How to regain free version of Windows 10 after changing computer hardware

Wait, what have you done? Did you just change your computer’s hardware and hoping to regain your free Windows 10 license? Planning to change your Windows 10 computer’s Motherboard, Hard Drive, Processor,  GPU or Transfer your Windows 10 license to a new Computer? Well, you’re out of luck, or maybe we’re just joking, keep reading to find out.

Here’s the thing, your free Windows 10 license is tied to your computer, so using it on a different computer is not so easy. But what if you change a particular component or hardware in your computer, would you still be able to regain your free license?

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Activate Windows 10 free license after changing computer hardware

Microsoft doesn’t give much information about this because the company wants to keep pirates in the dark as much as possible. However, doing this only confuses legitimate users.

The free Windows 10 license vs. paid license

This is simple really. Microsoft doesn’t give users a product key with the free license, but this is done with the paid version. Because the free version of Windows 10 is linked to your computer, changing a specific hardware could be troublesome, because there’s isn’t a product key to get around the problem.

We do know that should you change the Hard Drive, Processor or the GPU, everything will be okay, but the real issue comes up if you have to replace the Motherboard.

It is like replacing a person’s brain with a freshly made brain from Walmart. He or she will be a different person because this new brain does not contain the same memory of the old.

Read: Windows 10 licensing – Acceptable changes in hardware.

How to successfully move past this issue

Install Windows 10 normally and skip the part where it wants you to add a product key. After installation, Windows 10 will attempt to activate itself and will fail in the process. You will now have a system that is saying you have a non-genuine version of Windows 10.

The activation screen will ask you to activate or purchase a key from Microsoft.

Now, according to Gabriel Aul, Vice President of Engineering for the Windows & Devices group at Microsoft, users who are facing this problem can simply contact support from within Windows 10 and explain to them what is going on.

You can contact Customer Support after you’ve made a hardware change to regain entitlement, said Gabe.

From here, Microsoft will make sure to activate Windows 10 for you.

This would have been an easier process if Windows 10 was tied to a Microsoft account. Still, it might help if you signed into the same Microsoft account after installing Windows 10 on a system with new hardware attached.

Transfer your Windows 10 license to a new Computer

If you have changed your laptop or desktop computer and want to now transfer your Windows 10 license to the new computer, you could try the following:

  1. Uninstall the Windows Product 10 Key from the old computer
  2. Install this Windows 10 Product Key on the new computer and Activate it.

If you face activation problems, Activate Windows 10 by Phone . Else you should contact Microsoft Support and explain your situation. The Windows Support agent will verify your Windows 10 Product Key and then give you an ID for activating Windows 10 on the new computer.

Now read: Digital Entitlement and Product Key Activation methods in Windows 10.

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Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Vamien McKalin possesses the awesome power of walking on water like a boss. He's also a person who enjoys writing about technology, comics, video games, and anything related to the geek world.

33 Comments

  1. chris miraillet

    what happens if i only change my graphic card that crashed ?

  2. Jasen Cain

    If you replace the graphic’s card (GPU) Windows 10 free license will be fine. All you will need is new driver’s unless you can get an exact replacement graphic’s card.

  3. Jasen Cain

    If you replace the graphic’s card (GPU) Windows 10 free license will be fine. All you will need is new driver’s unless you can get an exact replacement graphic’s card (GPU)

  4. chris miraillet

    thanks a lot for the quick answer ! fortunately my graphic card is not a part of the motherboard but plugged into a PCIe Slot but i needed more info about this fact ! thanks again

  5. chris miraillet

    more precisely, windows key is in fact like the DNA of the whole stuff inside the computer if i have well understood…(sorry of my bad english, this is not my native language, i’m french ! nobody is perfect lol)

  6. WRONG! I replaced my hard drive and bam! it no longer worked when I installed win10 :/

  7. Paul Barker

    Well, yes, because you tried to install it on a fresh blank drive. If you had copied your old drive to your new one, like if you were upgrading to a larger drive, then Windows would already be installed. When it booted it would look around and see it was running on a new drive, but the rest of the computer is the same. If your old drive crashed, then you likely wouldn’t be able to copy it.

  8. Mészáros Antal

    I changed the motherboard and processor. The Windows 10 launch of the SSD and the system was activated.

  9. Jim

    Apparently you did something to cause this.

    I have replaced several HDDs in the last couple of months and WIN 10 activated with no issues at all.

  10. Maximilian

    Very, very incorrect. The license is tied to a code that represents the motherboard, CPU and some other components. Once enough of them have been changed it blocks the license. Changing the hard drive isn’t supposed to affect it.

  11. Maximilian

    It’s worth noting that this isn’t an issue if you upgraded from a retail copy of Windows 7/8. When you run into the old license limit you can just reset it by calling the automated helpline just like before.

  12. Juanhellou

    I have a doubt.

    FIRST SOME BACKGROUND:
    My old computer working with genuine Windows 7 wouldn’t suffice the requirements for upgrading to Win 10 (Old video card). What I did was a Windows 7 clean install on my MacbookPro using my genuine serial and upgraded to Windows 10. Worked like a charm. No issues.

    Thing is: I installed AVG TuneUp knowing from previous versions (aka TuneUp Utilites) that it would successfully display current Windows Serial Key. Copied and saved it. Supposing I perform a clean installation on new hardware (MoBo, SSD, etc.) would I be able to use the aformentioned key to do the activation or would it get embedded on the computer where the OS was previously installed (Macbook) not allowing me to conclude the process on the new one?

    Thanks in advance for your answers.

  13. Thomas Gray

    i replaced my motherboard and processor and it wont activate. can you help?

  14. Mészáros Antal

    If you have MS account, there was not problem.

  15. True Story Techs

    Do not pass go, do not collect $200?? So when moving from Amd Ave. to Intel Place it’s Microsoft Monopoly collecting rent? I hear the weather’s nice in Linux Town this time of year..

  16. Peter Cwik

    My motherboard died, I swapped it out, called Microsoft Customer Support and gave them the original Windows 7 product key, they verified the key and upgraded the key to Windows 10. Everything is activated, legal and happy. I was surprised but Microsoft was very helpful, and very quick in the solution. I waited on hold for maybe 90 seconds. Great experience!

  17. Ty Brown

    Great to know! My motherboard is slowly starting to stop working, and I want to go from an i5 to an AMD FX 9xxx series, so I’m basically replacing the CPU and Mobo entirely.

  18. Ethan Sparrow

    I replaced a hard drive, lost Win 10, contacted MS…talked to somebody in India…and he refused to help…no amount of explanation would bend his extremely accented MS will…

  19. Duketonii Duketon

    The problem is with the disk also. My DELL INSPIRON hard disk was replaced due to a failure, and now, I am talking to DELL in order to activate my Windows 10. They have offered me to replace the motherboard along with a new disk and image. It is really not a good idea to have an embedded activation code in the motherboard.

  20. RichGtB

    “Microsoft doesn’t give users a product key with the free license” This is incorrect, you are given a key, you just have to pull it out of Windows 10 after you have upgraded. Run BelarcAdvisor for example and you can obtain your new Windows 10 key. This can then be used in the future when doing a fresh install of Windows 10. I have done this multiple times on 7 and 8 machines. Done an upgrade, grabbed the key, and done a fresh clean install of 10 with my new free key. Otherwise, what happens if you have a problem (say a hard drive fail) after the free period expires ? No Windows 10 re-install for you. Hope this helps.

  21. Juan Figueroa

    I have an application that let me see the Windows licence key, could this work if after a hardware change asks for key or cannot automatically activate?

  22. Juan Figueroa

    Yeah, there is indeed a product key, is just “hidden”, but any application like the one you mentioned helps. But the problem is more with the activation perse. You can use the same product key, but cannot activate if there were a big change in hardware, at least not automatically and if you don’t have Microsoft Account so it may be necessary to contact support.

  23. Nathan Auroro Korvis Walsh

    If you’ve tried this on multiple Windows 10 upgrade installations you’ll see that they’re all identical.

  24. Wozitoya

    I agree, if your computer were log into the Microsoft account, it will be activated. If the computer was not log into the Microsoft account then it wouldn’t be activated.

  25. Mészáros Antal

    Yes of course!

  26. Jon Woods

    Yes.. I use a bit of software called ‘Keyfinder’ by Magic Jellybean to find out the key.

  27. Brian Mcalindon

    ‘Now, according to Gabriel Aul, Vice President of Engineering for the Windows & Devices group at Microsoft, users who are facing this problem can simply contact support from within Windows 10 and explain to them what is going on.

    You can contact Customer Support after you’ve made a hardware change to regain entitlement, said Gabe.
    From here, Microsoft will make sure to activate Windows 10 for you.’

    or

    You will be told that they can’t help you and you need to buy a new licence from them (as I have found out after my motherboard went pop)

    Is that Linux I hear calling?

  28. Paul Hicks

    Nope went almost an hr with a tech taking over my computer and said i didn’t have genuine key cause a folder was missing. Told him my computer crashed after a windows update and had to replace motherboard and cpu. Had been using windows 10 since the free upgrade release, activated and all. Still did not give me key after my motherboard failure. Talk about feeling used after all the products have purchase from them. Every OS since windows 95. Note lost Windows 8.1 key in a move.

  29. Pippa Hunt

    I’ve just bought a second hand laptop to replace my now defunct but knackered screen (technical term) laptop. I had a free version of windows 10 – is there a simple layman way of regaining that free version? Or should I just go out and spend my life savings on a new one – I’d have probably been better getting replacement NEW!! Thanks

  30. Davidson Paulo

    Too complicated. Will just install a pirated copy instead. Much easier.

  31. ZeroSum1

    They Should just have a User id instead of a Product id, thats the problem with programmers they can’t think outside the box.

  32. Malcolm

    just installed new motherboard , as last one packed it in , started computer , logged in with Microsoft password (like normal),now the version of windows 10 i am running is different , and not activated ,just spent hours with a tec to find out i have to reinstall windows to fix it… Good job windows 10. so much for the click i changed hard were button , that is not there..

  33. RobotDude

    Well i called them, and he said that i must have the product key in order to get windows activated, and told me to get the product key from the manufacturer somehow, can someone help

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