Get tips for safer shopping or buy directly from Microsoft.
Buying online can be quick, convenient and a great value; however, it doesn’t always give you the same opportunity to see exactly what you’re getting as walking into a regular store. The general rule to remember is that if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is. But people who sell counterfeit software often advertise it at just below the normal retail price so you think you're simply getting a good deal. So price is important, but it's not the only thing you need to think about.
Click to view these helpful software purchasing tips, whether you’re shopping in person or online:
First and foremost, make sure you’re buying from a reseller you trust. Ask the person or business specific questions about key features of the item you’re interested in buying:
- Does the product come in its original packaging?
- Is there a hologram on the DVD? If not, the DVD may be a PC manufacturer branded reinstallation or recovery disc, which is one that typically comes with PCs with software preinstalled so that you can reinstall or recover the software if it stops working properly. Recovery disks are not licensed to be sold separately from the PC they were shipped with; if you try to install software from a recovery disk on a PC other than the one it was originally shipped on, you may not be able to activate and/or use it. (Check the licensing terms to determine what the license allows).
- Find out whether the software has been installed and used before. If it’s previously been installed on a PC, you may not be able to transfer that license to another PC. (Check the licensing terms to determine what the license allows).
- In Windows, check the Windows Activation and licensing information from the System information or get help with common activation issues.
- Does it come with a Genuine Microsoft Label or Certificate of Authenticity (COA)? (view genuine labels for software preinstalled on a PC or packaged software purchased separately)
- Comparison shopping sites are also a great way to know how much something should cost at established retailers.
Make sure to determine whether the software you’re buying is intended for home use or for business use. Some business software comes with a volume licensing key, which is licensed to a specific business for use by their employees in the workplace. If a key is stolen and sold to others, it may be blocked from use later on by Microsoft. Learn more about licensing.
When buying online, use a secure payment method. Don’t pay with cash or with instant money transfers. Keep printed records of your order page, e-mails, receipts, and invoices for your software purchases. You may need them later to return the software if you suspect that it’s counterfeit, or to file a counterfeit software report with Microsoft . Visit the sellers Contact Us or About Us web page. If there are no contact details, this is often an indicator that counterfeiters may be hiding their location and not disclosing their corporate identity.
Note: 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.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/get-windows-10.
With the exception of Product Key Cards (PKC’s) distributed with 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 for sale, it’s a good indication that the keys are likely stolen or counterfeit. If you were to purchase and use a stolen or counterfeit product key to activate Windows installed on your PC, the key may not work for activation, may already be in use on another PC, or it might be blocked from use later by Microsoft when the key is reported stolen. The best way to get everything you expect up front is to buy genuine Microsoft software preinstalled on a new PC or genuine Microsoft software from an authorized reseller.