Question How does Windows activation work nowadays with changing hardware?

acheron

Diamond Member
May 27, 2008
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I read a couple of the threads here that looked related but I'm not sure it's exactly the same situation.

Planning to do a new PC build. My current PC that I built years ago has an activated retail copy of Windows 10 on it. My current plan was to build the new PC, then move all the SSDs over to it (saving the old one for another purpose at a later time, when I'd add new storage then). Is Windows going to complain about all the hardware changing when I boot up the new PC with the same install? Or if I don't keep the same installation, and do a reinstall of Win10 on the new hardware, is re-activation going to be an issue? Just trying to figure out what to plan for.

I remember 15-20 years ago I would reinstall XP just for fun, and I'd definitely plan on a reinstall with any major hardware change. Was kind of hoping that wouldn't be necessary anymore, but I guess a new install wouldn't be that big a deal, unless something with the activation trips me up.
 

OlyAR15

Senior member
Oct 23, 2014
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If you have a new motherboard, you will need to re-activate it, regardless of whether you re-use the OS install or do a fresh install.
 

Muadib

Lifer
May 30, 2000
17,235
559
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If you have a new motherboard, you will need to re-activate it, regardless of whether you re-use the OS install or do a fresh install.
I don't think that's necessarily true . I say this because of what happened when I gave my 3900x away to a relative. He had a 8700 system and wanted to keep his SSD drives, one of which was an Nvme drive which had windows 10 on it. Before I moved his drives, I went to device manager and removed everything in it. Then I shutdown his system, removed his drives, and moved his drives into my 3900x setup. I should mention that I removed the two Nvme drives I had in the 3900x pc, as I wasn't giving those away. I then booted up the 3900x pc with his drives, and it came up after a few minutes activated and working. I added the AMD Chipset Drivers, but that was it.
 

Sick Willie

Senior member
Apr 8, 2010
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computerguyonline.net
I don't think that's necessarily true . I say this because of what happened when I gave my 3900x away to a relative. He had a 8700 system and wanted to keep his SSD drives, one of which was an Nvme drive which had windows 10 on it. Before I moved his drives, I went to device manager and removed everything in it. Then I shutdown his system, removed his drives, and moved his drives into my 3900x setup. I should mention that I removed the two Nvme drives I had in the 3900x pc, as I wasn't giving those away. I then booted up the 3900x pc with his drives, and it came up after a few minutes activated and working. I added the AMD Chipset Drivers, but that was it.
If your relative was running the same version of Windows 10 (Home/Pro) on his old system as you were on the 3900x setup, it would activate on its own without issue.
 

Sick Willie

Senior member
Apr 8, 2010
220
30
91
computerguyonline.net
I read a couple of the threads here that looked related but I'm not sure it's exactly the same situation.

Planning to do a new PC build. My current PC that I built years ago has an activated retail copy of Windows 10 on it. My current plan was to build the new PC, then move all the SSDs over to it (saving the old one for another purpose at a later time, when I'd add new storage then). Is Windows going to complain about all the hardware changing when I boot up the new PC with the same install? Or if I don't keep the same installation, and do a reinstall of Win10 on the new hardware, is re-activation going to be an issue? Just trying to figure out what to plan for.

I remember 15-20 years ago I would reinstall XP just for fun, and I'd definitely plan on a reinstall with any major hardware change. Was kind of hoping that wouldn't be necessary anymore, but I guess a new install wouldn't be that big a deal, unless something with the activation trips me up.
If you make sure that your current setup is activated with a digital license linked to your MS account, you should be able to reactivate after the swap without too much trouble.
 

Muadib

Lifer
May 30, 2000
17,235
559
126
If your relative was running the same version of Windows 10 (Home/Pro) on his old system as you were on the 3900x setup, it would activate on its own without issue.
That’s the one thing I didn’t check, but it makes sense.
I had Pro on it when it was mine. I guess he did too.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,308
1,187
126
If you make sure that your current setup is activated with a digital license linked to your MS account, you should be able to reactivate after the swap without too much trouble.
I'd say without ANY trouble.

However. Your MS account registers your hardware under that account, and you can track your Machine-Name in the "account management" of the MS "account server" for want of a better name. YOu can delete that particular machine name -- deliberately or by accident, and the digital license will be lost.

At least that's my personal observation. That's what I believe I saw, because I indeed did delete a machine or "device" from my online account access which had a digital license to Win 10 pro.

Tell me if I'm wrong! I'm lucky that I'd purchased a couple spare Win 10 Pro "white-box"[envelope] OEM discs. That's "disc" with a "c".

Personally, after losing two people with two workstations in our home network, I think I' m due for some license upgrades. Maybe I'll even try the hacks for adding Win 11 to older hardware.
 

Sick Willie

Senior member
Apr 8, 2010
220
30
91
computerguyonline.net
I'd say without ANY trouble.

However. Your MS account registers your hardware under that account, and you can track your Machine-Name in the "account management" of the MS "account server" for want of a better name. YOu can delete that particular machine name -- deliberately or by accident, and the digital license will be lost.

At least that's my personal observation. That's what I believe I saw, because I indeed did delete a machine or "device" from my online account access which had a digital license to Win 10 pro.

Tell me if I'm wrong! I'm lucky that I'd purchased a couple spare Win 10 Pro "white-box"[envelope] OEM discs. That's "disc" with a "c".

Personally, after losing two people with two workstations in our home network, I think I' m due for some license upgrades. Maybe I'll even try the hacks for adding Win 11 to older hardware.
1. I prefer not to make absolute statements.

2. I have had SOME trouble, though it was resolved.
 

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