Windows 10 licence activation – make sure you use the correct installation media

This content is 8 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Yesterday, I wrote about the SSD upgrade I carried out for my family’s PC. The PC was originally supplied with a Windows 8 OEM licence, upgraded to 8.1, then to 10 and was correctly licenced and activated. Everything I’d read suggested that, as the machine signature was registered with Microsoft, changing the hard drive shouldn’t affect the licensing situation and it should activate after a clean install (skipping the opportunity to enter a product key during installation). For that reason, I was a little alarmed when it didn’t work.

Windows 10 was installed, but activation failed, and it seemed the only option was to go to the Store and pay almost two-hundred pounds for a copy of Windows 10 Pro. That got me thinking… “Pro” – but this was a Windows 8.1 PC (not 8.1 Pro)…

I then downloaded the correct media (Windows 10 Home), reinstalled, and it activated automatically with no problems at all. So, the moral of that little story is to make sure that you install Windows using the correct media, in order for Windows 10 licence activation to work.

Just to be clear, you can only install Windows 10 cleanly from media if the PC has previously been upgraded from a qualifying operating system (or if you purchased a Windows 10 licence). The version you will get is covered in Microsoft’s Windows 10 FAQ:

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