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Thread: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

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    I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    HI all,

    OK, I don't understand.

    I've got a full boxed retail version of Windows 10. Therefore, I'm allowed to transfer it to a new PC.

    My old PC, which was running my copy of Win 10 was still working, just time for an upgrade, so I built myself a new PC, As the parts are still working, I'd like to part it out and sell them - including the Mobo.

    What I'm confused about is the Windows 10 activation. I want to sell my MoBo, but don't want to inadvertently give away my Win 10 license. My old PC was connected to a MS account, so first off, I used the slmgr /upk command to deactivate that copy of windows, which worked fine - the windows was now not activated, apparently.

    To make sure, I then formatted the HD, and reinstalled Windows 10 to check, assuming that it would install and NOT be activated. I said I didn't have a product key during the install, and not logging in with my MS account, so the only thing the activation server had to go on was the MobO ID which I hoped I'd removed by the command line, but behold - Windows Activated with a digital license! Before, It was just activated (without mentioning a digital license - maybe a subtle but important point!

    As a side note, My new PC has a second hand Mobo in it. Yesterday I installed Win 10, ready, and it also "Activated with a digital license" without me putting my MS account or actual key in yet. I'm guessing I can over-ride this my changing the product key to my own, but in theory, could I be hi-jacking someone else key here if I was dishonest. I want to make sure the exact thing doesn't happen to me with my old Mobo!

    My question is: Is MS just digitally activating all MoBo's that might of seen Win 10 at some point, as that is the easiest safest option, and just leaving the customers to decide whether they are going to actually be legally licensed or not?

    I just want to make sure when I sell my MoBo, someone doesn't put Win 10 on, and happily find it auto-activated with my License - as might of happened with my new Mobo?

    Or is activated with a digital license (even if it was a product key activation before), not actually linked to the origianl product key, so my legit retail Win 10 is safe????

    CONFUSED! Any help appreciated before I sell My Mobo! Cheers!

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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    With the change of MB I expected you having to use the phone activation, perhaps as you say maybe MS is activating all Win 10 related installs automatically to save them the hassle.
    Just today I have seen some vendors in Amazon selling office pro 2016 for £15 and based on user comments they get a key that's activated already and seller instruct them to use the phone activation and choose ' Not installed anywhere else option and activate it again' , cant be legal but Amazon seems to have turned blind eye, and I am wondering why MS see such mass key activations investigate.

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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    Hiya,

    I've not actually put my key back in yet, that's the issue. Even after manual deactivation by command line, my old mobo activated with a digital license upon win 10 reinstall, and my new mobo did the same, as it is second hand, I guess a previous owner had win 10 on it.

    Windows 10 seems very happy to automatically reactivate with a digital license...... Even if now, or soon to be with a new owner!

    I miss the days when you had your windows key, on installation type it in, and reformatted hard drive meant it was safe and good to go again (if a retail key) !

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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    Yeah I don't really get it either, but so far it hasn't bitten me on the bum so I kind of ignore it.

    I think Microsoft are erring on the side of letting things activate. It seems like a bit of a mess, but I can't remember the last time I heard someone complaining that a valid install wouldn't activate (perhaps after having to do the automated phone call because a motherboard had died and been replaced).

    MS say:

    Microsoft doesn't keep a record of purchased product software keys. Digital licenses are tied directly to your Microsoft account.
    yet we generally don't use a Microsoft account on the PCs in this house yet on re-install they work just fine. My son fresh installed Windows on a Dell workstation that had only ever run Linux before and I had to give it my last key, so they do check but seem to remember if a board has ever had Win10 on it and if it has then allow the install.

    All my old PCs have ended up running Linux, so my conscience is clear. License checks are a pain for us who pay for them, yet the pirates just bypass them. Frankly it would be better off as a straight honor system like in the old Windows 3.1/95/98 days. I buy enough licenses, but even as an honest person I only ever once stuck a certificate of authority on a case so I was probably still in technical violation of the terms

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    Senior Member watercooled's Avatar
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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    See, I've had something like the opposite happen a couple of times - two PCs originally running Win7 upgraded to Win10, but when I upgraded the hardware, it failed to activate on both occasions - one PC didn't have an MS account linked and the other one did. The Win7 key could not be used to activate either as I'd previously been led to believe.

    Both times I was able to contact MS activation support who sorted it out for me (had to speak to a human, not the usual automated activation system), but yeah activation is a bit weird IMO and it's not entirely clear how it works. In this case I guess it has something to do with it being a Win7 upgrade given it happened basically the same way on both systems.

    After that, Windows was activated with a license key and reported as such in Settings, but after reinstalling more recently it activated without a key and that digital license is mentioned in Settings.

    I'm really not sure either way but I don't believe it's possible to recover the original key from a digital license, and if anything I'd imagine that digital license would become invalid once the activation servers realise the original key has been used on another system?

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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    Quote Originally Posted by maverick77_uk View Post
    CONFUSED! Any help appreciated before I sell My Mobo! Cheers!
    I remember reading an article on Technet (i think), from the head of the company who developed the activation technology, who microsoft bought out.

    Apparently, the activation is not tied to any single component. During activation a plug-n-play hardware audit is used to work up a 'finger print' for the system, which is tied to a successful activation on Microsoft servers. Subsequent hardware changes trigger the PnP audit and the new finger print is compared to the old finger print. A re-activation is triggered when a change threshold is passed. In this way, different components can be attributed with more or less weight, and those weights can be changed dynamically by Microsoft.

    During the lifetime of XP typical memory allocations went up from a few 100MBs to a few 1GBs. A similar step change occurred with hard disks. I well remember tapping in endless streams of numbers into the phone to re-activate customer PCs after simple upgrades. Reactivation often took much longer than the upgrade. Thankfully Windows 10 is a lot more tollerant.

    I would guess that if you only sell the mobo your license is safe, but it is very much a guess. Microsoft refuse to release exactly what combination of components might trigger re-activation.

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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    Sure I read somewhere that your activation key is tied to the specific parts of your computer. This is why you can e.g. change your CPU / GPU and not require a new key. Personally, I've upgraded all parts of my PC separately over the years and also on my friends computers running Windows 10, and never had to reactivate a key so it certainly works in an interesting way.

    However, I imagine your motherboard alone will not re-activate your key elsewhere.

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    Re: I don't understand Windows 10 activation!

    I deactivated my key from my old build and activated on the new build, but installed windows again on the old one to check and it activated automatically (without having to link it in to my outlook account)

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