows or Windows Server. You can typically find the COA sticker on the body of the computer or, for some newer laptops, inside the battery compartment.

COAs and/or product keys should never be purchased separately from the product.

Standalone COAs

Definition: Standalone COAs are COAs that are sold by themselves, without the accompanying software they authenticate. They are often branded as “excess inventory” or “unused labels” and are often counterfeit COAs. Purchasing standalone COAs and passing them off to unsuspecting customers is a form of piracy.

How to Avoid: COAs should never be sold, shipped, or purchased on their own, without being affixed to a PC or sold with related Microsoft software (either full packaged product or Microsoft OEM software acquired by system builders). Do not fall victim to standalone COAs.
A simple glance can allow a consumer to observe whether a COA label may have been tampered with. The removable silver material should be fully intact and covering a portion of the 25-characters’ of the product key. If upon receipt, a sufficient amount of the covering silver material has been removed and the entire 25-character product key is exposed, this could indicate that the COA label has been tampered with and there is a potential that the product key has been compromised or used in an unintended manner. If you experience any difficulty using the key for activation, please contact the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for support.

If the removable silver material is not present on the concealment panel at all, there may be a clear film label retained in this area, which is evidence that the concealment feature was present and the scratch off material has been removed.

This concealment protection feature has been added to the COA with the Microsoft’s consumer in mind. Microsoft is taking this additional step to protect against unauthorized use of a product key. Consumers should also be aware that product keys are valuable targets for piracy, and it is prudent that precautions be taken to avoid unauthorized access or use of product keys wherever possible.