Software

Can't activate Windows 10? Microsoft adds troubleshooter to resolve common complaints

New feature aimed at helping users who are unable to activate their copy of Windows 10 after upgrading their PC.

windows10troubleshooter.jpg
The new Windows 10 Activation Troubleshooter.
Image: Microsoft
Microsoft is making it easier to upgrade your PC without invalidating your copy of Windows 10.

Some Windows 10 users have found themselves unable to activate their copy of the OS after replacing the hard drive or motherboard on their computer.

The problem can arise because the copy of Windows 10 is licensed to a specific device and Microsoft can no longer recognise that device after a hardware upgrade.

Now Microsoft is changing Windows 10 to make it easier to upgrade your PC without running into these activation problems, as well as to ease activation hassles in general.

The new feature, which should be added as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update at the end of July, allows users to link a Microsoft account to the Windows 10 digital license stored on the device.

Users who log in to Windows 10 Home or Pro using a Microsoft account will automatically have their account linked to the Windows 10 digital license on the device.

Once users link their Windows 10 license to their Microsoft account, they should be able to upgrade the PC hardware and then reactivate Windows 10 using the OS's new Activation Troubleshooter, also due to be added as part of the anniversary update. The troubleshooter will "help you address most commonly encountered activation issues" on Windows 10 devices, according to Microsoft software engineer Dona Sarkar.

Sarkar namechecked replacing a PC's hard drive or motherboard as the type of hardware upgrade that previously could cause problems with Windows 10 activation but that should subsequently be less likely to cause problems.

That said Microsoft says there will still be instances where users won't be able to reactivate Windows. These include where the "type of device you're activating doesn't match the type of device you linked to your digital license". Microsoft doesn't specify to what degree the device would have to deviate from the one tied to your license for reactivation to fail, although it seems like it would typically require more than a hardware upgrade.

Only Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro editions will be able to be reactivated in this way. There will also be a limit to the number of times you can reactivate Windows on the device, although again Microsoft doesn't specify what this is.

Reactivation will also fail where Windows was never activated on the device or the device is not running a version of Windows accredited as genuine.

The ability to link a Microsoft account to a Windows 10 license will be available by navigating to Settings > Update & security > Activation > and then selecting Add an account. The troubleshooter will be available by navigating to Settings > Update & security > Activation, and then selecting Troubleshoot.

Both new features will be made available in an early version of Windows 10, Build 14371, that was released under the Windows Insider testing program yesterday.

Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will no longer be available as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and 8 users after July 29th this year.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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