Windows 10 Activation After Hardware Change

My computer used Windows 7 originally starting about 6 years ago, and updated to Windows 10 when that option became available in July or August of 2015. A few days ago, I purchased a new motherboard and CPU. I linked my license key to my Microsoft account in accordance with this guide, saved my license key retrieved via Speccy as a backup, and installed the new parts. Yesterday, I went to activate my Windows key using the Troubleshoot/I changed hardware on this device recently option (again, per this guide), and I get this error message:

Unable to activate Windows
We can't reactivate Windows as our servers aren't available right now. Wait for a few minutes or try adding your Microsoft account again

Is there any estimate on when this functionality will be returned so I can activate my license? Or, is someone able to take the information from my account and manually transfer the license between devices?

I've already talked to a live agent and gave them control of my PC through remote assistance, but they were unable to help me since they could not find my original Windows 7 license key. The license key I had saved as a backup was apparently a generic Windows 10 license key since I had updated to Windows 10, and doing so only gives you a generic key instead of a unique key. And I no longer have the 6 year old Windows 7 key. I suppose I could uninstall everything, put back in my old motherboard and CPU, restart my computer, attempt to get the original Windows 7 key from that, and re-install my motherboard and CPU again, but that is a hassle I very adamantly do not want to go through, especially without a guarantee of success.

So I would greatly prefer to just wait for the activation servers to return since I have already linked my license to my Microsoft account. Does anyone have an idea of how long that will take?


Did you upgrade from a retail boxed copy of Windows 7 or did Windows 7 come preinstalled on your computer?

When I upgrade a preinstalled (OEM) or retail version of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 license to Windows 10, does that license remain OEM or become a retail license?

If you upgrade from a OEM or retail version of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 to the free Windows 10 upgrade this summer, the license is consumed into it. Because the free upgrade is derived from the base qualifying license, Windows 10 will carry that licensing too.

If you upgrade from a retail version, it carries the rights of a retail version.

If you upgrade from a OEM version, it carries the rights of a OEM version.

Full version (Retail):

- Includes transfer rights to another computer.

- Doesn't require a previous qualifying version of Windows.

- Expensive

Upgrade version (Retail):

- Includes transfer rights to another computer.

- require a previous qualifying version of Windows.

- Expensive, but cheaper than full version


OEM versions of Windows are identical to Full License Retail versions except for the following:

- OEM versions do not offer any free Microsoft direct support from Microsoft support personnel

- OEM licenses are tied to the very first computer you install and activate it on

- OEM versions allow all hardware upgrades except for an upgrade to a different model motherboard

- OEM versions cannot be used to directly upgrade from an older Windows operating system

What happens if I change my motherboard?

As it pertains to the OEM license this will invalidate the Windows 10 upgrade license because it will no longer have a previous base qualifying license which is required for the free upgrade. You will then have to purchase a full retail Windows 10 license. If the base qualifying license (Windows 7 or Windows 8.1) was a full retail version, then yes, you can transfer it.

From the Windows 10 end user license agreement:

b. Stand-alone software. If you acquired the software as stand-alone software (and also if you upgraded from software you acquired as stand-alone software), you may transfer the software to another device that belongs to you. You may also transfer the software to a device owned by someone else if (i) you are the first licensed user of the software and (ii) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement. You may use the backup copy we allow you to make or the media that the software came on to transfer the software. Every time you transfer the software to a new device, you must remove the software from the prior device. You may not transfer the software to share licenses between devices.

Windows Insider MVP
MVP-Windows and Devices for IT

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Question Info

Last updated February 12, 2020 Views 2,074 Applies to: