How to prevent Windows 10 activation trouble when upgrading computer hardware

Simple preemptive troubleshooting conducted before a major hardware upgrade could reduce the frustration of the Windows 10 deactivation and reactivation process.


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For many computer enthusiasts, upgrading and updating internal computer hardware (hard drives, GPUs, motherboards, and CPUs, for example) is a common procedure. Likewise, for some businesses and industries, upgrading hardware on Microsoft Windows 10 computers is also a necessary and periodic part of their overall IT maintenance program. Most often such hardware upgrades are accomplished without a major glitch—but not always.

Activation of a standard Windows 10 digital license is generally tied to the hardware profile of the machine it is installed on. Dramatically changing the hardware profile of your PC could easily cause the Windows 10 operating system to slip into a deactivated state. To keep using that PC for any length of time, you will have to reactivate it, which is not always as easy as it sounds. However, by following a simple preemptive process before you make your hardware changeout, you can make reactivating a Windows 10 PC a simple, nearly painless, procedure.

This how-to tutorial shows you how to simplify Windows 10 reactivation by linking a Windows 10 digital license to an authorized Microsoft account.

SEE: Windows 10 May 2019 Update: 10 notable new features (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to link a Windows 10 digital license to a Microsoft account

For this process, you will need a valid and active Microsoft account. Click on the Start button located in the lower left-hand corner of the Windows 10 desktop, click the Settings icon and then select the Update & Security item from the list, as shown in Figure A.


Figure A

In the left-hand window, navigate to the Activation page and check the first entry. If the Activation entry (Figure B) does not say: "Windows is activated with a digital license linked to your Microsoft account," then you will have to add an account.


Figure B

Further down the Activation page you will see a link that says Add an account, click it and log in to the Microsoft account you want to link to your Windows 10 digital license. Once the association is made, restart or re-log in to your computer using your Microsoft account. This technique will not work using a local account.

Now, when you check the Settings | Activation page you should see the proper message shown in Figure B.

Once the proper status is confirmed, you may shut down the Windows 10 computer and make your desired hardware changes.

How to reactivate your Windows 10 digital license after a hardware change

After making your hardware changes, navigate back to the Settings | Activation page and check the wording again. It is possible that your Windows 10 license has been downgraded to deactivated status. If that is true, you will see a message similar to the one shown in Figure C.


Figure C

Click on the Troubleshoot link on the Activation page (not the one in the left-hand navigation pane). The troubleshooter will attempt to correct the problem, but you will likely be required to click a link confirming that you have made a recent hardware upgrade.

You will then be prompted to log in using your linked Microsoft account credentials, which will re-associate the appropriate digital Windows 10 license with your current hardware and reactivate the license without the need to call Microsoft support. Obviously, a potentially much less frustrating process to follow.

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