Seeking 2nd Opinions: Windows Re-activation After Hardware Change

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
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Already mentioned it in other threads -- including a thread I created in "Motherboards".

The USB controller and/or chipset is borked on my Z170 mobo -- my best and most important system.

I'm replacing the board and decided to replace the processor as well -- from Skylake to Kaby Lake. I have all the parts I need; the Kaby will arrive sometime this week from Silicon Lottery. I've investigated in advance the problem of re-activation, but there are differences of opinion. Without admitting to carelessness, I've spent more than absolutely necessary to assure I can have this system up and running within the next couple weeks. I picked up a couple spare surplus boards in addition to the Kaby processor. In fact, I decided to replace a 4x8GB RAM configuration with a 2x16 kit. The surplus parts will go into another system I can build later this year.

Call me needlessly spendthrifty, but I haven't spent more than $100 on computer parts since 2017 -- until now. Under the current pandemic crisis, call my cash outlays "stimulus".

But I want to sensibly minimize further software outlays.

My OS, of course, is Windows 10 Pro, installed originally from a Win 7 OEM license under Microsoft's "Freebie" upgrade back in 2016/2017. I still have the original license key, disc and USB Win10 media creation files. The hardware upgrade will absolutely -- surely -- trigger the activation error message, and the OS will need to be re-activated.

Keep in mind it is absolutely essential to save the entire software configuration on the system. I do not want to start from scratch. Eventually, I will want to remove the Win7 system boot partition on the system, which is currently configured for dual-boot. I'll ask questions about that in another thread.

My web-searches turned up a Microsoft web-page explaining how to re-activate after hardware changes. However, other parties in the forums here, and my experience with a licensing problem (resolved) with a reseller of MS Office 2013-Pro-Plus last month, implies that MS no longer "does" telephone reactivation -- at least for the Office software.

OK -- but I should at least try to reactivate the current installation. If it's impossible, my first fall-back is a brand-new unopened "white-box" OEM Win 10 Pro, with a different license key. I know that the activation window offers an "add a license key" option. Yet, other "second opinions" suggest that this also might not work.

The second and last fall-back would be purchase of a "retail-box" license. Consider that I bought the unopened OEM white-box a few years back, and would prefer using it on the machine I build later this year from the surplus parts I have. And for the $200-plus price tag on a retail-box license, I would like to avoid making that outlay if I can. I also know there are some unscrupulous sources of "valid" license keys, but this system is so important that I want to avoid anything other than "Microsoft Partners". For instance, "MyChoice" software, a reseller, is quite trustworthy and reliable, but you pay more than you would with the unscrupulous sources, yet less than you might from the Microsoft Store.

What are my prospects? First -- for re-activating my original installation? Second, for using the unused or new white-box license key?

Somebody here might have the most current experience and information about these prospects, so I eagerly await some useful responses. I'm awaiting return of the new processor, and the old board is almost ready for packing and mailing to ASUS. ASUS would be likely to simply replace the board with another for this type of hardware failure, so waiting for the RMA return won't help. And I could install the new board with the old RAM and processor, but I don't think that will make a difference pertaining to re-activation or avoiding it: the motherboard is the key factor here.
 
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crashtech

Lifer
Jan 4, 2013
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Following. I consider my knowledge of Windows licensing to be better than average, but my ability to confer it may be lacking clarity or persuasiveness. Hopefully someone articulate with detailed knowledge can teach us both something here.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,221
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Following. I consider my knowledge of Windows licensing to be better than average, but my ability to confer it may be lacking clarity or persuasiveness. Hopefully someone articulate with detailed knowledge can teach us both something here.
You seem articulate enough! But we can await additional input.

I won't beat myself up about my vices, but as I said elsewhere -- never charge other devices like cell-phones, tablets or vaping pens (!) on your best computer's USB ports. And hoping ASUS isn't checking these forums in event they might find opportunity void my RMA -- don't walk around on windy dry days and then touch your computer without grounding yourself.

Buy a $40 10-port USB QC charging bus that plugs into a wall-socket.

When I was nearly sure what had happened, I wanted to be sure I could resurrect this system without any snags, so I've been trying to anticipate any re-activation difficulties.

Determined -- my Phoenix will rise again from the ashes!

I think I might have to re-activate MS Office 2010 Pro, but -- no matter. I'll upgrade to a more recent version. It's about time, I suppose. Main thing is the OS activation. Somebody must know what MS does these days for this kind of problem.
 

RLGL

Golden Member
Jan 8, 2013
1,913
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Just do it, the worst that can happen is thee need to call MS and activate over the phone. I have changed hardware several times and activated successfully each time. As long as you have the Win 7 or 10 key all is good.
 
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deustroop

Golden Member
Dec 12, 2010
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Mr Duck. It appears that you have two issues, 1) whether the current Windows installation on the C: drive will boot the new equipment, listed as a board, cpu, memory and peripherals ? Just about the whole enchilada in fact ! If it will not , you have a new OEM OS ready to go.If Plan B is executed, there is no issue on activation: you will be able to use the new key. You could even take the occasion to consider whether to retain the Win 7 install. I dual boot with separate disks. Much cleaner. Perhaps it would be a good time to ditch that partition ?

My original experience (Windows 95 era) was that the closer the new board was to the current board ( Brand and Model) the better the chance that the current installation will boot the new equipment. Cpu, ssd and peripherals did not much affect the success here at all. However the latest opinion seems to be that with Windows 10, the OS is so entirely robust it will boot just about any modern install of the same type, e.g., Intel or Amd. Caveats: I have not heard of problems or success going from Intel to an Amd system but a google search will surely advise on that. And I doubt that an Intel-Apple will succeed.

Assuming the current Windows 10 install will suffice, 2) will it remain activated ? The regime originally was that OEM installs activated only the original board. Change the board and get a new License. Conversely a retail OS will be activated new board or old.

If there is a god, then there may be better days ahead: it may be now that any upgraded install, OEM or Retail will be activated. Let us know.But probably not.
So your best scenario is that the current installation will boot the new equipment and there is a god.
 

OlyAR15

Senior member
Oct 23, 2014
773
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I recently upgraded a couple of computers, and used my microsoft account to re-activate both successfully.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,221
1,166
126
Mr Duck. It appears that you have two issues, 1) whether the current Windows installation on the C: drive will boot the new equipment, listed as a board, cpu, memory and peripherals ? Just about the whole enchilada in fact ! If it will not , you have a new OEM OS ready to go.If Plan B is executed, there is no issue on activation: you will be able to use the new key. You could even take the occasion to consider whether to retain the Win 7 install. I dual boot with separate disks. Much cleaner. Perhaps it would be a good time to ditch that partition ?

My original experience (Windows 95 era) was that the closer the new board was to the current board ( Brand and Model) the better the chance that the current installation will boot the new equipment. Cpu, ssd and peripherals did not much affect the success here at all. However the latest opinion seems to be that with Windows 10, the OS is so entirely robust it will boot just about any modern install of the same type, e.g., Intel or Amd. Caveats: I have not heard of problems or success going from Intel to an Amd system but a google search will surely advise on that. And I doubt that an Intel-Apple will succeed.

Assuming the current Windows 10 install will suffice, 2) will it remain activated ? The regime originally was that OEM installs activated only the original board. Change the board and get a new License. Conversely a retail OS will be activated new board or old.

If there is a god, then there may be better days ahead: it may be now that any upgraded install, OEM or Retail will be activated. Let us know.But probably not.
So your best scenario is that the current installation will boot the new equipment and there is a god.
Same identical motherboard: ASUS Sabertooth Z170 S. When something like this happens, I just don't wait for a successful RMA return, and purchase a replacement board immediately. I sent out the old board yesterday to ASUS, and the probability is high that they will merely replace the board with the identical model, so I would still have the re-activation path ahead.

I'll just have to wait and see what happens. So step 1, attempt reactivation with the original license key used to upgrade Win 7 to the Win 10 freebie available in late 2016. Step 2, attempt to add the new white-box license. This is least-cost in the short-term, but means I would need a second white-box license to build the twin system from the surplus parts I've acquired. Most expensive -- Step 3 I suppose -- purchase the retail box and save the OEM white-box for the twin system.

My friend is Virginia -- about my age and retired electronics tech who originally came up through the US Navy -- knows my detailed history with this system and how important it is to me. He suggests cloning the boot disk from the original and popping it into the twin, then assuring that both systems are properly activated with different license keys.

When I posted this thread, I apparently missed my chance to post it under the "Windows" forum. Should I add a thread there with a link to this one? I'm just interested in gathering insights on this little obstacle.

Some folks have to go through this ordeal much more frequently. The more you have to do something, the more you know and remember about it. That's why I don't delid my own CPUs or buy the Rocket tool for it. The guy at Silicon Lottery has done it `10,000 times, so I pay the man the $40 + shipping. Here -- I just want to gather some second opinions.

All my hardware will be here in about two days, and I'll be ready to rock-and-roll. Since using the Silly-Lots service voids my Intel warranty, I'll probably lap off the nickel-plate on the new processor. Overclock voltage, wattage and speed prospects look good for Kaby Lake in general. this time -- I won't use my USB ports to charge stuff!
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,221
1,166
126
RESOLVED: LIKE SOME . . . MIRACLE -- WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ANTICIPATED ACTIVATION PROBLEM?

I don't get it.

I meticulously disassembled my rig to replace the motherboard with the least hassle, and attended to some other fixes.

Installed the new Sabertooth Z170 S motherboard, with a new Kaby Lake processor and two new sticks of a 2x16=32GB kit. Ran HCI Memtest 64 for exactly 3 days to the hour; 371% coverage.

Booted up. Everything is fine. Went to settings for finding the Activation dialog. Even after running "Check Activation Status", everything is just fine. No need to add another White Box license; no need to purchase a Retail Box license key. No need to get MS to assist with a license re-activation.

Nothing. Just fine -- perfect. And with all these hardware changes? What gives?
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,221
1,166
126
Is the new board actually brand new, or refurbished?
All I know comes from the seller. I asked him candidly about the history of the board.

He works the back door of a reseller. I had told him that I just wanted to save myself trouble, and wanted to know up front if there were any problems at all with it. I tried to suggest I was in no mood or inclination to return it if it "just worked", but I wanted to know the particulars.

He told me it was an open box, ordered by an original customer, and returned. His outfit has a 30-day return policy. So the board was in operation for some time considerably less than 30 days, because of the logistics of arranging the return, preparing it for shipment, making the trip to the carrier, etc.

This time around with the same BIOS screens, I happened to notice how obscure one finds the link to update the real-time clock. I looked for it over maybe an hour, and started thinking "There's something wrong with this board." Then I found the right icon for which there was no "help" or information -- Voila! So I could guess the original purchaser lacked patience and came to the same initial conclusion, to contact the reseller and send it back.

The seller told me that they encourage people returning boards to provide notes of anything wrong, and that there were no notes for this board. They ran it through their testing lab and it checked out A-OK. I'm running it at stock, default settings right now, and can't find a single thing wrong.

So I couldn't call it "refurbished", and I couldn't call it "new" -- it's an "open box", which is "almost new."

Meanwhile, the original board has been returned to ASUS under their 5-year warranty on RMA. The USB controller, possibly some aspect of the chipset, is damaged -- kaput -- died -- gone south. For something like that, they're likely to return a different board, same model, new BIOS. I might have waited because I had no problem with activation with this current and different board. It would've saved me money. No problem, though. I'm building another box this year -- same case, same PSU, same cooler, same storage configuration. I should bundle a CPU, board and RAM to sell on Ebay or the Anandtech forum for sell and trade.
 
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pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
19,023
2,586
126
I have moved my Windows 10 Pro hard drive between computers with completely different hardware several times and have never had any issues whatsoever with activation or hardware detection.
 

crashtech

Lifer
Jan 4, 2013
10,040
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So, someone probably activated Windows on the board previously. The activation follows the board unless the removal procedure is used, and that procedure is not common knowledge.
 

Muadib

Lifer
May 30, 2000
17,161
528
126
Not in my case.
Mine either. I just replaced my motherboard & cpu but kept my 2 NVMe drives & memory. I was going to do a fresh install of Windows 10, but decided to see what would happen if I left everything as it was. To my surprise it works great!
 
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pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
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Mine either. I just replaced my motherboard & cpu but kept my 2 NVMe drives & memory. I was going to do a fresh install of Windows 10, but decided to see what would happen if I left everything as it was. To my surprise it works great!

I went from a home built to a Shuttle bare bones and then to an HP 800 G2 Mini with originally Windows 7 on it...

All booted and activated with no hickups. I only had to update some drivers.
 

deustroop

Golden Member
Dec 12, 2010
1,857
310
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A drastic change appears to have overtakem MS activation servers. Originally activation followed the main board : OEMs were attached only to the original board. A new board required a retail licence .Now it appears that for individual licence holders, "once activated always activated." To verify, we need the experiences of users whose new components were not re activated.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,221
1,166
126
Well, here's an additional twist, and I see some posters have mentioned Windows 7 activation.

My sig system -- the one requiring the motherboard swap -- benefited from a lot of thought prior to "execution". I'd experimented with Romex Software's Primo Cache on my laptop and an earlier system, coming away with great expectations and enthusiasm. I wasn't disappointed.

This led me to eventually choose a 32GB RAM configuration, so I could cache in two tiers. Even the NVME boot disk is cached to RAM. This means that one needn't salivate over Optane memory. I was getting Anvil benchmarks for the NVME with sustained reads and writes exceeding 11,000 MB/s. Honestly, you don't notice the difference in regular use or even gaming, but . . . . that's what it was, folks!

I built the system when many of us were still wavering between a continuation of Windows 7 usage and Windows 10. So I planned the storage configuration so that the boot disk had a dual-boot configuration, which works fine today -- although I haven't booted to Windows 7 for some time.

A lot of my overclocking work was done in Windows 7, and I think I have screen-shots of the BIOS stored on the Win 7 partitions. For either OS, there are no drive labels assigned for the partitions used by the other OS. I don't want to fiddle with that in terms of accessing Windows 7 partitions from a Win 10 session, so I'll boot into Windows 7 to get what I want and send it to my server upstairs.

But if I want to restore my overclocking to this system -- now with a Kaby Lake processor -- I may actually want to do it under Windows 7 initially -- successively -- with minor tweaks under Win 10. The complete set of my stress-test software is on Windows 7.

I don't think there's a digital activation arrangement under Win 7. I think I'll likely have to go through some reactivation hoops, and I wonder what i should expect now that we've had a year or so getting the sky-blue screen reminder of discontinued support.
 

crashtech

Lifer
Jan 4, 2013
10,040
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Well, I have learned something new. I never use the MS account for Windows login and never learned about the license being tied to an MS account. It's very interesting. I'm a little embarrassed to have such a hole in my know-how, which is bad enough, but it's worse when it results in incorrect advice being given. Sorry about that.

Edit: I guess I should add that, for dinosaurs like me that hate being made to do stuff by MS, and have a local account only, the old advice still will likely apply.
 

BonzaiDuck

Lifer
Jun 30, 2004
15,221
1,166
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Well, I have learned something new. I never use the MS account for Windows login and never learned about the license being tied to an MS account. It's very interesting. I'm a little embarrassed to have such a hole in my know-how, which is bad enough, but it's worse when it results in incorrect advice being given. Sorry about that.

Edit: I guess I should add that, for dinosaurs like me that hate being made to do stuff by MS, and have a local account only, the old advice still will likely apply.
I HAVE a local account; I set up Win 10 as part of a "bid-niss" network, but I still had the MS account set up. I discovered the other day on [this] other machine that the MS account keeps an inventory of software -- for instance, MS Office Pro installations as well as the OS(es).

Since I got my Windows 10 for the original Win 7 license key as I just mentioned, I'm thinking that the MS Account connection unhinges Win 10 from that key. So I don't know what to expect exactly when I fire up the subject system and boot into Win 7. I think I'd put a little money on seeing a reactivation notice pop up.

I had really thought about getting rid of the Win 7 partitions and using a partition manager to reclaim the space. But it was only today that I recalled how I went through the OC'ing exercise over a month's time, or why i can't find the BIOS screen captures during a Win 10 session.
 

pcgeek11

Lifer
Jun 12, 2005
19,023
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Well, I have learned something new. I never use the MS account for Windows login and never learned about the license being tied to an MS account. It's very interesting. I'm a little embarrassed to have such a hole in my know-how, which is bad enough, but it's worse when it results in incorrect advice being given. Sorry about that.

Edit: I guess I should add that, for dinosaurs like me that hate being made to do stuff by MS, and have a local account only, the old advice still will likely apply.

I don't do MS Account either. Mine as also only local.
 

JackMDS

Elite Member
Super Moderator
Oct 25, 1999
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If you set Firewall that pop-up connection alert you would find that Win 10 connects close to hundred time a Day to MS server even if the computer is on Local.

MS does Not fully disclose how the Activation check works. They change the criteria and often experiment with it.

So I would Not be surprise if one dsy many of the questionabble activations as describe above would become an issue.


:cool:
 

Justinus

Platinum Member
Oct 10, 2005
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If you set Firewall that pop-up connection alert you would find that Win 10 connects close to hundred time a Day to MS server even if the computer is on Local.

MS does Not fully disclose how the Activation check works. They change the criteria and often experiment with it.

So I would Not be surprise if one dsy many of the questionabble activations as describe above would become an issue.


:cool:

There is some strange, complex mechanism at work here, for sure.

I have a laptop that came with Windows 8.1 home that I upgraded to W10 home. I needed hyper-v for work, so I reinstalled W10 Pro.

It would not activate, and plainly told me the windows version does not match the license.

I left it unactivated for a couple weeks expecting to buy a license eventually.

In the end it just up and decided to activate itself and my license was upgraded to Pro automatically for no reason.

This was damn near 5 years ago and I've been able to reinstall and activate W10 Pro multiple times since then without a issue.
 
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deustroop

Golden Member
Dec 12, 2010
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The upgrade to W10 Home perhaps did not present a problem because the Win 8 Home OEM licence attached to the original board which did not change. You apparently do not have a licence for 10 Pro but eventually MS let it go.
 
Feb 4, 2009
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I had a weird problem with this going to Windows 10 Pro.
2007ish when Compumax(?) I think that is what it was called was closing I bought a retail copy of vista 64 bit knowing I would build soon. Yeah I was a noob but whatever.
I built my first machine in 2008, did the $20 upgrade to Windows 8, upgraded again to 8.1 then years later to Windows 10.
When I went to use the same install on my 2019 build I couldn’t proceed because something about my license.
Microsoft chat said there was either a problem with my original vista key or the first windows 8 key. Something that sounded like it was a banned key, I assume reported stolen. They also said Microsoft used a whole bunch of different vendors to send out the windows 8 upgrade keys so it may be that.
Basically they were no help other than suggesting I find the original purchase on my 2007 credit card and submit it for review. That was completely impossible to do.
I googled around because bs I bought a retail package and I at the time still have the original package and CD. I solved it by means this forum does not like to talk about so I won’t post but it involved googling my problem and a suggested key.
Worked fine and years later it still works.
 
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Puffnstuff

Lifer
Mar 9, 2005
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I've replaced motherboards, last time Intel to AMD, and a simple phone call resolved the activation issue. Tonight I used an unused 7 Ultimate retail key to upgrade my new 10 home laptop to pro.
 
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