I recently gave my machine a long overdue brain transplant, but stupidly didn’t consider what would happen to my Windows 10 licence after making a major change to the hardware. Of course, upon booting back up I was greeted with the friendly warning that my OS installation had not yet been activated.
While it is possible to reactivate Windows after a hardware change, this relies on you having linked the licence to your Microsoft account, which I hadn’t done beforehand. Various attempts to troubleshoot the problem just had me going around in circles navigating the same help pages from different angles (“have you tried turning it off and on again?”) And as tempting as it sounded to spend another evening elbow-deep in transistors restoring the status quo ante, there’d be no guarantee that my copy would be activated again with the original hardware in place (anyone know if this is the case?)
So the only option was to buy a new licence. I was a bit loath to fork over the full price for a license from Microsoft, given that I’d only lost my original one through stupidity. But there are plenty of third parties selling licenses for throwaway prices, which are presumably legitimate for at least some value of legitimate. Off I go and basket up a Microsoft Windows 10 Pro licence for a reasonable price, wait with baited breath for a licence code, plug in the numbers and… it failed.
It was then that I noticed I had Windows 10 Home installed but had actually bought a licence for Windows 10 Pro. Fine, it should be possible to upgrade Home to Pro using my licence without having to install fresh, right?
Apparently not. After a few attempts at entering my key while trying to install Windows 10 Pro, I searched around and found various websites supplying generic keys for installing whichever version of Windows you prefer. Unfortunately, entering one of these keys would initially tell me my copy would be upgraded, before complaining that my version of Windows wasn’t activated, but would I like to troubleshoot my problem again?
Fortunately, there was a simple low-tech way out of this particular Catch-22. The solution was to cut the internet connection after entering the generic code for upgrading to Windows 10 Pro. The upgrader moaned a bit, but otherwise did its thing. Once the system was rebooted, I could then enter the licence key I’d purchased and boom. Back to having a fully licensed copy with no more annoying watermarks. Troubleshooters be damned.