If you recently made some hardware changes to your computer, then your Windows 10 license can become deactivated. These changes include changing your motherboard or hard drive.
Typically, after such hardware changes; Previously, Microsoft required you to contact their customer support to reactivate your Windows license. However, the process is now quicker, as Microsoft has an easy-to-follow procedure.
Considering you are on the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and other later updates; you can reactivate your Microsoft account in your device with a digital license. The feature allows you to use the troubleshooter to reactivate your Windows 10 after hardware changes.
Signing Up/ Logging into your Microsoft account
For the method to work, you must have a Microsoft account. To sign in/ log in with your Microsoft account, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Press the Windows Key + I to access the Settings Window. Next, click on the ‘Update & Security‘ option.
Step 2: Select the ‘Activation‘ option on the left side of the screen
If your Microsoft account is already linked to a digital license, you’ll see a ‘Windows is activated using your Organization’s activation service‘ in the right of the screen.
If you see this message, skip the rest of the steps. Otherwise, if not linked, proceed with the steps below.
Step 3: Click ‘Add an account‘ (To add a Microsoft account, you must be logged in as an administrator).
Enter your Microsoft account credentials and press “OK” to log in to your account
If the account link-up is successful, you’ll see a “Windows is activated with a digital license to your Microsoft account” message on the activation screen
Using the Activation Troubleshooter to reactivate Windows 10
After successfully linking your Microsoft Account to your device digital license, the next step is to reactivate Windows 10 on your device. Use the Activation Troubleshooter to reactivate your device license after a hardware change in Windows 10. Follow the steps below to use the troubleshooter:
Step 1: Press the Windows key + I to open the ‘Settings‘ window.
Step 2: Click ‘Update & Security‘.
Step 3: Click on the ‘Activation‘ option on the left side of the screen
If you find the message “Windows is not activated” then click the “Troubleshoot” to continue (ensure you are logged in as an administrator to perform these actions)
Step 4: Now, navigate to the ‘I changed the hardware on this device recently’ option.
Step 5: Fill in your Microsoft credentials and Click the “Sign in” button at the bottom of the screen (If you have not added a Microsoft account to the device, you’ll be required to enter your local account password)
Select your device from the list of the devices that are associated with the Microsoft account you just logged into.
Check the box for ‘This is the device I’m using right now‘ and press the ‘Activate‘ button.
Advanced Troubleshooting steps
In some cases, your device may be unavailable from the list of the devices linked to your Microsoft account. This makes it impossible for your device. Such problems may be caused by:
- You never activated Windows 10 on your computer
- Your computer’s Windows 10 version is fake or not genuine
- The Windows 10 edition you are currently running does not match the previous edition which you matched your digital license to
- Your current device doesn’t match the device that you previously linked your digital license with
- You are not using Windows 10 pro or home editions in your device
- You have reached the limit on the number of allowed re-activations for your device
Why it’s not possible to use a product key
Windows product keys now work in a different way than the previous one. The free Windows 10 license is available to the new users and upgraders. Even Windows 8 and 8.1 have a unique product key that is embedded in the UEFI firmware of the device hardware. So, if you buy a Windows version, then you’ll automatically have a product key.
The product key’s function is to activate your Windows. But for free Windows upgraders, theirs is different. Windows does not issue new product keys to these users, and instead, when you upgrade your PC from Windows 7 or 8.1 to 10, then the upgrading will register your PC unique ID and store it in the Microsoft activation servers. Therefore, in the future, when you want to install Windows 10 on your PC, the upgrade process will prompt the Windows activation servers on whether your PC is allowed to run Windows 10. If your computer is allowed to use Windows 10, then it will be automatically activated.
But the process has limitations too, especially if you are performing a clean install. You’ll have to continuously skip the prompts to enter the Microsoft product key during the installation process until you complete the installation. However, the process works only if your computer uses the same hardware it had while you initially upgraded to Windows 10.
Why it’s not possible to use a Windows license in another PC
Initially, Windows license retail, such as a Windows 7 license, is different from the current free Windows 10 license. For instance, you could move your Windows version from one PC to another. This you could do as long as you removed Windows 7 from the first PC and move it to the second. It is possible to repeat the process over and over again, provided you remove Windows from the host PC.
For Windows 10 free version that you get during an upgrade, it is tied to one PC. That is, you can’t move it to another PC. This applies even if you upgraded from a retail version of Windows 7,8 or 8.1. To shift Windows 10 to another PC, you’ll have to buy a new copy of Windows 10.
Since Microsoft released Windows 10 to the public, they have been making notable improvements in its features and services. This includes the activation process, and it’s now easy to activate your Windows 10 version if you make some hardware changes.
The “Activation Troubleshooter” is available to Windows 10 users from the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and later updates. Windows 10 users on the Insider program can access the feature starting from “Windows 10 Build 14371 and later versions”. However, you must add a Microsoft account to be able to reactivate your Windows 10 version. Also, you must add the digital license to the Microsoft account before the hardware change to complete the reactivation process.